Photo by Pixabay/Igor Lukin
You may think chestnuts are a typical Christmas ingredient, but for me they are not. The official hunt for chestnuts in our family begins in Holland, in the first or second week of October. However, the most beautiful and tastiest ones grow in France, in the Ardèche region, where they are protected as carefully as French wine. Chestnuts from the Ardèche have their own Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP), a certification of their quality and source. The French are rightly proud of their regional produce, and Ardèche chestnuts are used in a variety of products. One of them is crème de marrons, a sweet chestnut paste made with vanilla and sugar. It has a beautiful caramel-like taste and is often eaten on pancakes or added to cakes and tarts. In this recipe I combine my own crème de marrons with another famous French dessert: crème brûlée.
Serves 4 to 6.
- 3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained
- 10-1/2 ounces unsweetened cooked chestnuts, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla powder
- 6 tablespoons maple syrup
- scant 1 cup plant-based milk (I use almond milk)
- pinch of salt
- scant 1/2 cup aquafaba, chilled for at least 3 hours
- 4 to 6 tablespoons coconut sugar
- Combine the cashews, crumbled chestnuts, vanilla, maple syrup, milk, and salt in a high-speed blender and blend until very smooth. You might want to use the tamper and push down the mass from time to time to get a really soft, creamy result. Set aside.
- Pour the aquafaba into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or into a large bowl, if using a handheld mixer) and beat for 4 to 6 minutes, until stiff white peaks form. Add the chestnut paste and beat briefly until combined. Scoop the chestnut mousse into four or six ovenproof ramekins. Refrigerate the mousse for 1 to 2 hours to firm up.
- Preheat the broiler to high. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the coconut sugar over each chestnut mousse. Shake the ramekins back and forth to ensure the sugar is in an even layer and set them on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide the baking sheet under the broiler and cook for about 5 minutes to caramelize the sugar, rotating the ramekins frequently to make sure the topping cooks evenly; keep your eye on them — you don’t want the coconut sugar to burn. Remove the ramekins and let cool a little. You can either serve them warm or put them back in the fridge to serve chilled — but note that if you leave them in the fridge for too long, the topping may turn into caramel.
Add 3 tablespoons cacao or carob powder to the chestnut mousse to make a crème de marrons et du chocolat.
Alternatively, skip the coconut sugar layer and serve this as a chilled mousse topped with some seasonal fruits, such as pomegranate seeds, clementine segments, or cape gooseberries.
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Cover courtesy of Kyle Books
Excerpted with permission from Vegan for Good: Deliciously Simple Plant-Based Recipes for Everyday Living by Rita Serano (Kyle Books, 2019).