Jan 12, 2013

"Creme de Marrons" for a Sweet Winter

In the world of finger lickin' good spreads there are favourites along the nutty lines of Nutella and Peanut Butter, fruity twists of Jams and Marmelades, and even cookie-ish Biscoff Spread for those of you who realized that the flavour of Belgian Speculoos is indeed an addictive thing.
But my firm favourite has always- and will always be- what the French call 'Creme de Marrons' - which is nothing more then a sweetened Chesnut Puree. If you love the taste of 'marrons glaces' (candied chesnuts), then you will most certainly enjoy Creme de Marrons. It's also one of the key ingredients in the celebrated Mont Blanc dessert with all its swirls and twirls of chestnut goodness. 

Although I wouldn't reject the idea of enjoying Creme de Marrons any time of the year, I find it so fitting in this chilly season. Hence, there was no better moment in combining the smooth sweetness of Creme de Marrons and Praliné together in this winter tart. This is a ridiculously easy dessert of which each slice is equally ridiculously rich in texture and taste... feeling somewhat like a thick slab of ganache on a buttery shortcrust pastry base. Yes, it's that kind of tart, the 'rich & heavy' kind, so slice away with moderation...
Our two base ingredients: Creme de Marrons (sweetened chestnut puree) and Praliné- a delicious type of chocolate with a very smooth and creamy texture and a caramelized torrefied nutty taste.

But first, we need to 'blind bake' the pie shell. Roll out the shortcrust pastry in a tart mould and poke some holes with a fork. If you have the time, it is better to then chill the rolled-out dough in the fridge for a few hours. The colder your dough, the better as it will prevent slumping once baked.

Then cover the pastry with parchment paper and top off with dried beans (or dried lentils, rice, pie weights etc). Their weight will prevent the dough from rising while blind baking. 
With the crust ready, you can garnish with any filling of choice (that would not require further baking).

Creme de Marrons & Praliné Tart
Recipe for a standard 9 inch/23cm mold

1 shortcrust pastry 
400gr creme de marrons
150gr praline, chopped
50gr semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
100gr milk

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Roll out the shortcrust pastry in a pie mould. Cover the pastry with parchment paper and follow by placing a generous amount of dried beans (or any other dried legume or pie weights) to prevent the dough from rising. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.

In a pot, heat the milk, and immediately turn off heat once it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and add the praline and semi-sweet chocolate. Stir until all is melted. Finally add the creme de marrons and swirl until a smooth texture is obtained. Allow this mixture to rest for 10 minutes before transferring to the baked pie shell. Place in fridge for 4 hours up to overnight. Decorate with crushed nuts, meringues, icing sugar, etc. 

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