19 August 2011

you must try bicerin

She put the magazine down on my desk. "You have to try this."

I looked up at Val. "What? Try what?"

I looked down at the magazine. It was a particularly European-looking spread with a cafe and an old bridge over a river and things written not in English.

And there was an older woman pouring whipped cream into a goblet already filled with a dark something. Coffee? Chocolate?

I looked at the recipe under the picture. It was for bicerin, a drink served at this cafe in Italy. It was coffee and chocolate! And cream!

"Oh, you're right: I do need to try that. Perhaps right now, if that were possible, but it's not because we're at work, and I didn't come prepared. Why didn't I bring my bar of dark chocolate?"

And so a plan developed: we would try the bicerin on Friday. We all need a Friday afternoon pick-up. I don't care how exciting your job is, that is truth for everyone: Friday afternoons need a little zest.

I brought in what we needed, and at 1:30, Val and I gathered in the kitchen. Normally coffee takes, what, 20 seconds of prep time, and then you just have to wait for the brewing? And hot cocoa—if you're doing the horrific Swiss Miss variety—takes like a minute?

This was no drip coffee or Swiss Miss endeavor.

Bicerin took both of us hard at work for many minutes: Val making the espresso, me melting the chocolate. The boss even stepped in to wash mugs for us so that we could all try this.

In a place where we're always supposed to appear busy—and in a country that prides itself on busyness and that dang work ethic the Puritans brought over on the Mayflower—this intentionally taking time to make a treat felt luxurious.

It felt civilized, and it was a chance to work on something that wasn't a computer.

It felt, if I may say, slightly French, even though bicerin is said to be an Italian drink. Even though this coffee break could've been quicker, we were purposely stretching it out. We were approaching the coffee break as if we were honoring a ritual. We were making the mundane into more.

So here's the recipe, complete with tips for making this at work, should you want to take a bicerin break.

thank you, Afar magazine and Val

What You Need
{This will make enough for two people.}
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, chopped {But hey, if you want to use more chocolate, I won't look at you funny. I'd look at you encouragingly.}
  • 4 shots espresso
  • 1/2 cup freshly whipped cream, sweetened to taste

What You Do
  1. Warm the milk and chocolate together. You can do this over medium heat, or if you're making this at work, you should just melt it in the microwave. I have one of those Pampered Chef microwaveable dishes that was made for melting chocolate. Well, not really. I think its more practical use is for steaming vegetables, but there's no need to limit it to such a pedantic use.
  2. When the milk/chocolate is boiling, whisk vigorously until foamy. Or, if you forgot your whisk at home, just use a spoon. Our sink is currently overflowing with dirty dishes. {We're all such neat people in general; why when we're all together do we devolve into slovenly-ness?} So I did some quick digging and washing and voila, a spoon for frothing.
  3. Resist the urge to lick the spoon if you're making this for other people. People don't like it when you lick the spoon and then continue stirring the chocolate. Apparently it's "unsanitary."
  4. Slowly pour the warm chocolate mixture into clear glasses, preferably small goblets with stems. But who has those at work? Or at home, for that matter? Coffee mugs work just fine.

    For a brief moment, I considered clear plastic cups so that we could get the whole effect of the chocolate/cream layering, but then I remembered that I was putting something hot into them. Just because something will look pretty, that doesn't give you a right to disregard practicalities.
  5. Being careful to not disturb the bottom layer of hot chocolate, trickle two shots of espresso into each glass/mug.

    That instruction reminds me of the one time I tried to make my own mayonnaise. You're supposed to drop my drop add in oil. A tiny trickle. A test of patience, and I failed. I poured it too quickly, ruined the mayonnaise, and opened up the Miracle Whip. Thankfully, I didn't fail at pouring coffee into chocolate.
  6. Top the drinks with whipped cream. We actually used frothed whole milk. I ran out of heavy whipping cream at home, but I did find a can of Redi Whip in the back of the fridge.

    FYI: Those things can go bad. Such a sense of anticipation this morning as I stood with the can poised over my open mouth {why use fingers?}. A rushing hiss of the aerosol can and then a shot of soured dairy. Thank goodness for the mug of coffee I was holding in my other hand.

    So I didn't whip my own cream, but the frothed milk still looked pretty.
  7. Drink. Obviously. What did you think you were making this treat for?
We all gathered in the kitchen, and I made everyone wait to take the first sip together. On a Friday afternoon in the middle of August, we all took a sip and sighed.

We talked about Switzerland and Vail, two places where this drink would fit in quite well.

And then we talked about how much we liked having it right there, right in the office kitchen next to our ongoing Scrabble game. I made the word "down" on a triple, took another sip of bicerin, and then went about my day.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who's had that Redi Whip problem :) Also, this sounds delicious...



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