Monday, December 24, 2012

Chestnut + Chocolate

I wouldn't feel good about myself and I wouldn't feel like I'm doing Christmas justice, if I didn't make any chocolate truffles to have around for the holidays and of course to give away to friends.






Yes, that's me folks, whenever I don't have chocolate around, I feel bad. This time though, chocolate is not the protagonist but rather an accompaniment to another great flavor of Christmas and one of my absolute favorites, the chestnut.






I adore chestnuts, they are the epitome of the holiday season and every year I use them in different ways. Last year it was chestnut tiramisu, three years ago it was creamy chestnut soup with port. I can't get enough of them.






This year, I decided to make something that I would normally buy ready-made because I've always thought it was a hassle to make myself. The incredible crème de marrons aka sweet chestnut cream. And you know what? I'm not going back to the canned variety again. Not ever. Because, friends, this is fantastic, easy and it tastes amazing.






Chestnut cream is a gorgeous concoction of cooked chestnuts, full-fat cream, vanilla and a little booze. My tipple of choice is Armagnac, but feel free to use Cognac or brandy. The result is an insanely scrumptious, thick cream that's full of chestnut flavor.






I immediately started thinking about how I was going to use this divine creation and of course several desserts came to mind, like tortes and cakes, but truffles were what I really wanted to make.






I needed to experiment so I made three versions of chestnut cream and realized that the more you cook the chestnuts with the cream, the more thick the mixture becomes and the more thick a truffle you're going to end up having. I chose to make the truffles using the creamier version because I didn't want them to be hard but slightly soft and mousse-like.






I ended up making two types of truffles. One using just the chestnut cream rolled in grated chocolate and another one using chestnut cream and chocolate ganache. Both were decadent and delicious with a smooth and creamy texture. The perfect Christmas truffles!


Happy Holidays to all! Merry Christmas!











Sweet Chestnut Cream (Crème de Marrons)

I used vacuum-packed chestnuts to make this but you can certainly use fresh chestnuts that you'll need to roast and peel before making the cream. You could also use jarred chestnuts but they're not as good as the vacuum-packed or fresh ones.

Keep in mind that you will taste the Armagnac (Cognac) in the cream so if you don't like its flavor just omit it from the recipe.

I made this chestnut cream with a vanilla bean but you can also use vanilla bean paste if you can find it.






Yield: about 400 g

Ingredients
225 g cooked and peeled chestnuts, cut in half
35 g (2 full Tbsp) caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out (both bean and seeds will be used), or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
270 ml cream, full-fat (35%)
1½ Tbsp Armagnac (or Cognac)

Special equipment: immersion or regular blender or food processor


Preparation
In a medium-sized saucepan, add the cooked chestnuts, the sugar, the split vanilla bean and its seeds, the cream and Armagnac and place the pan over medium heat. Stir with a spoon until the sugar dissolves and once the mixture begins to simmer, turn heat down to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-17 minutes until the chestnuts have softened.
Remove and discard the vanilla bean and using an immersion blender, blend the mixture directly in the pan until you have a creamy, soft and smooth mixture. If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer the mixture to a regular blender or food processor and process there.


Transfer the chestnut cream to a bowl and leave to cool. Once cooled, cover tightly and place in the refrigerator.
If you want to use it for making truffles, you need to refrigerate the cream for at least 6 hours before using so it'll firm up.
You can keep the chestnut cream in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for 1 week.











Chocolate and Chestnut Truffles

These truffles are soft, smooth, with an almost mousse-like texture. The flavors of chestnut and chocolate are distinct and they're absolutely delicious.

It would be best if you'd use dark chocolate with 70% cocoa solids to cover the truffles because it will cut through their sweetness.






Yield: about 30 truffles (walnut-sized)

Ingredients
400 g sweet chestnut cream (recipe above)
140 g good quality dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids), cut into small pieces
90 ml cream, full-fat (35%)

100 g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), for coating the truffles

Special equipment: small food processor or box grater


Preparation
Make sure your chestnut cream is at room temperature and soft.

In a medium-sized bowl, add the chopped chocolate.
In a small saucepan, add the cream and heat over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Immediately remove from the heat and pour the cream over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes and then whisk the mixture until you have a smooth and shiny ganache.
In case your chocolate hasn't melted from the heat of the cream, place the bowl (provided it's heatproof) briefly over a pan of simmering water (bain-marie) and heat until the chocolate melts.

Add the chestnut cream to the chocolate ganache and mix using first a spatula and then a whisk until you have a smooth mixture. Transfer the truffle mixture to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to set for at least 4 hours.

Grate the 70% chocolate, or use a food processor to chop it finely and place it in a large bowl or plate.
Take the truffle mixture out of the fridge and using a tablespoon as a measure, scoop balls of the truffle mixture, roll between your hands to shape into rough balls (it doesn't matter if they're not perfectly shaped) and drop them into the bowl/plate of grated chocolate. Roll them around gently in the chocolate and place them on a clean serving dish.

Place the truffles in the fridge (in an airtight container) to firm up.

You can keep them in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for a week. They will become harder but under no circumstances rock-hard; they'll be soft (not too soft) and melt-in-the-mouth delicious.











Chestnut Cream Truffles

The chestnut cream, when refrigerated, doesn't become rock-hard but remains somewhat creamy, making the truffles incredibly smooth and velvety.

It would be best if you'd use dark chocolate with 70% cocoa solids to cover the truffles because it will cut through their sweetness.






Yield: about 20 truffles (walnut-sized)

Ingredients
400g sweet chestnut cream (recipe above)
100 g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), for coating the truffles

Special equipment: small food processor or box grater


Preparation
Make sure your chestnut cream is at room temperature and soft.

Grate the chocolate, or use a food processor to chop it finely and place it in a large bowl or plate.

Using a tablespoon as a measure, scoop balls of the chestnut cream, roll between your hands to shape into rough balls (it doesn't matter if they're not perfectly shaped) and drop them into the bowl/plate of grated chocolate. Roll them around gently in the chocolate and place them on a clean serving dish.

Place the truffles in the fridge (in an airtight container) to firm up.

You can keep them in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for a week. They will become harder but under no circumstances rock-hard; they'll be soft and melt-in-the-mouth delicious.







More truffles:
Cinnamon-Infused Chocolate Truffles






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8 comments:

  1. I kind of wish I was your next door neighbour, right about now. Chestnut cream truffles. Yeah baby!

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  2. You know, I have never thought of making my own crème de marrons. Thank you for this - what a gift! And the truffle recipes? Exquisite! Merry Christmas - and enjoy your day! ~ David

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  3. Happy Holiday to you. As always, a beautiful & mouth-watering story/recipe. I have never made truffles, but your recipe is so accessible I will keep this to try later...maybe for Valentines?

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  4. I love these! I was thinking of making this for weeks, then I settled for chestnut brownies. but after eating more chestnuts yesterday at my cousin's for dinner (chestnut soup and chestnut vacherin ice-cream) I decided I was ready to eat more chestnuts; your recipe is perfect and so restrained in sugar, love it!!!!

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  5. Omg I just about gave myself a coronary looking at the chestnut truffles you made. I LOVE chestnut as well, but never handled them in the kitchen. So inspired. Dreaming of sweet chestnut cream from here on out.

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  6. Can I be your friend an have some of those?

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  7. Hi Magda, better late than never--wishing you and yours wonderful holidays, and healthy-happy new year full of beautiful food.
    your chestnut cream is pure genius; I am completely knocked out by these images.

    ReplyDelete