I will never complain about how much mont blancs cost ever again. Chestnuts are delicious but they take so much effort for too little reward. I gave myself a ginormous blister peeling and pushing the chestnut purée through a fine mesh sieve. Was the pastry delicious? Yes. Was it worth all the trouble of making it? Maybe. Is it easier to just fly to France and get one? That escalated quickly.
Obviously, this is a late post as chestnut season ended in December. I was actually quite lucky to be able to find fresh chestnuts on sale a few days after Christmas at the local Korean market. On a whim, I picked up a couple of pounds of chestnuts without really thinking through what I would make with them. Once I got home, I figured the most traditional and chestnut forward dish I could make would be a mont blanc. A mont blanc is a popular European dessert made with puréed chestnuts and whipped cream on top of some sort of pastry that I absolutely love eating. In my head, it sounded like an easy dessert to make. But in reality, there were so many steps and so many things that can go wrong.
First, let’s discuss how to select chestnuts. If you’re lucky and can find loose chestnuts (chestnuts that aren’t already pre-packaged into bags), you will definitely need to learn how to pick the winners. Give the good ol’ chestnut a shake; does it sound like a baby’s rattle toy? If yes, then throw that sucker back into the bin. That chestnut is no bueno as it’s all dried up and no longer edible. Second, cooking the chestnuts. Place the chestnut flat side down onto a cutting board, with a sharp paring knife, cut an “X” into the chestnut. Next, place all the chestnuts into a large bowl of hot water and let them sit for about a minute. Remove the chestnuts and pat them dry. Don’t spread out the chestnuts; let them pile on top of each other to create steam inside the shell to help loosen up the flesh. Chestnuts are notorious for sticking to the lining inside the shells and that makes it hard for extraction.
- For the tart base
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Chestnut purée
- 2 1/2 pounds chestnuts, toasted and out of shells
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Pinch of salt
- Whipped cream
- 1/4 cup chestnut purée
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 F and grease tart pans.
- Step 2 Add butter, sugar, and salt to a large bowl and mix until well combined. Add flour and mix until a dough forms.Divide the dough evenly into four equal parts and press the dough into the tart pans (you may use the bottom of a glass cup to help even out the dough).
- Step 3 Place the tart shell in the refrigerator and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Step 4 Bake the tart shells for 20 minutes until golden brown.
- Step 5 Allow to cool completely before assembly.
- Step 6 Place all toasted and de-shelled chestnuts into a food processor with heavy cream, sugar, and salt and pulse until smooth and creamy.
- Step 7 Pass the purée through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
- Step 8 Place chestnut purée into a bowl, cover with wrap, and chill until needed.
- Step 9 In a stand mixer (or large bowl if using a hand mixer), whip the heavy cream, chestnut purée, vanilla extract, and sugar until medium peaks form.
- Step 10 Scoop whipped cream into a piping bag, snip the tip, and pipe a dome of whipped cream on top of the tarts.
- Step 11 Scoop the chestnut purée into a piping bag, snip the tip, and pipe over the whipped cream and cover it completely.
- Step 12 Optional: sprinkle powdered sugar on top to resemble a snowy mountain top and enjoy.