Bicerin Recipe

Bicerin

The city of Torino (or Turin) is one of the great centers of chocolate. In the early part of 1500, a Italian named Emmanuel Philibert served hot chocolate to celebrate a victory over the French at Saint-Quentin. And in 1763, Al Bicerin opened it’s doors and began making a celebrated coffee-and-chocolate drink called il bavareisa. The hot drink was a soothing mixture of locally-produced chocolate, strong Italian coffee, and topped with a froth of whipped cream.

The drink was often served in a small glass, called a bicerin (bee-chair-EEN), hence the name got changed to what we know now today as il bicerin.

Just across the border from France, Torino is the city where chocolate is an integral part of life, and where ice cream on a stick, the pinguino popsicle, was invented in 1935. Now there are exceptional chocolate-makers throughout the city, such as Peyrano and A. Giordano, who still make gianduiotto by hand, selling it at their historic chocolate shop on the Piazzo Carlo Felice.

The Piedmontese region is famous for a few other things than just chocolate and hazelnuts, most notably white truffles, but also for their exceptionally delicious hazelnuts. Back in those days, cacao beans were very expensive and rare, so a local chocolatier named Michel Prochet began blending hazelnuts into the chocolate to extend it, inventing gianduja (gee-an-DOO-ya) and is now perhaps most famously consumed as Nutella, which has become the most popular sandwich spread in the world.

But even now, every afternoon you’ll find the locals stand in one of the city’s historic caffès, sipping a hot bicerin from a small, stemmed glass. Or sitting at a marble-topped table and letting one of the waiters present them with your bicerin, savoring the atmosphere.

barattimilanotorino.jpg

My favorite place is the overly-ornate Baratti & Milano, where I like to sip my bicerin surrounded by crystal chandeliers and bronze sculptures. And I always am sure to pick up a few bars of their handcrafted chocolate or gianduja at the gilded-and-mirrored confectionery counter on the way out. Here’s my recipe…

Bicerin
Two servings

It’s important to use a clear glass; you need to be able to see all three layers.

To make a bicerin, warm one cup (250 ml) whole milk in a medium-sized saucepan with 3 ounces (90 gr) of chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Whisk the mixture until it begins to boil, then let it boil for 1 minute, whisking constantly (the chocolate mixture will foam up a bit.)
Afterward, remove it from the heat and set aside. Make a small pot of very strong coffee, or good Italian espresso.

Fill the bottom third of a clear, heat-proof glass with the warm chocolate mixture. Pour in some coffee or espresso. (If you want to help it create a definite layer, pour it over the back of a spoon, into the glass.)

Top with a nice swirl of sweetened, freshly-whipped cream.

Places in Torino/Turin, specializing in local chocolates, gianduiotti, or to find an authentic bicerin:

A. Giordano
Piazzo Carlo Felice, 69
Tel: 011.547121

Al Bicerin
Piazza Consolata, 5
Tel: 011.4369325

Baratti & Milano
Piazza Castello, 29
Tel: 011.4407138

Caffè Torino
Piazza San Carlo, 204
Tel: 011.545118

Gobino
via Cagliari, 15/b

Confetteria Avvignano
Piazzo Carlo Felice, 50
Tel: 011.541992

Peyrano
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 76
Tel: 011.538765

Platti
Corso Vittoria Emanuele II, 72
Tel: 011.5069056

17 comments

  • It’s the perfect day in Rhode Island for il bicerin; we are in the middle of a blizzard with snow all pouring all around us. I may have to make one today! My two most favorite things: coffee and chocolate.

  • Wonderful post, David!

    I’d been reading about Il Bicerin and Al Bicerin while doing some research on Piemonte and Torino. Coffee, chocolate and cream … I’m there!

  • I just returned from the village Bar de Landes. the crowd was the overflow from the bingo hall next door. The quiet, interrupted only by the clacking of tiles, was disquieting. My companion drank beer and sipped a plain chocolat chaud. Had I but known! The next time- une ‘bicerin’ s’il vous plait!’ Merci D.

  • I am shutting off this computer, walking upstairs and making one instantly. I’ll use Caffe’ Hag so I can sleep. Thanks for the reminder. Bye, now.

  • David, “confectionery” is spelled the way I write it here, not “confectionary”.
    Also, contrary to what is contained in your posting on organic (chocolate and others), NYT reports on Feb.8 that cocoa beans are highly susceptible to pests! Give it a read.

    Chocogirl

  • David,
    Please ignore chocogirl cause you da man!

  • David, yesterday, while I was nursing a slight hangover and sipping my cup of tea, it was so fun to suddenly hear your voice on the radio talking about your favorite topic, chocolate! Great gig! Now after reading this post, I’ve got a real hankerin’ for some gianduja and bicerin. Keep up the good work!

  • Don’t believe everything you read, even in the New York Times.
    (Exhibits A and B: Jason Blair and Judith Miller)

    It’s the trees themselves when they are young (less than 8 years old and not yet bearing fruit) and the flowers on the more mature cacao trees that are susceptable to mites and diseases like Witches Broom, which kills up to 25% of the crop.

    And I hope my readers to excuse any typographical errors. I try to edit and correct what I’m writing for the site, but I’m writing and typing in several languages (and using complex HTML for accents, italicizing, and writing other symbols), all within a tiny ‘field’ (about a 5-inch square) on my laptop computer. Since the blog is for fun and to share a bit of my life, travels, and interests, I try to take care with errors and misprints, but sometimes they will occur here on the site. My aplogies.

  • I am an (adopted) Torinese far away from casa and the Olympic festivities…..just got this link from Judith…thanks for giving my morning a taste of home!

  • I love your blog. It is a little too balmy these days in San Francisco to enjoy a hot drink, but when the weather turns cold, I will be whipping up a bicerin.

  • Thank you! And the recipe is lovely!

    Chocogirl

  • Psh. I’m sorry, but anyone who leaves a comment on a blog pointing out a mispelling or grammar error needs to calm down. We aren’t your third grade students.

  • Nice updated photo, David

  • David, you don’t have to apologize. You’re doing a magnificent job. We who keep blogs know how arduous it can be. One little mis-spelling? Bah! It happens to the best of us. Keep up the good work. And good god — that photo! I need some tomorrow morning for breakfast.

  • What a beautiful tribute, David!

  • Hy David!
    It’s a pleasure for me, here in Turin, read a post from you, in Paris!!
    Thank’s for the tribute..:-)
    I wrote about Bicerin too:

    http://www.untoccodizenzero.it/2006/02/le-olimpiadi-la-fiaccola-e-i-caff.html

    Bye
    Sandra
    p.s.Do you know this :http://www.giandujotto.it/

  • David:

    Thanks to Bob Costas’ nod to Bicerin at the opening of NBC prime time coverage on 2/18, I searched the net for information and found your recipe. Being the passionate amateur home barista that I am (as well as a huge fan of the Olympics) I absolutely had to make this- I was embarrassed that I had never even heard of it before!

    Within 12 hours I had acquired suitable glasses from a local antique shop and plenty of heavy cream to experiment with. I took a photo and posted it here on Flickr:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/88247068@N00/102147070/

    I modified your recipe by flavoring my whipped cream with Hazelnut, using the same Monin syrup that I use to make flavored espresso beverages (shhhh! Don’t tell!)

    Thanks for providing the recipe! The drink was a pure delight, and is sure to knock the socks off anyone who is used to the run-of-the-mill mocha cappucinos that certain corporate coffee shops turn out. Now I just need to get my hands on some of that Baratti & Milano chocolate!

    Cheers!