Mendiants are simply French chocolate disks topped with nuts and dried fruits.
Read on why they are called mendiants, how to pronounce them plus discover the recipe that is so easy to make at home.
They also make a delicious decoration for chocolate cakes, Easter or Christmas holiday bakes and make fun hats on macarons.
What is the Meaning of the Word Mendiant?
Mendiant (pronounced, 'mon-dee-ong') in French literally means 'beggar' in English.
When it comes to chocolate, Mendiants is the name given to one of the most popular chocolate confectionaries (confiseries) in France. They're simple disks of chocolate (dark, milk or white) with at least four kinds of dried fruit and nuts.
Why the word for beggar? Each chocolate disk, or mendiant, represents the historical robe colours of four mendicant monastic orders from the Middle Ages. More below.
Why is the Price of Mendiants so High?
If you've walked around the inviting Parisian chocolate shops and patisseries, you'll see that mendiants come at a price.
French Chocolate Mendiants are delicious disks of good quality chocolate covered in colourful dried fruits and nuts. In top Parisian chocolateries all year round, they are expensive since they use top quality ingredients.
This is why we love to make them at home. They're not just fun to make with kids but great for serving as mini bites or mignardises after dinner. Traditionally served as a holiday recipe over Christmas in France, they also make great holiday food gifts.
Add a few mini Easter eggs and you have the perfect Easter Bonnet!
History of Chocolate Mendiants
So, according to French history in Larousse Gastronomique, the traditional four mendicant monastic orders from the Middle Ages corresponds to their historical robe colours.
As a result, the mendiant recipe includes four traditional toppings to the chocolate disks:
- grey raisins stand for the Augustinians;
- brown hazelnuts for the Carmelites;
- purple dried figs for the Franciscans; and
- white almonds are for the Dominicans.
However, over time things have become a bit de-robed! Modern confectioners are adding orange peel, pistachio nuts, candied ginger and now I've added goji berries soaked in Kirsch (only because I forgot to buy some cranberries). In true French style at Easter, add even French chocolate fish and mini praline eggs. See more topping ideas below.
Do I Need a Chocolate Mould To Make Mendiants?
There's no need for any particular chocolate mould. As you can see, I've just used baking parchment to spoon the melted chocolate and - using the back of a spoon - form circles directly onto the sheet without any guide. They don't need to be absolutely perfect: the spoon actually does make them into circles themselves.
However, if you want them to look perfectly round as if in a chocolate shop in Paris, I have found a simple 'mould'! As I don't need fancy gadgets to make homemade macarons, when I gave my unsponsored silicone macaron mat review, I realised this mat was the perfect mendiant-making mat.
With its raised, grooved circles on the macaron mat, just spoon the melted chocolate into them. Leave to set then peel them off to reveal a perfectly round mendiant.
What is the Best Chocolate for Mendiants?
Mendiants can be made with either plain (bittersweet) dark, milk or white chocolate. The better the quality of chocolate, the better your results. In general, avoid budget own-brand supermarket cooking chocolate. Choose a dark chocolate with at least 60% cocoa solids.
For dark, I prefer Nestlé's Corsé chocolate (64% cacao) which is great value. Otherwise, for better brands, go for Barry's Saint Dominigue or Venezuela which are both around 70% cocoa.
Do I need to Temper Chocolate for Mendiants?
Normally, professional chocolatiers temper their chocolate to sell mendiants. The reason being, they last so much longer and are prettier.
As I'm just making them at home with the idea of eating them quickly over the next few days, I honestly haven't needed to. Melt the chocolate in a Bain-Marie (in a glass bowl over simmering water) and spoon out on to a baking sheet. As the chocolate takes about 30 minutes to set, you have enough time to enjoy topping them.
As you can see, it's not even a recipe: just melt good quality chocolate and plonk on the dried fruits and (toasted) nuts of your choice!
If you do plan to keep them longer, then temper. Melt chocolate in a double boiler at 50°C, take off the heat and quickly cool to 20°C then reheat to 32-35°C.
Mendiant Tip: just before finishing the last of the dark melted chocolate, add a little white chocolate and melt over the water bath then marble the 2 together to create a beautiful effect.
Top your mendiants with different nuts and dried fruits.
Nuts are best toasted either in a frying pan (dry fry without oil) or under the grill for a couple of minutes. This just adds depth of flavour. Dried fruits add a contrast in textures, colours and flavours.
- Use toasted walnuts, hazelnuts, almond flakes, pecans or pistachios. During the festive season, add candied fruits such as orange and ginger, for example, or marrons glacés (candied chestnuts).
- I also added broken Mikado sticks (do you have these in America?) and homemade zig-zag sticks (just by melting chocolate and zig-zagging it on baking paper, then peeling off when set) for a nest and mini Easter eggs.
How to Store Mendiants
Store mendiants in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 3 days. However, if you have tempered the chocolate, they can last for longer. As our family usually eats them far too quickly, this has never been a problem to store them for long!
- flat baking sheet topped with parchment paper or silicone mat or a macaron silicone mat with round raised grooves
- 200 g (7oz/ 1¼ cups) bittersweet chocolate (at least 64% cacao)
- handful each raisins or golden sultanas
- dried figs finely chopped (cranberries or goji berries)
- toasted flaked almonds
- hazelnuts (or walnuts)
- candied orange peel (optional)
- Line a perfectly flat baking sheet with baking paper (or silicone mat - even better, a macaron mat will set them perfectly into round shapes).
- Break up the chocolate in a glass bowl and place over a pan of simmering water over a gentle heat (bain-marie) until the chocolate has melted.
- Using a spoon, pour the melted chocolate onto the baking paper, pressing each one down with the back of the spoon to make a circle (don't worry if they are a bit messy - it will set well later!)
- Gradually decorate with the dried fruit and nuts using different colours and textures for toppings. Don’t worry about the chocolate hardening; you will have enough time to enjoy dressing each disk before it hardens.
- Leave to cool on the counter for about 30 minutes or 15 minutes in the fridge. When set, remove each mendiant carefully from the sheet with your fingers or a palette knife.
This recipe was originally published on 6 April 2012 but the text and photos have been updated with a new printable recipe card.