Alpine Chestnut Cake

At the beginning of January, in a remote restaurant up in the Swiss Alps,  I tasted one of the most delicious chestnut cake of my life. Moist and soft, it had a full chestnut flavour and aroma. A delicacy I wanted to reproduce at home.
I was thrilled by this gastronomic challenge, as I could only rely on my eye, taste, culinary experience and memory. No camera, no phone to take pictures with and a chef openly reluctant about giving away his precious recipe. He only gave us one clue, that it was based on chestnuts.

Luckily, my mother was on my side. She loves chestnuts, as she survived the war famine thanks to this nutritious and versatile ingredient. She always prepares chestnuts based dishes, from the Tuscan Castagnaccio with the chestnut flour, to the French Mont Blanc with cooked chestnuts she personally boils and peels, without mentioning all the pulse soups and the meat stews she likes adding chestnuts to. She was the perfect partner to share my experiment with.

First attempt
To recreate the original cake' moistness, we decided to add chestnut vermicelli to a classic plum cake mixture based on butter, sugar, eggs, white flour, ground almonds, vanilla extract and rum. It worked well in terms of taste and consistency but it was completely different from what we had in mind. It came out too heavy, despite having increased the yeast quantity, having used icing sugar and having whisked the withes. And the chestnut flavour was bland.  Anyway, we invited friends over for tea and the cake vanished in minutes. Everybody liked it. They had open minds.

Second attempt
I learned through my mistakes. I replaced the white flour with the chestnut one, but to balance its hardness and to intensify its flavour this time I added 125g of the French Crème de Marrons de l’Ardèche, a soft marron glacees jam, flavoured with vanilla and sugar.
Too impatient to wait, I tasted it while it was still hot. It was a perfect reproduction of the original: delicately spongy and moist. I served it with a persimmon puree.

Alpine Chestnut Cake

For the cake:
150 g unsalted butter, softened
150 caster sugar
2 large eggs
125 g  Crème de Marrons de l’Ardèche
125 g chestnut flour
50 g ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon cognac
Enough butter to grease the tin
Enough chestnut flour to dust the tin
For the puree:
2 ripe persimmons

Serves 6 to 8
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Whisk the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition.
  4. Whisk in the Crème de Marrons de l’Ardèche.
  5. In a bowl, sift the chestnut flour and mix in the ground almonds and the baking powder. Add it to the egg mixture and whisk until smoothly incorporated.
  6. Mix in the Cognac.
  7. Grease a non-stick loaf tin (23cm x 12cm) with butter and dust with chestnut flour.
  8. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 40 minutes, until golden.
  9. Leave to cool and remove from the tin.
  10. Peel and blend the persimmon into a puree. Serve it with the cake.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.