Italian coffee + chocolate: A classic combo

A commonly heard exchange between American tourists and waiters in Italy goes something like this:

Italian Waiter: “Espresso?”

American:       “No, thank you.”

Waiter:    “No?  But we serve it with a piece of chocolate”

American:“Ah, chocolate?  Well in that case, yes, please!”

In Italy, Italian coffee + chocolate is a classic combo. Complimentary chocolate is routinely served with espresso.  Resting on the saucer may be a simple small square of dark chocolate that some Italians melt right in their espresso or nibble while they drink.

Italian coffee and chocolate, francine segan, thr three tomatoes

In the 17th century Italy’s northern region of Piedmont was both the center of Italy’s chocolate production and one of the first regions to sell coffee.  So it is not surprising that it was there that chocolate and espresso were first combined in a drink.

Most famous of these creations is “bicerin,” a decadently delicious treat consisting of a bottom layer of dense hot chocolate topped with a shot of hot espresso and finished with cool, softly whipped cream.  Bicerin, “small glass”, was invented at the Café Al Bicerin in Turin as an afternoon pick-me-up for its aristocratic female patrons.  You don’t have to travel to Italy to try it though. Eataly, that fabulous oasis of all things Italian on 23rd St and 5th Avenue, serves it in their café.

In the 17th century Italy’s northern region of Piedmont was both the center of Italy’s chocolate production and one of the first regions to sell coffee.  So it is not surprising that it was there that chocolate and espresso were first combined in a drink.

In the 17th century Italy’s northern region of Piedmont was both the center of Italy’s chocolate production and one of the first regions to sell coffee.  So it is not surprising that it was there that chocolate and espresso were first combined in a drink.

Most famous of these creations is “bicerin,” a decadently delicious treat consisting of a bottom layer of dense hot chocolate topped with a shot of hot espresso and finished with cool, softly whipped cream.  Bicerin, “small glass”, was invented at the Café Al Bicerin in Turin as an afternoon pick-me-up for its aristocratic female patrons.  You don’t have to travel to Italy to try it though. Eataly, that fabulous oasis of all things Italian on 23rd St and 5th Avenue, serves it in their café

Italian coffee, Italain Chocolate, francine segan, the three tomatoes

Chocolate and coffee are terrific together and there are lots of fabulous Italian desserts featuring the combo.  Here’s one of my favorite recipes. 

Flourless Chocolate Coffee Cake  

From Dolci: Italy’s Sweets by Francine Segan

Serves 8

italian coffee, italian chocolate, francine segan, the three tomatoes

It’s made with only 5 ingredients, so be sure to use only quality chocolate, as it really stands out. A must-try Italian classic!  

Flourless cake with a crisp, macaroon-like top layer and a dense, incredibly moist center.  As the cake cools, it collapses just a little, creating a pretty webbing on the delicious crust.

  • 7 tablespoons, unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 7 ounces dark chocolate, 70% cacao or higher, preferably Perugina brand
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or 1 tablespoon instant coffee 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring form cake pan.

Melt the butter, chocolate and coffee in a small bowl, either in the microwave or over a saucepan of gently boiling water. 

In a large bowl beat the sugar and egg yolks with an electric hand held mixer until creamy and pale yellow. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and beat until creamy. Add the cornstarch and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Slowly, using a spatula, fold the egg whites, a little at a time, into the chocolate mixture until combined.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, until just set in the center. Don’t over-bake. The cake will continue to set as it cools. Allow it to rest for about 30 minutes before cutting it until it collapses and the top crust cracks a bit.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *