We are nearing the end of ski season but the memory of Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) lives on in an edible form. This dessert was created in honour of the majestic Monte Bianco, visible even from long distances away in Italy and France. The ingredients make the most of local ingredients- their luscious cream from Alpine cows, earthy chestnuts and chocolate. The chestnuts and cocoa are combined to form a pasta which is formed into a mountain and covered with whipping cream. This is much easier to make than it sounds provided you have a potato ricer. If you are without the inclination or correct equipment, there is an equally delicious and dead simple equivalent below.
Candied chestnuts are a much coveted sweet which are difficult to make properly. Every year Santa brings a few for the bottom of our Christmas stockings. Those that are not eaten, find their way into this dessert.
One of my favourite gifts is a tray from the pastry shop with whipped cream, hazelnut biscuits, meringues and candied chestnuts so we can make Do-It-Yourself Montebianco and everyone can make their own mini ones adjusting the proportions to their own taste. Mine has way more hazelnut biscuits. My younger son’s montebianco has more meringues and whipping cream while his brother’s is mainly whipping cream and candied chestnuts.
Montebianco (chocolate chestnut pasta with whipped cream and candied chestnuts) – Piemonte, Valle d’Aosta
For step-by-step illustrated instructions, click here.
600 grams chestnuts (raw in the shell or pre-cooked)
400 mls milk
110 gms granulated sugar
20 grams cocoa powder
30 mls rum (can add up to 90 mls if you prefer)
500 mls whipping cream
80 gms icing sugar
6 marron glace (candied chestnuts)
If using raw chestnuts, boil them whole in water for 20 minutes and remove the shell. Boil the chestnuts together with the milk and granulated sugar for 30 minutes. Puree the mixture together with the cocoa and rum in a food mill or food processor. Once tepid, let the mixture cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to two days.
Get a serving plate ready. Add the mixture to a potato ricer and squeeze it through to form pasta onto the plate. Repeat with the remaining mixture, forming a mound onto the plate.
Whip cream with the icing sugar to form soft peaks. Put in a pastry bag with a fluted tip and decoratively cover the chestnut pasta. Place a whole marron glace on top of the mound. Distribute the remaining marron glace around the base of the mound. Serve.
Dolce ai marron glacé (hazelnut biscuits, meringues, candied chestnuts and chocolate with whipping cream) – Piemonte, Valle d’Aosta
500 mls whipping cream
1 vanilla bean, sliced in half lengthwise and the seeds scraped out (the pod can be frozen or placed in a bag of sugar to make vanilla sugar)
30 grams icing sugar
9 small meringues, 3 crumbled and 6 left whole
5 hazelnut biscuits, crushed (can substitute with 50 grams chopped, roasted hazelnuts)
30 grams dark chocolate, grated or shaved
9 marron glaces (candied chestnuts)- 3 chopped and 6 left whole
Cocoa powder to dust
Whip the cream, vanilla seeds and icing sugar to soft peaks. Place 6 of the meringues on a serving plate.
Fold the crushed biscuits, the chopped marron glace and the crumbled meringues into half of the whipping cream. Mound this mixture on top of the whole meringues.
Place the remaining whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a fluted tip and pipe the cream on top of the mound. Sprinkle evenly over the top the shaved dark chocolate. Sift the cocoa powder over top to evenly distribute. Place a whole marron glace on top of the mound. Place the remaining whole marron glace around the base of the mound. Serve!