Friday, November 23, 2012

CHOCOLATE CHESTNUT FONDANT

CHESTNUTS ROASTING

Come, woo me, woo me; 
for now I am in a holiday humor, and like enough to consent. 
- William Shakespeare


I love the holidays. Halloween comes and goes swathed in orange and black, tiny fondant jack-o’-lanterns and chocolate skeletons dancing across supermarket shelves and shop windows. Thanksgiving arrives sharp on its heels in a burst of cooking energy; a cornucopia of seasonal fruits and vegetables just making their reluctant appearance on market stalls give themselves up to casseroles, cakes and side dishes; table tops strewn with crisp fall leaves in burnished gold and sepia and red the color of the evening sky where tiny Pilgrims stand in wooden severity. Then swoosh we are swept away in a Winter Wonderland of sparkle and brightness, swags of tiny colored lights and the twinkle of stars against inky black; the crinkle of shiny paper and the romance of plump bows lure and entice, flames dance in windows amid festive songs and Champagne cheer.
It is funny that I should love this season so much when we don’t really celebrate the holidays. Halloween inspires impatient sneers and stirs up violent discussions of a cross-cultural takeover; Thanksgiving is simply forgotten, faded into hazy dreams of one single long-ago celebration. Christmas is seen by some to be a bewildering cross between a burden of familial expectations, consumer madness, religious indifference muddied with doubts and the joy of gift giving, while Hanukkah… yes Hanukkah in the warm glow of candlelight, the vibrant sizzle of latkes and the gentle hum and rhythm of filial and brotherly love, we are each swept away with enthusiasm. The spirit pervades and carries us along for five, maybe six of the eight days of festivities until someone voices skepticism, begins wondering aloud at the insanity of giving so many gifts so many nights in a row and the other three feel the holiday teetering on the precipice, the fragility of mood and sensibility looming, hoping that qualms and dubiousness will whither away in the utter beauty of one more candle’s blaze.



But happily we rush into Christmas and New Year’s Eve when the Champagne flows and the food is abundant, even if just for the two or the four of us. The ambiance returns, albeit quietly, to mirth and good cheer. Outright bellyaches and grousing fade into nuanced grumblings as we debate the degree of hoopla and revelry; we analyze how our year went, trade barbs and opinions on how everyone behaved, making our own list in much the way Santa does, judging degrees of naughtiness and whether this one or that deserves a gift or two. Strolling hand in hand through the glittering city, my every “Oooh! Pretty!” is met with icy silence, every “Ahhh! Look! I love that!” is matched with a sharp “No!” Each “Beautiful! Can we?” is parodied with a “But you’re Jewish!” Our budget is deliberated, desires contested, activities negotiated and we somehow, each and every year, meet in the middle, arrive at a compromise on shopping, decoration and meal. And enjoy ourselves heartily.

Now please don’t get me wrong and think that I am accusing anyone of being a Grinch. No snarling “I must stop this whole thing!" nor a Scrooge-like “Bah, Humbug!” in sight, but simply a low simmering discontent, enough to keep the over-planning at bay. But I will be fair. I will admit that if we were surrounded by family and friends, if holidays meant ringing doorbells and crowded rooms, if a dozen or so smiling faces gathered around our laden table, forks dancing happily above plates, the tinkle of busy cutlery and the clicking of wine glasses in toast after merry toast, well, maybe some of us would be singing a different tune.



Yet I love the holidays; the spirit invades, the jingle of bells excites, the tinny notes of piped-in carols thrills as I bounce down the city streets singing along with old, forgotten tunes and praying for snow. Although there is no Thanksgiving celebration, no holiday meal per se, I adore the sweet fresh smell of pumpkin, the weight and heft of knobbly sweet potatoes, the earthy mystery, the hideous beauty of mushrooms, from creamy white to delicate fawn to elegant woodsy browns lined up in wooden crates, gnarly or smooth, deep chocolate-colored figs nestled snugly side by side, together expressing autumn’s amusement and vibrancy, inviting us to laugh and shop and cook. Whole rabbits and geese still bedecked in feathers and pelt, pyramids of chestnuts and garlands of greenery have the power to woo and I am left breathless, excited, lighthearted and completely, irrevocably in the mood.



One Thanksgiving past springs to mind now every year as the weather turns damper and chillier, afternoons quickly fall dark and the scent of pie fills the air, a Brooklyn Thanksgiving, a true feast in that old fourth-floor walkup. Michael and I cooked and baked for two straight days in joy and glee, a perfect dance: he turned my homemade cornbread into delectable stuffing; my Challah was placed proudly next to his whole wheat bread, both labors of love; pumpkin and sweet potato pies and chocolate cake, sweet potatoes and green beans and bottles of wine and we shared our very own Thanksgiving now tucked away into the brightest corner of my memories, that special secret garden reserved solely for my brother.

The others, those of my childhood have long been lost, scattered forever like the thousand million tiny petals of fuzz blown off of the head of a dandelion with a poof, snatched up and carried off by the wind. And never has one single Thanksgiving meal been served to my family in Europe and to tell the truth, it is never really missed. All alone, surrounded by no family or friends, we make our own celebrations, prepare festive meals just how and when we like. But I never hesitate to search out special recipes for seasonal treats, pumpkin and sweet potato pies, apple cakes and stollen, gingerbread macarons and the like. All autumn and winter long.

A fondant to some is that sugary sweet icing rolled out and delicately layered over wedding cakes or cookies. To the French, a fondant is an ethereal cake-like delicacy, meltingly smooth on the tongue, its immediate burst of richness fading away leaving a delicate essence, a flavor that lingers. This Fondant au Chocolat et Marrons, Chocolate and Chestnut Fondant, inspired by an image, a recipe seen in a cookbook, is less cake than truffle, so dense yet surprisingly delicate. A deep chocolate flavor with a hint of chestnut, the fondant is just perfect as it is, better than any gooey, decadent brownie could ever hope to be. Yet with that very first mouthful I knew that I had to make this again adding a couple of tablespoons of Cointreau, Grand Marnier or even rum for a sensational complex new layer of flavor and the kick of alcohol. And I’ll make it a third time using all salted butter for that glorious salty zing I love with chocolate. Astonishingly simple to make, four easy ingredients, this Chocolate Chestnut Fondant makes for one dramatic, spectacular holiday dessert.







CHOCOLATE CHESTNUT FONDANT 
Adapted from Albums Larousse Nutella, lait concentré, crème de marrons… by Corinne Jausserand

7 oz (200 g) dark chocolate – I used half bittersweet Lindt Doux 70% + half swemisweet Nestlé Dessert
 11 Tbs (160 g) butter – I used half unsalted + half salted butter
3 large eggs
17.6 oz (500 g) Crème de Marron (sweetened chestnut cream)
1 gently rounded Tbs flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9-inch baking dish.

Break the chocolate into smallish chunks and place in a heatproof or Pyrex bowl with the butter. Melt in the microwave on high for about 1 ½ minutes. Remove from the oven and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture blended and smooth. Return to the microwave for quick zaps if need be. (I always remove melting chocolate and butter from the heat, whether microwave or bain-marie, before one or the other (or both) are completely melted in order to avoid burning the chocolate or overheating…. The heat of that already melted will help melt the remaining chunks while beginning the cooling down process.)

Allow the butter and chocolate to cool to room temperature or at least tepid.


Place the eggs in a medium to large mixing bowl and whisk or beat well until blended. Whisk in the chestnut cream. Gradually pour in the butter/chocolate while continuing to whisk, being careful not to splatter. Whisk in the flour.

Pour into the buttered baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes, depending upon the size and shape of your baking dish as well as your oven. The fondant should be puffed, set in the center and cracking a bit. The surface will look matt, almost like the surface of brownies.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before serving. This is a very rich dessert and is best served in thin slices. And those who wish will be free to request seconds!


For a truly elegant dessert, serve the Chocolate Chestnut Fondant with a crème anglaise of unsweetened or very lightly sweetened whipped cream.

30 comments:

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

I know what you mean about the holidays. With no family or traditions here, it's just not the same. I go through the motions. Maybe it would be different if I had a piece of your chocolate chestnut fondant.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Oh my lord, what a luscious treat! Lady, you never fail to make me drool. I absolutely have to bookmark this recipe...

Like you, I love the holiday season, although I don't really celebrate Xmas or the New Year like most folks...

Cheers,

Rosa

Elle said...

A sublime dessert and perfect for winter celebrations. My solution for the holiday buzz is to invited close friends for Thanksgiving dinner, especially if they would otherwise be celebrating on their own. Lots of fun and conversation and the clink of forks and wineglasses.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Oh Lord this looks amazing. I always need to make sure when I read or hear fondant asking "which one?" before I can indulge. Like you I enjoy watching all the festivities taking place from haloween to Diwali to Thanksgiving and we are now gearing up for Xmas.

I am totally enchanted be this cake . love that you add chestnut cream to it - i have a can so I think this will be made this weekend!

Robin O said...

My holiday seasons steps towards a transition from childhood, adult, parent and now grandparent. Some adjustments come easily with abomb and excitement to make the holidays my own then shift as those around me grow and change. The best way to hold the delight, is a bit of a fabulous chocolate dessert with powdered sugar sprinkles.
Thank you Jamie for this!

Haddock in the Kitchen said...

Jamie - I have seen the term "semi sweet" for chocolate before - as I live in France too,what would you suggest for this that can be bought here? Make etc?
Thanks
Helen
ps - it looks divine by the way!

Jamie said...

@Haddock in the Kitchen: Helen, I almost always use Lindt in my cakes and almost always use Lindt Doux 70% because the Doux is the bittersweet without the "bitter" and I love it. For unsweetened I use either Lindt 85% or 90%, for bittersweet or semisweet I use either Lindt 70% or Lindt Doux 70%. The only reason I used half Nestle Dessert in this - I don't really like it - is because I only had 100 grams of the Lindt and had an old Nestle Dessert in my cupboard!

d'liteful cravings said...

I am SO going to make this! It's utterly gorgeous and I can literally taste the creaminess and deliciousness of the goodness that is this cake! Oh my!

Sarah said...

My dad used to eat creme de marrons (that exact brand in fact) covered with cream. Creating a chocolate fondant dessert is an even better way of eating it. Although I am not religious, far from it, I enjoy the traditions of the holiday season. It doesn't have to be about gifts, but about bringing together family and friends.

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

Out of necessity or circumstance our holidays have become smaller and I'm fine with that. I used to love entertaining a houseful for Thanksgiving (or so I thought) but each year sitting at the table I always felt more exhausted than hungry and enjoyed the food better the next day. Now I keep it small, no pressure, no exact time and we all enjoy ourselves much better...or at least I do!

I love Christmas but I work at keeping it something I enjoy. I make all of my gifts; every single one. That means a lot to me and I hope it does to the recipients too. Allowing me to escape the insanity of shopping while instead baking some favorite cookies or my latest indulgence - you know, liqueurs...makes it fun for me too. Visiting the church where my daughter is the choir director on Christmas Eve and hearing her sign a solo of 'O Holy Night' at midnight is special beyond belief and a reminder of 'the reason for the season.'

I keep it about hearth and home and I know my home would love some of this cake. You call it fondant which over here means a thick piece of marzipan shaped and colored to decorate a cake. They look pretty but I've never found the idea of them appealing to actually eat. I like your fondant much better. :)

Cake Duchess said...

This is so luscious and delightful. I wish I could find some chestnut cream here. But then again, probably better that I don't. This cake is perfect for any special winter dinner party:)

Jill @ MadAboutMacarons said...

Oh my, Jamie. If my daughter, Lucie, sees this (she's obsessed about chestnuts) she'll go wild. Gundgy paradise here and love all your photos - the last one is so much fun! We have a constant supply of this stuff with fromage blanc just now but I need this fondant!

Nicole said...

Well said, Jamie. I used to love Thanksgiving. If I lived abroad, I'd have an excuse to sift through everything I now find onerous about the holiday, leaving behind only the essentials. I bet it would be well worth it!

Nicole

Nuts about food said...

We are pretty big on the holidays, especially Christmas. A lot of it probably has to do with having small children (althought I will admit we always had a soft spot for Christmas even before them) but because we live far from the States, it allows me to choose the parts I like about Halloween and Thanksgiving without having the added stress and pressure.

Tandy said...

I had chestnuts for the first time on Friday night in a dessert form. Before that I have only ever had them roasted :)

Carolyn Jung said...

Chestnuts always make me think of Christmas. And this would be a perfect ending to the big celebration dinner. Thanks for sharing it. ;)

Lorraine Joy Alegria-Vizcarra said...

The cake looks wonderful.

WiseMóna said...

Funny ... the American in France uses Lindt (Swiss) chocolate and my American in Ireland (Ron) uses Callebaut. (French) chocolate.

Either way . . . it all looks delicious and rich and perfect for the holidays. xx

domenicacooks said...

Jamie, I can see this cake on a beautifully decorated buffet table softly lit with candlelight. A holiday party cake for sure! I used to make a similar cake from a recipe I got years (and years) ago from a cookbook called The Frog Commissary Cookbook (I think it was a restaurant in Philadelphia or something). Like your cake it had butter, eggs, sugar a& chocolate and just the tiniest bit of flour. This one was flavored with coffee. I haven't made it in years but it was always a hit. I love chocolate and chestnuts and I'll bet your version is even better. Thanks for sharing another glorious recipe.

Rim said...

Jamie, I am desperately trying not to do this recipe! I know if I do it, I'll end up eating most of it alone :( I love marron and have the exact brand you used and already know how delicious it is. We use it as a topping to vanilla ice cream mixed with mini Oreo!

Jamie said...

@Rim: this recipe is so easy, it takes 5 minutes to stir everything together and put it in the oven. Really easy! And so good and sadly much lighter than you expect - and I say sadly because something thicker and denser would be harder to eat. This one is creamy and chocolatey but very ethereal and the chocolate flavor is not edged with bitter but light and perfect. Which, sadly, as I say, makes it that much easier to eat and eat and eat. I had to give most of mine away so I wouldn't eat it all. Husband went crazy for it, too!

Not Quite Nigella said...

Oh Jamie! Well you see I'm an unabashed holiday lover. Not only do we get time off but I'll use any excuse to gather friends and family for food :D

mairi @ Toast said...

Oh my....this looks sublime! Chocolaty chestnuty goodness perfect for the festive season....well actually I reckon any time actually. This is most definitely too good not to share!

Kristy @ the wicked noodle said...

I am absolutely drooling over this delicious dessert. And with a kick from grand marnier? HEAVEN.

Bunkycooks said...

This looks very similar to the Nutella cake that I made over a year ago and the texture is fabulous. Creamy, rich, and totally decadent. You will have to bring me some chestnut cream when you come to the States, so we can compare the two. ;-)

Jeanne said...

Jamie, you are a lifesaver!! I have a tin of chestnut cream identical to that in my cupboard and no idea what to do with it - until now! Got some people coming over on 15 December for lunch and this is what they are getting, without a doubt :)) And on the topic of men and celebration - WTF is up with that?! My other half is also like the Christmas fun police ;o)

Terra said...

See, I love reading food blogs, you just taught me something new! That cake is a chocolate lovers dream! Beautiful, Hugs, Terra

Lora said...

I admit I once made Thanksgiving for my large extended German family. They thought I wan insane making all that food for one meal but were happy to eat it and experience an American tradition. All the other years my American expat girlfriends and I managed to make the meal but served it to our German friends on a Saturday, not a Thursday. This cake is so decadent. A must make for the holidays.

chili said...

Tellement bon que j'en refais un !

beena stephen said...

Delicious yummy sweet

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