Chestnut cream cup
I'm afraid the photo came out with a slight yellowish cast to it since I took it in the afternoon sun.
I don't really have much of a sweet tooth. I do like chocolate, and I have a weakness for cute Japanese candy (though I'm not sure sometimes if I want to buy them because they are cute or because they taste good...) but I'm not much of a dessert person. Many cakes and things are too sweet for me, especially American ones. If I do have a dessert I prefer it to be not that sweet.
Anyway, we recently had this little dessert-snack, bought from our local bakery. It's so simple though that anyone could make it at home - given the availability of the components. It's not that sweet, and because it uses chestnuts, it is very seasonal.
- Pureed chestnut
- Whipped cream
- Chocolate cups, or pastry shells
- Half a grape or similar fruit bit to decorate the top
Pureed chestnut: We can buy this stuff ready-made in a sort of toothpaste tube here in Switzerland (it's called Vermicell). The tube even has a special cap, so that the squeezed out paste comes out in that sort of pasta form. If something like this isn't available, I would just puree some good marron glacées, or chestnuts-in-syrup, in a food processor until smooth, and loosened up with the syrup or a little cream until it's of pastry-bag-squeezable consistency. It's nice to have it in that pasta-form (this could be achieved by using one of those cookie presses) but not necessary. Just use a regular star tip on a pastry bag.
Chocolate cups: Again, we can buy these pretty easily here. Look in the gourmet food stores. Failing that, you can of course make a chocolate cup by buying a candy mold and working with tempered chocolate. (see below for tempered chocolate instructions.) Or, just make the tempered chocolate and form discs on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Alternatively, use a bought pastry shell - a vol-au-vent puff pastry shell, or a shortcrust shell - or even a spongecake base.
Whipped cream: This should be self-explanatory. The only thing I would vary is the amount of powdered (icing) sugar to put in, depending on what you use as a base - if you have a bittersweet chocolate cup for example you'd want to add a bit more sugar than if you had a sweet spongecake base. How much to put in? Taste. :).
So, to assemble: put a dollop of whipped cream in the cup or base. Mound some chestnut cream over that, to completely cover the cream. Top with a twist of more whipped cream, and a fruit decoration. Half a grape is used here, but you could use anything really that looks aesthetically pleasing to you. (Maraschino cherries don't fit such a delicately flavored thing though.)
The only keys to tempered chocolate are the quality of the chocolate, the heat applied, and moisture. The chocolate should be of the best quality you can afford - look for Belgian or Swiss brands, with high cocoa content.
Put a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Put the chocolate in, broken in pieces, and melt slowly, stirring frequently. The water shouldn't be rolling under the bowl. And don't let any moisture into the bowl, or it might "seize" - that is, separate and look yucky. Stir until it looks nice and glossy and completely melted. At this point you have tempered chocolate, which you can use as-is or add butter, cream, etc to to make all kinds of wonderful things.
When the glossiness of the chocolate is not important, such as when you're making the inside part of a truffle, I just melt it in the microwave at a fairly low setting. It comes out fine.)