The city has a lot to claim (The Mole Antonelliana, the home of FIAT, site of the Winter Olympics), but, as a food lover, what stands out to me is that it's the birthplace of Gianduja (as in the cocoa and hazelnut chocolate mixture that is the forefather of Nutella). So, in my book, that unofficially qualifies Turin as the chocolate capital of Italy.
While there, I made it a point to consume chocolate as often as possible; but a girl can eat only so much, so I turned to drinking my chocolate instead. That's when I stumbled upon this amazing creation known as the Bicerin.
Pronounced "bee-chay-reen," this classic recipe from Turin at first resembles a layered mocha. As in it combines European-style hot chocolate, dark espresso coffee, and heavy whipping cream.
But, the difference from an everyday mocha is that it is layered as in the various ingredients are not mixed but carefully layered in a small glass. In fact, it's said that the term "bicerin" is local dialect for small glass as that was how the drink was historically served.
While the flavor approximates a mocha, this drink is distinct in that it is made with European-style hot chocolate (as in a thick ganache texture) rather than cocoa powder and the whole drink is much smaller than a cafe moka. As in, it's no bigger than a small cappuccino or, say, a triple shot of espresso.
In the cocktail world sort of drink is known as a pousse cafe and is largely an extinct type of cocktail wherein you use the back of a spoon to carefully stack each ingredient. You may not have ordered a pousse cafe recently, however, you've likely seen the technique anytime you order a cocktail that has a "float" of alcohol on top like, say, for a Mai Tai.
While the bicerin doesn't traditionally have any alcohol in it, it is a layered drink that you'll see a lot of if you travel to Turin.
Unsurprisingly, the bicerin drink hails from the historic Caffè Al Bicerin. The cafe dates back to 18th century but the coffee shop as it's known today dates back to the mid 1800s.
According to the cafe's website, the drink is an evolution of a popular 18th century drink known as the bavareisa where a tall, large glass combined coffee, chocolate, milk, and syrup.
The first iterations of the bicerin had the three ingredients served separately but they were soon layered in one glass and it's stayed that way every since.
If you want to dive into all things bicerin history, check out the Caffe Al Bicerin's history section or go even further with the Museo Torino's account (though it's in Italian so you may need translation).
The exact recipe for the drink is a heavily guarded secret by the folks at Caffe Al Bicerin so this recipe is our best approximation based on lots and lot of research (aka taste testing) at the historic cafe.
To make the drink, we like to use a Gibraltar rocks glass though they use a short water goblet at the historic Caffe Al Bicerin. You'll want great quality espresso and to make a hot chocolate that is with high-quality dark chocolate.
To make easier work of it, you can make a larger batch of the hot chocolate and then layer the drinks to order. We like to make them in midwinter when we need a midday pick me up but, as coffee and chocolate lovers, we find we can always make an excuse for a bicerin!
Make The Ganache Hot Chocolate: Place milk in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until simmering, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate and whisk until completely melted and well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.
Prepare The Glasses: Place a cocktail shaker in the freezer until well chilled, at least 10 minutes. Fill four heatproof glasses with very hot tap water and set aside.
Add The Espresso: To serve, empty the glasses and dry it out then add 1 shot of espresso to each glass.
Layer The Drink: Layer the ingredients in the glasses by slightly tilting the glass, slowly pouring in one quarter (about 1 1/2 to 2 ounces) of hot chocolate.
Alternatively, you can float the chocolate by placing the tip of a spoon perpendicular to the inside edge of the glass, turn the curve of the spoon toward the ceiling, and slightly angle the spoon downward.
Slowly pour the hot chocolate down the spoon toward the inside of the glass.
Shake The Cream: Remove the shaker from the freezer, add the cream, and shake vigorously until frothy, at least 20 times.
Serve The Bicerin: Spoon the shaken cream on top of the hot chocolate in each glass and serve immediately.
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