The discussion between Amitav Ghosh and Sunita Narayan at Terra Madre Salone Del Gusto had an impact on me in many ways. One of the key takeaway of that session was that in spite of all of us knowing that climate change is the biggest effect that we have had in history of mankind, we don’t speak about it. We leave it to the scientists to speak about it but we get equally affected by it. You can read it here .
When Madhushree and I had first gone to Pune in early December night of 2007, we were thrilled that the temperature was around 7 degrees. Fast Forward to when we left Pune in 2011, the lowest that the temp had gone down was around 12 in the entire winter. A chilly winter wrapped nostalgia around the rajai or the woolens woven by the elders of the family, smell of winter creams and moisturizer and a warm cup of tea – How many memories come to your mind? Winter vacations, home work, playing ludo, playing badminton and so many.
In my childhood, winters also meant coffee. The best option available in Chandannagore was Nescafe and the way Ma used to make it with milk and water in 2: 1 ratio boiled with instant nescafe powder and sugar. Today I would not prefer having instant coffee or even making instant coffee that way. Let the process remain in its own place but that coffee with Baba Ma on a wintery evening, watching ‘The World this week’ is something which I would like to revisit time and again.
Things have changed now. I have been fortunate enough to taste some exotic coffees of the world, have taken many a failed attempts to get into the details of the origin and beans. We now buy small batches of filter coffee beans from various places and we use a grinder at home to break down the beans ad per the choice of the machine we would use. My recent trip to Italy has made me a fan of Americano but Ma still loves her milk coffee.
This post is not about coffee but a drink which has been declared as the traditional drink of Piedmonte. I am speaking about Bicherin. You can find my story of Bicherin here but this is one drink which I would like to try out this winter. Isn’t this an eternal triangular love story where there are three elements present who can be equally loved and yet there is a subtle fight between the coffee and the chocolate to come closer to the whipped cream on top. A game where the coffee gets some intimate moments with the whipped cream when served and hot chocolate is like a lovelorn teenager. Just as in real life love stories, none knows what’s in the destiny and all depends on the person on whose table the Bicerin gets served. You can read about the history and my experience of Bicerin here
What is the coffee to be used for making a Bicerin ?
Normally a serious love affair like this demands an Italian Coffee. However, any good artisanal coffe would do as well. Our relative Arko da, runs a small artisanal coffee roastery in Fairfax Virginia and he gifted us a Cameroon Oku Valley where baker’s chocolate and molasses intermingle with notes of blackberry to arrive at a floral finish in this remarkable coffee. This fully washed coffee is from the Oku Valley, Cameroon. Standing over the valley is Mount Kilum (aka Mount Oku), which at 3,011 metre above sea level and is the second highest peak in West Africa. The coffee is grown between 1800 and 2200 masl and is shade grown under orange and banana trees. The coffee is harvested and washed the same day, using fresh spring water. It is then dried on raised beds. You can check out their range at their website www.kustomcoffee.com
For the chocolate layer, we used 55% dark chocolate from Amul single origins. You can go higher of the percentage of dark chocolate. The bitter the better. And the whipped cream was regular heavy whipping cream. The coffee itself had a bit of sour notes and when blended with the bitter sweet from the hot chcocolate and the creaminess of the whipped cream, I liked what was going on in my mouth in terms of the variety of flavours.
Pin these for future reference ?
- 100 gms bitter dark chocolate preferably 55 % and more
- 200 mls Milk
- 2 cups strong espresso
- whipped cream on top
- Firstly, you need glasses for serving bicherin. It calls for a small glass or even glasses which are made for Irish coffe would do.
- Make the hot chocolate by melting the chocolate (chopped in small bits) with the milk. This will give a thick hot chocolate.
- Have your espresso ready as well as theheavy cream whipped and kept in piping bag for easier pouring.
- In two glasses, pour the hot choclate in equal quantities. Now take a table spoon and pour the espresso over the back of the spoon very gently into the glasses. The back of the spoon is used so that there is a clear definite layer formed or else, the coffee will get mixed with the hot chocolate. The spoon should be placed in a slanted manner into the glass, sitting right on top of the chocolate at one end.
- Wait for a minute and see how the layer slowlty forms. Then top it whith whipped cream and serve.