Traveling the world through cuisine

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

Chestnuts

Despite Jack Frost nipping at our noses, autumn and winter is the time of the year for the chestnut.  Every year as the temperature drops, families all over the world roast and prepare numerous sweet and savory dishes from the chestnut.  A favorite in my family is my father’s stuffing made every Thanksgiving.  However, this entry is actually about a dessert.

It was back when Zuzana and I went to her native Slovakia.  We met up with her childhood friend Silvia, and ended up at an outdoor café for a break from sightseeing. Silvia ordered a rather beautiful dessert I was told was chestnut puree.

Ever since that trip, the chestnut puree came into my mind over and over, until I found fresh chestnuts at the market one day and thus decided to try it myself. The initial end result was a whipped/creamy dessert similar to a mousse.  I liked the flavor, but found the addition of cocoa powder made it even better (I guess chocolate makes everything better).  Regardless, the final result tasted even closer to what Silvia had in that café.  After doing a little research, I even believe what she had was actually known as a Mont Blanc.

I’ll find out when we go back to Slovakia in the summer, but feel free to take a hand at it on your own.

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of chestnuts
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 cups of water plus water to heat up the chestnuts
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 2 tbsp of cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup of skim milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat open to 425°
  2. Using knife that has teeth, cut an X into the round side of each chestnut shell.
  3. Place chestnuts into a stock pot or saucepan and fill with water until they are just covering the nuts.
  4. Add in a dash of salt.
  5. Heat the pot on the stove on high until the water comes to a boil.
  6. Remove the nuts from the water and place in a single layer on a baking pan.
  7. Put chestnuts in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Remove roasted chestnuts from oven and allow them to cool.
  9. Peel all chestnuts and set the nut meat aside while discarding the shells. Don’t worry about keeping them whole.
  10. In a medium-size saucepan, mix the chestnut meat with 2 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar.
  11. Place the mixture on the stove and bring to a boil on high heat.
  12. When the mixture is boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the liquid becomes a syrup.
  13. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  14. Using a spoon with straining holes, scoop all the chestnut meat out of the mixture and place into food processor. Do not discard the syrup.
  15. Add in the 2 tbsp of cocoa powder.
  16. Blend chestnut meat and slowly add in the syrup until you get a more creamy, pudding-like texture. Add in the skim milk slowly to make it more creamy.
  17. Place the puree into a container and chill for a few hours before serving.

Quick Notes

The overall goal is a texture similar to a mousse. How much syrup and milk you add simply is to bring the final result to the desired texture.

Chilling the finished puree afterwards makes for a better flavor. The ingredients sink into one another and thus creates a beautiful nutty dessert.

Variations

According to Wikipedia, there are variations of this dessert in many flavors. Chocolate is one variation, others will add fruit jams and other possible sweet flavors to make it complete. I’ve also heard some will stir in some rum. Feel free to experiment.

Healthy It Up

For Zuzana’s diet, I managed to use one teaspoon of pure stevia extract in place of the sugar. It worked out well.

 

Tags: chestnut, dessert, French, Hungarian, Mont Blanc, puree, Slovak

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