Meaning ‘little glass’ or biccherino, this is a decadent drink of thick melted chocolate and espresso with a layer of cream, whipped or barely whipped—my preference is the latter like they do in Caffé al Bicerin, the eighteenth-century bar where it all started. Every historic café. in Turin does bicerin, but theirs, rightfully so, is exceptional and its recipe is a closely guarded secret. It is served in a wine glass balanced on a saucer, the cold fior di latte cream whisked by hand so that it isn’t so much whipped as it is thickened to just the right point where you don’t need to use a spoon to drink it. As the waitress carefully places the bicerin on the little marble table, she gently recommends to enjoy it without stirring—the first gulp is just cool, thick cream, suddenly followed by silky, warm, coffee-spiked chocolate. No wonder Ernest Hemingway said that the bicerin should be one of the hundred things in the world to save. This is how I recreate it at home.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Tortellini at Midnight by Emiko Davies, published by Hardie Grant March 2019, RRP $35.00 Hardcover. —Emiko
(1 oz) best-quality dark (at least 70%) chocolate, finely chopped
Place the chocolate in a small bowl and pour the hot espresso over it. Stir gently until the chocolate melts.
Combine the sugar and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and add a splash of the coffee and chocolate mixture to make a smooth paste, ensuring there are no lumps. Then add the rest of the coffee mixture and heat gently over a low heat, just until the sugar dissolves and there are no more grains, 1–2 minutes. Do not let it boil. Pour the coffee hot chocolate into a glass.
Place the cream in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake (alternatively, you can whisk it by hand in a bowl), until it thickens significantly but still has a pouring (and drinking) consistency. Marco (who used to be a barman during his university days) can do this in less than 10 seconds before it turns into whipped cream, which is not exactly what you want – I take longer, about 30 seconds, to get the cream to the right consistency. Just shake and check as you go, if you don’t know your own strength.
Pour the cream into the glass, using a teaspoon to help the cream float in a layer – it will stop the flow of cream just hitting the bottom of the glass. The spoon should be barely touching the hot chocolate and make sure to not let the cream touch the side of the glass.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.