Mont Blanc

12/18/2019 09:56:00 PM

Mont Blanc. Crisp meringue, light-as-air vanilla-scented whipped cream, and gorgeous sweet chestnut purée. A real showstopper of a dessert that's surprisingly simple to make, and perfect for Christmas!

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is one of my favourite desserts. The one I bought at Angelina in Paris three years ago is still one of my top food experiences ever! I also made Nigella's "Quickly-Scaled Mont Blanc" back in 2005 as part of my Sarah Discovers How to Eat project, and I had a gorgeous Mont Blanc tartlet from the Mitsukoshi food hall back in 2007.

This year I really wanted to have a go making a proper Mont Blanc myself. Not only do I love them, but I was looking for a showstopping Christmas dessert that was free of both gluten and alcohol.

Mont Blancs can be presented lots of different ways - often at patisseries, the cream and chestnut are piled on top of a shortcrust pastry case filled with almond frangipane. Nigella has recipes for a large shareable Mont Blanc (How to be a Domestic Goddess) and individually portioned ones (the "quickly scaled" ones from How to Eat). For the former, she instructs you to pile chestnut puree over an upturned bowl (to help with the mountainous shape), then top it with whipped cream, meringues and grated chocolate. For her individually served ones, you simply place tinned chestnut purée in some glasses, and top it with a mixture of whipped cream, rum, sugar and crumbled meringues.

My favourite though, is the simple combo of crisp meringue, whipped cream and chestnut purée, just like at Angelina. That's what I made, and that's what's in the recipe below. I've suggested making one single dessert to share, as I do quite like the Massively Matriarchal Mono Mammary (to steal Nigella's turn of phrase). However you can really arrange and style the elements as you see fit. I also made a mini one on an individual saucer, and thought it was quite cute. The key thing I wanted to share in the recipe below are the actual recipes for the individual three elements (meringue, whipped cream, chestnut purée).

Mont Blancs
Mont Blanc and Mini Mont Blanc

Meringues and whipped cream are both simple (although I did use a gelatine-stablised whipped cream to help maintain the shape), but it took me absolutely ages to land on a suitable chestnut purée recipe. I wanted it to be as simple and reproducible as possible - so after much research and endless Pinteresting, ended up using tinned unsweetened chestnut purée, and simply processing it with sugar and vanilla, as per a recipe I found on Ricardo Cuisine. (You can also add rum if you're not avoiding alcohol). Super simple, and the results were delicious! (Roasting fresh chestnuts would have been way too much work, especially in Australian summer, and bought sweetened chestnut purées all have different textures and sweetness levels so would be too difficult to reproduce). Key tip: make sure you process the chestnuts until completely smooth, otherwise the chunks will get stuck in the piping bag nozzle.

I have a huge stash of egg whites in my freezer, so I made two meringue disks from scratch (plus a few mini meringues with excess mixture). But this is one case where I think you could definitely go for bought meringues, if it makes life easier, as you'll be covering them with whipped cream anyway. Ideally you want ones that are crisp all the way through, and again, you could make single-serve Mont Blancs on individual crisp meringue nests, or arrange a bunch of meringue nests together for a shared dessert.

Meringue mixture

The whipped cream has some vanilla and sugar in it, and I used gelatine to keep it stable. I don't think you strictly need to use gelatine (and doing it without gelatine means it would become suitable for vegetarians), but it does help to keep the shape and prevent it from collapsing over time. I personally enjoy the slightly jellied / moussey texture it brings as well.

So to assemble, I affixed a larger meringue disk to my serving plate with a little whipped cream, then topped it with more whipped cream, the smaller meringue disk, and then covered it completely in whipped cream to form the mountain.

Whipped cream mountain

And then it was a matter of piping the chestnut purée all over the mountain. I think there's definitely room for improvement with the presentation, and with practice I'll get more finessed at piping. But once it's was all done I was still super proud of it!

Mont Blanc

It's actually a super luxurious and elegant dessert - the smooth mealiness of the chestnut is so lovely against the light and airy cream, and the crisp meringue provides such a great contrast. Mont Blancs aren't that widely available here (compared to, say, France and Japan, where they're ubiquitous), so if it's a flavour you enjoy, I'd definitely suggest trying it at home!

Mont Blanc
A recipe by Sarah Cooks, Meringue from The Roux Brothers on Patisserie, stabilised whipped cream from Live Well Bake Often, Chestnut Purée from Ricardo Cuisine

For the meringue
2 egg whites (approx. 70 grams)
60 grams caster sugar
60 grams icing sugar, sifted
For the stabilised whipped cream
40 millilitres water
2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
500 millilitres whipping cream
60 grams icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the chestnut purée
1 x 435g can unsweetened chestnut purée
60 grams icing sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the meringue, preheat the oven to 120C. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, add the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat for 5 minutes or until the mixture is firm and very smooth and shiny. Gradually sift in the icing sugar, folding it gently with a metal spoon.
Line two baking trays with baking paper. Pipe a 20cm circle and a 15cm circle, approx. 2.5 cm high. Pipe individual meringue kisses if you have any leftover meringue mixture and enjoy them as a snack.
Place the trays in the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 100C. Allow to cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours, or until the meringues are dry on the top and bottom. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before assembling.
To make the stabilised whipped cream, place the water in a small microwave safe bowl and sprinkle the gelatine evenly over. Microwave on high in 10 second bursts, stirring after each time, until the gelatine is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Place the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until the mixture starts to thicken and soft peaks form. Turn the speed to low, and slowly pour in the gelatine mixture in a steady stream. Keep whisking until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
To make the chestnut purée, place the unsweetened chestnut purée, icing sugar, dark rum and vanilla extract in the bowl of a food processor. Whizz until completely smooth. (Be patient and keep going until it's completely smooth, otherwise you'll get chunks of chestnut stuck in the piping bag later!)
To assemble, place a small dollop of whipped cream on a serving platter, and gently press the largest meringue disk on top. Spoon the whipped cream over in a thick layer, then place the smaller meringue disk on top. Cover with more whipped cream and form into a big hill/mountain/dome shape. Smooth with an offset spatula. (You may not need all the cream).
Fit a piping bag with a 3mm plan nozzle. Fill with the chestnut purée. Pipe the purée in circles around the cream and meringue dome, until it is completely covered.
Refrigerate until it is time to serve, and dust generously with icing sugar just before serving.
Makes one big Mont Blanc, serves at least 8 people

Have you made this recipe? Leave a comment below! Tag me on Instagram @sarahcooksblog and hashtag #sarahcooksblog

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