I think the first sign of a food blogger's madness is seeing a recipe that takes 4 days and delightedly rubbing your hands with glee. Which is exactly what I did (ok perhaps I did not rub my hands with glee, that seems a little old school villain) but when I saw this recipe for these sweet candied little chestnut morsels I had to try and make them. I am not foolish enough to think that mine will turn out as perfectly as Clément Faugier's but I was happy to give it a go and see how it would turn out. I was also working from home this week so the requisite 4 day cooking time was no problem.
I used a hybrid of different recipes and the biggest problem I had was shelling them and I think I perhaps boiled them for too long (one recipe specified 20 minutes which I think is too long, they became too soft and break up). So all in all, I only got about 12 whole marron glaces and a whole lot of tiny pieces. However this is not a complete loss, the broken up pieces are delicious served in a Mont Blanc style dessert served as they are on top of a mountain of whipped cream. Trust me, this is heaven. And don't discard the chestnut flavoured syrup, it's a wonderful alternative to maple syrup on pancakes or ice cream. In fact I ate it with home made crumpets and my husband concurred that it was a fabulous combination.
This is my last chestnut recipe for this season, I am departing soon to warmer lands for a holiday where chestnuts are out of season. So I shall say a sad goodbye to chestnut and will await your return next Winter!
Marron Glacés (Candied chestnuts)
500g Chestnuts (choose the larger type) which for me made 300grams of chesnut meat
3/4 cup Water
1teaspoon Vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean
Step 1 - Start 4 days before you want to use them, as that's how long the process takes.
Step 2 - Peel chestnuts of their outer shell. Drop them into boiling water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon or wire spatula, and, trying to keep the chestnuts whole, peel off both the outer shell and inner skin, as quickly as you can, while they are still hot. Once cold, the skin begins to adhere to the nut, so keep the unpeeled chestnuts in hot water. The broken pieces will taste just as wonderful.
Step 3 - When all the chestnuts have been shelled and the membranes removed, using a large pan, cook the sugar, water and the vanilla bean over low heat, stirring all the while until the sugar dissolves. Allow to gently simmer for 5 minutes, then add the chestnuts. Bring to the boil and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla bean.
Step 4 - Cover the saucepan and allow to steep over night or at least 12 hours. Bring again to the boil and cook 1 minute more. Again allow to stand this time for 24 hours. Repeat again from * to * until all the syrup has been absorbed (shouldn't take more than 3-4 times). My syrup did not fully absorb after 4 days so I just drained the pieces. Cooking over the time may inhibit the crystallization process - which is dependent on the above steps.
Step 5 - Drying process: preheat oven to 65°C (about 150F), cover an oven rack or baking rack with parchment paper (or waxed). Distribute the crystallized chestnuts evenly and allow to dry out for 2 hours with the oven door propped open a few centimeters or until they are firm. I stuck a pair of long tongs in the oven door to prop it ajar a few centimeters.
Baked and ready to eat or store
Step 6 - Pack the chestnuts individually in cellophane or saran wrap; put into little crinkle-edge paper sweet cases, and keep in an airtight container. If kept more than a week or so, the sugar in the chestnuts may start to crystallize; in this case, it is better to preserve them in their syrup, draining them before use.
Adapted from recipes: