Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chocolate Chestnut Fondant Fancies

I have been fascinated by marrons glaces since I was a little girl in Manchester UK who was very lucky enough to have a Mother who worked at the Midland Hotel - an elaborate and fancy Edwardian Baroque edifice in the centre of the town - from whence she brought home divine petit fours - REAL petit fours made by great pastry chefs - they were fantastic - yes there were marrons glaces but also caramel coated orange slices - so simple and yet so brilliantly done - I remember their taste so clearly - and there were little cakes with crystallized violets and mimosas, what I think of as petit fours but which in England now appear to be called Fondant Fancies - I am quite quite certain this is where my fascination with all things confectionery began.

So making this recipe was sort of a pilgrimage for me - but not one that turned out so well - good but not great - I don't think I knew/know enough about the subtleties and intricacies of chestnuts - I have not worked with them before and there are 3 things I absolutely would do differently if I make this recipe again 1. I would consider buying the marrons glaces and chestnut cream 2. If I didn't do that I would boil instead of bake the chestnuts in preparation to use them - roasting them I think dried them out and they became hard in the finished cake but I'll give you the recipe as I did it and you can make up your own mind on how far you want to take it. Also - although the chestnut cream tasted very chestnutty and was worth the effort - when it went into the buttercream it didn't come off as that distinctive of a flavour so be warned and 3. I would make a whole cake instead of the fondant fancies - ie small petit fours cakes as you see in the photos - would have been much easier to do it as one whole cake.
Yes - that's a potato!!
Oh and yes this recipe has mashed potato in it - I love the idea of that - I have made cake before with mashed potatoes and really liked it and I thought the idea of smash in this Christmas recipe was a perfect concept considering I am in the state of Maine - a HUGE potato growing state - of course they were Maine potatoes I used.
...and I used Maine grown chestnuts too, starting with 8oz weight..first you need to cut an x on them - do this carefully - they are hard to hold whilst cutting - nestle them in a dish towel to do so as it helps them stop sliding around - if you don't cut an x they will explode in the oven and if you just spent a small fortune on them as I had you'll be very disappointed - I roasted them in a 425F for about 25 minutes until I think they were done but I don't know how you know and no one said what constitutes doneness in the roasting of said chestnuts - as I said above if I did this recipe again I would boil them instead and that would be for about 10 minutes, apparently the roasting makes the flavour bloom better but the boiling makes them softer - hmm - dilemma? - your call! 
 So - whether you boil or roast you need to skin them quickly - as soon as they are cool enough for you to handle - good luck with this - it is easy to break them and if you want to do your own marrons glace you want to keep them in tact.

To make marrons glace please follow these directions HERE from Not Quite Nigella

To make the chestnut cream for the buttercream and also in the cake:

4ozs shelled, roasted or boiled chestnuts
5 fl oz water
 4oz sugar
4 fl ozs half and half

1. Put all the above in a small saucepan and gently boil until almost all the liquid is absorbed - check to see if the chestnuts are soft but not falling apart - if they are still hard add some more water and simmer a little longer.

2. Allow to cool and puree in a blender, this took a while and did not end up completely smooth but I know chestnuts can be mealy so was this right or wrong - I have no real knowledge of this - it tasted goo though!! - set aside.

OR BUY YOURSELF a jar or can of chestnut cream which I don't think will taste as good but will surely save you time and heartache!

Please visit Histoire Sucre for beautiful marrons glace and chestnut spread

Another mistake I made was only pureeing half of this amount and thinking I was being clever chopped the rest to add to the cake batter - WRONG - they ended up becoming hard and chewy in the finished cake - I don't recommend this route!

Now for the cake: which I adapted from a recipe in Christmas Sweets and Holiday Treats by Allison Kyle Leopold for Caramel Glazed Chocolate Nougat Cake

INGREDIENTS: As usual have everything at room temperature and heat oven to 375F

4oz butter - I always use salted and I think salted works really well with the chestnut flavour
2 large eggs whisked together
7oz sugar  
2oz melted chocolate chips - I used semi sweet - keep warm and fluid or it won't work when you add to the cake batter - I let it cool too much and was not pleased with the chunks I got instead of a smooth blend :(
2oz roasted ground almonds
3oz creamed chestnuts
7oz flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4oz mashed potatoes
4 fl oz milk
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract

Jam for spreading between the layers - I used plum which was a nice subtlety - you could use apricot for more flavour or fig if you have it.


Grease and line with parchment paper one 9" square pan if you are making the fondant fancies or one 9" round if you are just making a regular cake.

1. Sift all the dry ingredients together and set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
3. Add the egg in about 4 goes and beat well between each addition - it may curdle - not to worry as you'll see in step 4.
4. Add the mashed potatoes and beat some more - now it's really going to look curdled and that's OK:
Looks like scrambled eggs - not to worry!!
5. Add the chocolate and vanilla essence/extract. 
6. Alternately add the dry ingredients with the milk in about 2 goes each until well combined and beat for one minute.
7. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth and bob into your pre heated oven. VOILA!!
8. Bake for about 35-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean from the centre of the cake - I overcooked as you can see part of the top of the cake caught a tad so keep your eyes peeled and start checking around 25 minutes.
9. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan and then invert on to a cooling tray - allow to cool completely.
10. Cut the edges off - now you have a great excuse to taste your cake :)
11. Mark your cake into sections (or leave whole in which case carefully cut in half laterally) - mine I cut into 5 x 5:
12. Top each of 10 squares with a scant teaspoon or so of warmed jam and place the other 10 pieces on top of each.
13. Now make your fondant topping - this stuff is GOOD!!!!!! If you don't make the rest of the recipe do make this - it would be great on everything from cake to ice cream - it's very very good!!

In the top of a double boiler melt together:
4oz chocolate - again I used semi sweet
2oz butter  again I use salted
6 tablespoons icing/confectioner's sugar
4 tablespoons water
 .....then spread over the top of the stacked cakes whilst still warm:

This actually proved to be quite tricky - the fondant topping sets quite quickly and holding the cake whilst trying to cover it with fondant and get it to trickle gracefully down the sides was quite the struggle - I was going to coat the whole cakes but forget that - just the top was enough for me - and there I was wondering why in the last series of The Great British Bake Off everyone was having trouble coating their fondant fancies - now I know why!! To see Mary Berry's Fondant Fancies click HERE

For the buttercream:
4oz salted butter
4oz icing/confectioners sugar
Balance of chestnut cream

1. Cream butter until light and fluffy
2. Slowly add in sugar to taste
3. Cream in the chestnut cream bit by bit - it may begin to look a little curdled so go slowly and see how much can go in before it turns curdled - you can always add more sugar if it does curdle and see if you can bring it back.

You are ready to assemble your Fondant Fancies: pipe buttercream atop the cake stacks and top with a marrons glaces either made or purchased :) If you don't want to go the chestnut route you could do all almonds with marzipan instead of the chestnut cream or hazelnuts and marzipan too - I like the sounds of the hazelnut myself. All in all this was a good recipe if a little tedious but not as exotic or different as I had hoped.
Here's a LINK to a similar but different chocolate chestnut cake that has chestnut flour too. 

This post is part of the February Chocolate Tea Time Treats blog hop hosted by Lavender and Lovage and The Hedgecombers:
Lavender and Lovage

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