This is Anne coming at you live with post number 50! Whaaaat?
For a girl with basically no sense of follow-through, this is like Christmas has come…well, pretty much exactly on time, actually, which makes the whole comparison a little more anticlimactic than it probably should be. Still, pretty darn monumental if I do say so myself. And I do!
Which brings me to our next delightful topic – Christmas is almost here!
To celebrate, I’m bringing you a fabulously fancy looking entremet: the Mont Blanc, named after the tallest mountain peak in Europe of the same name (which, incidentally, is featured prominently in Frankenstein, a fun tidbit that I just noticed the last time I read through the novel (novella? I can never get those straight) in October). From the bottom, we have a super flaky pie crust filled with frangipane (aka almond cream) and a whole chestnut underneath a tart filling of raspberry jam, topped by a mountain of fluffy whipped cream, covered in piped threads of chestnut cream, and decorated with a single candied chestnut. Despite the decadent ingredients, the whipped cream in the middle keeps everything light, fluffy, and positively amazing.
If all that sounds a bit intimidating (believe me, it did to me when I read through the description for the first time), I promise that the whole thing comes together a lot more easily than it looks. I mean, is it full of probably an unnecessary number of steps? Yes. Will you probably end up prepping some of the ingredients in advance? Maybe. But is any part of the process genuinely hard? Not really. Honestly, the trickiest bit is not burning yourself on anything along the way, but I imagine that those of you in the audience are probably less accident prone than I am.
(Fun fact – apparently just-boiled sugar is hot and the pot that contains it should not be temperature tested with your fingers. Who knew?)
For those of you who believe that Christmas is not the time to be slaving over the oven, I hear you. The good news is, not every ingredient in this recipe strictly needs to be made from scratch. You can easily find pre-made pie crust at the grocery store, or even cut down the process even more by using pre-made mini tarts as a bit of an unconventional base instead of the frangipane pastry – try using a raspberry tart instead of the frangipane and a raspberry filling for a quick and easy substitution! While there’s really no substitute for homemade whipped cream or the consistency of creme patissiere, there’s no reason why you can’t serve your confection without the candied chestnut or with a store-bought chocolate covered almond instead!
(All the fun of piping satisfying ribbons of chestnut cream with a 53.8% reduced chance of burnt fingertips. Hooray!)
So if you’re looking for something extra special to serve after Christmas dinner, take a hard pass on the fruitcake and go for a fantastically wonderful French classic instead. I promise it’s totally worth the effort. Hope you enjoy!
Makes 6 mont blanc
120 g all purpose flour
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 1/2 tbs butter, chilled and sliced into thin pats
1 1/2 tbs vodka
1 1/2 tbs ice water, as needed
50 g almond flour
15 g all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
50 g granulated sugar
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Chestnut Creme Patissiere:
1/2 cup milk
1 egg yolk
2 tbs granulated sugar
20 g all purpose flour
3 oz chestnut puree (either puree whole cooked chestnuts or buy in a tin)
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbs granulated sugar
6 whole, cooked, peeled chestnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbs light corn syrup
2 tbs water
6 whole, cooked, peeled chestnuts
2 tbs raspberry jam
1/2 tsp lemon juice
- Place the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse lightly to mix.
- Add in the cold butter and pulse just until the flour is fully incorporated and the mixture resembles very coarse corn meal with a few larger clumps.
Tip: Whenever a recipe calls for cubed or sliced chilled butter, I let the butter soften slightly, slice it up while it’s soft, then freeze it again in a bowl to avoid trying to cut rock-hard cold butter.
- Add the vodka to the flour-butter mixture in the food processor until it comes together. At this point, keep adding ice water as needed just until the dough just comes together and isn’t crumbly. I didn’t add any water, but you might need up to 1 tbs.
- Mold dough into a roughly rectangular shape about 1″ thick, cover in saran wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Tip: If you’re pressed for time, you can also chill in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes!
- Whisk together all ingredients until well incorporated, then set aside for filling.
Assembly, part 1:
- Preheat the oven to 375 ºF. Lightly grease each of the six 3.5″ ramekins or tart tins.
- Roll out the pastry crust to less than 1/8″ in thickness. Cut out six circles 4.5″ in diameter, then line each greased ramekin with a circle of pastry crust.
- Spoon frangipane filling into each ramekin until each pastry crust is about 3/4 full, then press a whole cooked chestnut into the center of each pastry.
- Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet, then bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the top of the frangipane is firm and lightly browned. Set aside to cool!
Chestnut Creme Patissiere:
- Heat milk in a small pot on medium-high heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
- Lightly whisk together the eggs and sugar in a bowl until the sugar is slightly dissolved. Whisk in the flour and set aside.
- Pour in about 1/2 of the boiling milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking quickly as you pour.
- Pour the egg mixture back into the pot through a sieve, whisking quickly as you pour. Continue whisking until the creme patissiere thickens to the consistency of thick pudding, then remove from heat.
Tip: Always make sure to mix your eggs into the milk by tempering them with hot milk, then pouring through the sieve rather than dumping them all in at once. No matter how many times and how quickly I’ve tried to whisk while pouring in untempered eggs, I always ended up with unpleasantly eggy creme patissiere because some of the egg inevitably scrambles as it hits the hot milk. After lots of sadness, disappointment, and wasted creme patissiere, I finally started to use this tempering method as a virtually fool-proof strategy for keeping creme patissiere (or any other type of custard) scrambled eggs-free!
- In a stand mixer or using an electric mixer, beat the chestnut puree until light and fluffy. Fold the chestnut puree into the creme patissiere.
- Pour the mixture into another bowl, cover the surface with saran wrap, and set aside to cool.
Tip: Make sure the saran wrap touches the surface of the creme patissiere when you cover the bowl to prevent a skin from forming at the top of your pastry cream if the surface dries out.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, whip together the cream and sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. At this point, when you lift out the beaters, you should see sharp peaks that do not curl over.
- Load the whipped cream into a piping bag with a round tip (I used the Wilton 1A), then set aside for assembly!
- Set aside a bowl of ice water that is large enough to submerge the bottom of a small pot.
- In the small pot over medium heat, melt together the sugar, corn syrup, and water until the sugar is fully dissolved. Continue boiling until the syrup darkens to a light golden brown, then remove immediately from heat and briefly submerge the bottom into the pot of ice water before setting onto the counter.
- Line a clean plate with parchment paper. Gently spear each chestnut onto a kebab skewer, dip into the melted caramel, swirl to cover, then drop onto the parchment paper to dry. Once the caramel hardens, carefully remove the toothpick and set aside the candied chestnuts for later!
Tip: In a pinch, you can use a small spoon to dip and remove the chestnuts. In either case, just take care to allow the excess caramel to drop off before placing the candied chestnuts onto the parchment. Also, be careful not to burn yourself — the edge of your pot is still very hot, and so is the caramel!
Assembly, part 2:
- Carefully remove the cooked frangipane tarts from each ramekin.
- Load the cooled chestnut creme into a piping bag fitted with a plastic adaptor. Pipe a ring of chestnut cream around the center of each tart, then add on a multi-opening tip to the plastic adaptor (I used the Wilton #233 tip).
- Whisk together the raspberry jam and lemon juice, then add a small dollop of jam to flood the center of the ring on top of each cooled tart.
- Holding the piping tip perpendicular to the center of your tart, squeeze a tall, conical dollop of whipped cream onto the center of each tart above the raspberry jam layer. The edges of the cone should nearly reach the inner edge of the pie crust.
Tip: I totally cheated and smoothed out the cone with a small offset spatula. If your piping skills, like mine, are not exactly totally up to scratch, feel free to do the same! (It’ll be our secret.)
- Using the multi-opening tip, pipe strings of chestnut creme around the cone of whipped cream until the surface is completely covered like a towering mountain of spaghetti.
Tip: The creme patissiere is quite stiff and will be difficult to push through the tiny openings on your tip. I suggest twisting the back of the bag and holding the twisted end closed and squeezing firmly with your dominant hand while gently holding the rest of the bag straight with your non-dominant hand as you pipe.
- Top with a candied chestnut and serve immediately on plates decorated with a drizzle of the leftover caramel from the chestnuts. Bon appetit!