Monday, December 12, 2011
Mont blanc ranks waaay up there on my list of favourite cakes. There's something about the nutty, milky sweetness of chestnut puree and the way it is piped spiraling up to procure a messy but somewhat artistic-looking mountain. An edible delicious mountain. Plus, mont blancs usually come with a crumbly tart base!
Unfortunately, I find that mont blancs are usually quite expensive. I mean the cake, not the pen. Well, I suppose the pen is too. I think it's because the chestnut puree is pretty pricey. I saw a can going for ten bucks before. But whole chestnuts themselves are very much more affordable so it would be easier on the pocket to make my own chestnut puree. And since I could make my own puree I should make my own mont blancs. Which brings us to here, with a mont blanc and a fork. And then just the fork.
Most of the components came together without a hitch. I used my ever reliable sweet tart dough, some leftover almond sponge from my previous entremet which I froze, chantilly cream, chocolate-coated candied chestnuts and chestnut pastry cream. The chestnut for garnishing is just a candied chestnut, the same as the one inside the cake but without the creamy chocolate shell.
The candied chestnuts were the huge pain in the butt. I followed a recipe for marron glaces and I stirred the chestnuts while they were boiling in the syrup. Which is what I'm not supposed to do. To be a little less harsh on myself, the directions didn't mention anything about not stirring. But in the end, I still got hard sugar-encrusted chestnuts instead creamy sweet ones. I decided to just heck with it, and reheated the crystallized chestnuts until the sugar has melted again and heat it until it has turned to caramel. It was as if I had intended to just dip the chestnuts in caramel which hardened when left to dry on a baking sheet. They looked much better, and I felt much better, until I found that when refrigerated, the caramel liquified and dripped off the chestnuts.
And it's not just the appearance either. The unsuccessful layer of caramel on the outside became tough and chewy. So much work for nothing, hmph. If you're making those marron glaces, please please please remember not to stir when they're boiling!
The second problem, although a much milder one, is the piping of the chestnut pastry cream. The holes of the piping tip that I used were tiny! I really feel that bigger holes would pipe a prettier mont blanc. But it's not just the looks. Because the holes were so small, little pieces of chestnuts which I didn't manage to strain out from my puree got stuck behind them, constantly jamming the flow of the pastry cream. I managed the scrape by by inserting a toothpick up the holes to get it going again. Thank goodness messy mont blancs still look good!
Despite the little boo-boos here and there, I loved my final product! The chestnut pastry cream wasn't too sweet or too bland. Those chestnut spaghetti strands always make or break a mont blanc. So does the tart base, which was wonderful as always. After coating the chestnuts with chocolate, I could almost forgive them for their slight chewiness. I love chestnuts with chocolate, don't you?
sweetened whipped cream, amount depending on how much you're making (portion about 3 tbsp per mont blanc)
marron glaces recipe here, coat with chocolate if you like
Sweet Tart Dough (makes twelve 2-inch circles)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick + 1 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg
Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor. Scatter the butter cubes over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. Crack the egg in a separate bowl and beat it up with a fork just to break it up. Add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the all the egg has been added, keep pulsing until you get a cohesive dough.
At this point, you can chill, roll and cut out 2 inch circles of dough or you can skip the chilling and divide the dough into 12 equal portions and press each portion into a 2 inch cutter. Transfer the circles of dough onto a baking sheet and chill until firm. Freeze, if you're short of time.
Bake at 190C for about 15 minutes or until nicely browned. I like to bake mine until they're a toasty brown to get more flavour.
*You may have leftover sponge, depending on how many mont blancs you/re making. Freeze the extra or use any other leftover sponge you have previously.
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1 tsp sugar
1/3 cup ground blanched almonds
1/3 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 large egg
1 tbsp + 1 tsp all purpose flour
1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a 9 inch square pan.
Beat the egg white until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, beat the almonds, icing sugar and egg until pale and fluffy. Fold in the flour gently until just combined. Fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake until just lightly browned, about 5 to 9 minutes. Immediately loosen the sides of the cake from the pan, lift it out by the sides of the parchment paper and peel it off. Let the cake cool completely before cutting out 1 inch circles.
Roasted Chestnut Puree
200g cooked chestnuts
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp rum (optional, but good)
Place the chestnuts, 2 cups of milk and vanilla bean in saucepan and heat until simmering. Simmer until all the liquid has evaporated and chestnuts are tender. Add the last 1/2 cup of milk and sugar and heat to dissolve the sugar but try not to let too much milk evaporate. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor. Add the rum and blend. Pass the mixture through a sieve to obtain a smooth puree.
Chestnut Pastry Cream
1 1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
all of the chestnut puree above
Heat the milk with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the cornstarch together until the cornstarch has fully dissolved. Slowly pour in the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour everything back into the saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Keep cooking until the mixture has thickened and let it boil for a minute more to cook off the floury taste. Stir in the vanilla extract and strain into a bowl. Add the chestnut puree and mix to combine. Cover with plastic wrap that is touching the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until completely chilled.
Assembly: Place a circle of sponge on a tart base. Top with a small mound of whipped cream. Press a marron glace into the middle and top with another small mound of whipped cream. Use a spatula to smooth down the sides so that the chestnut is completely covered and you have a shape of a mini mountain. Spoon the pastry cream in a piping bag already with a tip with multiple holes. Pipe the pastry cream from the bottom, spiraling upwards or in any fashion you desire. Top with another marron glace. Chill the mont blanc for at least 30 minutes before serving. I advise you not to dust any icing sugar over it because it would just dissolve.