Friday, December 30, 2011

Turin Lights and a Bicherin to Ring in the New Year


Today is one of those blustery kind of days, where all you want to do is burrow in a cozy spot with a good read. I find that a special coffee drink can do wonders to elevate the mood. These short days of winter can leave you longing for  a bit of color and merriment and it seems like this long holiday period this time of year is  in fact a time of lights and merriment and feasting on all of the wonderful foods that have been put away for this very time of the year. The harvest and  hard chores are done for now and so, why not a bit of holiday cheer? One of my favorite ways to dispel the mood and bring a bit of occasion to an ordinary gray winter day is to make a Bicerin(Bee-chair-reen). What in the world is that, you are probably asking, unless you have visited this part of the world and have partaken of one of Turin's specialties.  
Il Bicerin ...photo by Regione Piemonte
Turin or Torino has a long standing love affair with chocolate and coffee. They have a choclate festival for a month in late winter and if you wander around the core part of Turin, you will find many pastry shops and cafes with chocolate as a main feature. Gianduja chocolate or chocolate hazelnut milk chocolate shaped into a gianduiotto shape, dates back to 1865 and has been said that it came about due to Napoleon's blockade and the need to make the chocolate stretch a little farther and this taste sensation was born.  Lavazza coffee hails from Torino  as well as many other local roasters not so widely known outside of Italy. Caffe Al Bicerin was established in 1763, but it's famous coffee concoction didn't really come together for a few more years down the road after a bit of experimenting. The Bicerin as it came to be known consisted of layers of coffee, chocolate and milk and syrup. The original cafe guards it's recipe protectively, but anywhere you go in Torino you will find a myriad of variations. Oddly enough there is a bottled chocolate hazelnut liqueur call the Bicerin, which the original recipe never calls for hazelnut, but the liqueur is delicious and goes together very well in this drink. I made mine today with the bicerin liqueur in the bottom of the glass, a layer of espresso next and topped off with some slightly whipped heavy cream. Oh yes, it lifted my spirits, not only because it tasted so good, but because it looks delightful as well. It's easy enough to make at home and who cares if it is slavishly authentic to the original, experiment around with chocolate or chocolate hazelnut, espresso and whipped cream and you will find these winter afternoons aren't so desolate after all. In fact it's a great special drink to make when you have someone to share with as well. I'm giving you a recipe for two with a chocolate milk base, to vary as you like. You could very easily drop a hazelnut chocolate in the milk too for the Bicerin liqueur effect.
My home style version of Il Bicerin
Il Bicerin
Serves 2

Warm together
  • 1/2 c (150ml) half and half or whole milk, with a bit of heavy cream for rich version
  • 3 oz (90g) semi sweet chocolate, chopped fine, do use a high quality brand
As I don't have a double boiler, I usually put the chocolate and milk/cream together in a small metal bowl and set it over a smaller metal bowl with hot water and melt it together this way. Whisk together when hot and melted. Remove from heat and let stand over the hot water to keep it warm, but not boiling.
**I just used my Bicerin, chocolate hazelnut liqueur today instead of the chocolate mix as an easy alternative.**
  • Brew 2 cup pot of espresso or make two shots of espresso
  • Whip some heavy cream (1/2c/ 100g) to thicken but not to full peak for your top layer. You can sweeten the cream it if you like, although I didn't as the liqueur was plenty sweet.
To assemble
Heat your clear glass cups or glasses with hot water to keep your drink warm and not break it when adding hot liquids.
Pour the water out.
Divide the chocolate mixture between the 2 glasses for your bottom layer.
Slowly pour half the espresso over the back of a spoon to get the layer effect into each glass.
Add your cream to the top and serve with some of those cookies you have hanging around the house for a appealing pick me up from old world Europe. Now imagine you're in a cozy cafe and the spell will be complete. 
Turin Advent calendar and Nativity scene
Buon Anno and Happy New Year to you my dear readers. My wish for everyone is a brighter 2012!

2 comments:

Ilva said...

wow the lights in Torino are fantastic, never been there but I have to go! ti auguro un buon anno!

Bella Baita View said...

Thanks Ilva. You'll have to make it up here one of these days and check it out and our part of Torino's alps! Buon anno anche a voi!

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