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In the 14th century, having money on hand to give to a passerby who begged a gift was (and still is) a Christian act of charity.  But an ‘aumônière’ (or alms purse) was not used exclusively for carrying alms about.  It functioned much as a purse does today, with the difference that the 14th century man was no less likely to wear one than his lady.  Aumônières came in various forms, but historical re-enactor Rosalie Gilbert says the ladies favored pouch-shaped ones with drawstring closures.

It is this common form of the 14th century alms purse that provides Moelleux au chocolat en aumônières with its descriptive name.

Once upon a time the dk came across this recipe on a now-defunct blog, made a copy, and, stuck it away with a sheaf of other ‘things one might cook in the future’.  Fortunately, several years later,  Moelleux au chocolat en aumônières resurfaced from its forgotten hiding place.

Moelleux au chocolat en aumônières ~ Soft Chocolate Cake in a Beggar’s Purse (for 8 individual aumônières)

Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.

A Timing Note:  The crêpes and dark chocolate sauce may be made a day ahead of time.  Cool the crêpes completely, stack them on a plate, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate them.  Refrigerate the chocolate sauce as well.  The cake batter may be made several hours ahead of time, covered and set aside at room temperature if the kitchen is cool–or refrigerated and brought to room temperature before baking just before serving.

Ingredients:  Measurements for the cake batter are given in metric units and the closest American equivalents.

  • 8 crêpes (between 8 and 9 inches in diameter): The same crêpe recipe that is used to make the dk’s Hungarian Chocolate Crêpes Gundel’s Style is used for this dessert.  The recipe is repeated below in Part III.)
  • 150 grams of Butter (5 and 1/2 Tablespoons)
  • 220 grams of Dark Chocolate, cut in pieces (7 and 3/4 ounces…or as close to this amount as possible)
  • 6 eggs
  • 120 grams of granulated White Sugar (1/2 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons)
  • 37 grams of Unbleached White Flour (1/4 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon)
  • 120 grams of ground Almonds (1 and 1/4 cups)
  • a pinch of Salt
  • 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • Dark Chocolate Sauce:  The recipe for the sauce is the same one used to make the dk’s Hungarian Chocolate Crêpes Gundel’s Style.  It is repeated below in Part IV.
  • Optional:  Vanilla Ice Cream.  The photographed dessert is made with the dk’s recipe for Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.
  • Optional:  a Strawberry or two on each dessert plate for decoration
  • Optional:  Cocoa Powder to sprinkle over each dessert on the plate

Equipment:

  • a Double Boiler, a homemade Bain Marie made with a bowl that fits in the rim of a pot partially filled with water, or a heavy-bottomed Pot for melting the chocolate.  A photo of a homemade bain-marie is here in a previous diplomatickitchen post.
  • a Mixer, standing or hand
  • 8 1/2-cup Ramekins
  • Parchment Paper
  • Kitchen String
  • a small Strainer is optional for sprinkling cocoa powder over the finished desserts

I.  Making the cake batter:

1.  Place, in the top of the double boiler,  or bowl of the bain-marie, or pot, the chopped chocolate and butter and slowly melt them together, stirring occasionally.  Set the melted chocolate aside to cool to lukewarm.

2.  Beat the eggs and sugar together until they form a thick, pale lemon-ey yellow mixture.

3.  Mix in the powdered almonds, then the flour, salt, and finally, the melted chocolate and butter and the vanilla.  (The batter may be made up to this point in the morning, covered and set aside at a cool room temperature or in the refrigerator, to be baked in the evening.  (Bring it to room temperature if it is refrigerated.)

II.  Putting together and baking the Moelleux au chocolat en aumônières:  The dessert bakes for exactly 12 minutes and rests for 5.  It can’t be made in advance, but guests generally like  a break before dessert–nor will they mind waiting a little for this one.

1.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.   Butter the ramekins and line the bottom of each one with a round of parchment paper.

2.  For each ramekin:  Center a crêpe over the ramekin and press it down into it.  Using crêpes with an 8 – 9 inch diameter, there will be a broad band of overhang.

3.  Divide the cake batter among the crêpe-lined ramekins:

4.  Gather up the overhanging border of each crêpe, bunch it together in overlapping folds, and tie it with kitchen string, as though the string were the drawstring of an alms purse:

5.  Bake the ramekins for exactly 12 minutes.  (During this time, gently reheat the chocolate sauce.)  Remove the ramekins from the oven and let the aumônières sit (still in the ramekins) for 5 minutes.  Remove the strings.

6.  Swirl some chocolate sauce onto each dessert plate…

…Then, gently tip each ramekin sidewise and slip the aumônières onto the chocolate-decorated plates.

7.  Place a small scoop of ice cream next to each aumônière, drizzle some more chocolate sauce on the ice cream, sieve some cocoa powder over each plate and, decorate the desserts with berries.

III.  Crêpe-making Redux:  This basic and very good recipe for crêpes (which appears in the dk recipe for Hungarian Chocolate Crêpes Gundel’s Style is repeated here to avoid the nuisance of shifting back and forth between recipes.)

A.  Mixing the batter: The batter will make better crêpes if it’s mixed a couple of hours ahead of time and left to stand at room temperature. 

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup of Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Salt
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 and 3/4 cups of Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of melted Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of Cognac

Equipment:

  • 2 Bowls
  • a Mixer

1.  Mix the flour and salt together in one bowl.  Beat the eggs in a second bowl and gradually add the flour and salt mixture while continuing to beat with the mixer.

2.  Still mixing, gradually pour in the milk, butter and cognac.

3.  If possible, leave the batter at room temperature for a couple of hours before making the crêpes.

B.  Making the crêpes:

Equipment:

  • a  Crêpe Pan or a flat-bottomed Skillet with sloping sides:  the photographed crêpes were made in a 9-inch crepe pan
  • a little Vegetable Oil poured into a saucer and a paper towel to dip into it and use to grease the crêpe pan lightly between crepes
  • a measuring cup with a handle is useful for pouring batter into the pan
  • a Spatula for turning the crêpes
  • a Plate lined with a cotton towel or napkin to hold the crepes as you make them and a second napkin or towel to place over them

1.  Rub a little oil all over the pan with a paper towel.  Heat the pan until it is hot, as you would if making pancakes, and pour in about 1/4 cup of batter, swirling it around over the bottom of the pan to cover it.

2.  In a minute or two, when the bottom is golden and the top is dry, turn the crêpe and  fry it a little more.  Transfer it to the napkin-lined plate, cover it, and continue, wiping the pan with the oiled paper towel between crêpes.

Basically, crêpe-making becomes easy with practice.  Whatever sort of pan you use, after a few tries, you will figure out the best cooking time, heat and best amount of batter for that pan.  Crêpes freeze very well.  Place them between sheets of parchment or waxed paper, and wrap them in plastic wrap.  By separating the crêpes between sheets of paper, it is easy to take out just as many as you want at a time.

IV.  Dark Chocolate Sauce Redux:  (for about 2 cups of sauce)  Step photos for this sauce are here in the dk recipe for Hungarian Chocolate Crêpes Gundel’s Style.

Ingredients:

  • 13 ounces of Dark Chocolate, chopped in pieces
  • 1/2 cup of Milk
  • 1/2 cup of Heavy Cream
  • 6 Tablespoons of Butter, cut in pieces and frozen
  • 1 teaspoon of Vanilla

1.  Add the chocolate, milk and cream to a heavy saucepan and melt the chocolate over low heat, stirring.

2.  Add the frozen butter, a few pieces at a time.

3.  Add the vanilla and set the sauce aside until you unmould the baked desserts and put them on plates. Reheat it briefly before using it.  Any leftover sauce keeps well refrigerated for many weeks.

A Note:  Moelleux au chocolat en aumônières ~ Soft Chocolate Cake in a Beggar’s Purse is the Dessert of the Dinner Menu:  Mixing Dinner and BusinessThe recipe for the Dark Chocolate Sauce is adapted from one in The Dione Lucas Book of French Cooking (1973).  The crêpe recipe comes from Menus for Entertaining (1960), by Juliette Elkon and Elaine Ross.

A Second Note:  Photos of aumônières are here on La Cotte Simple, a website about clothing in the 14th and early 15th centuries.  Rosalie Gilbert’s site Rosalie’s Medieval Woman is an interesting perspective on medieval social history as well as on historical re-enactment–an activity that provides hours of interest and pleasure both to the re-enactors and spectators.

Thanks:  To Adela Renna, who supplied my faulty French with the English translation for ‘aumônière’ that led to a productive Google search about ‘the beggar’s purse’.

© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012

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