Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fireplace…

For as few holiday traditions we keep in my family, the ones we do hold close are absolutely unshakable. If, for example, we didn’t throw at least a few fresh chestnuts on the still smoldering embers of our single yearly conflagration in the fireplace, I don’t know if the entire winter season would truly count. Simply sliced to allow the inner nutmeat to cook, wrapped up in foil like a hastily assembled present, it takes no more than five minutes to prepare and perhaps 20 to cook. Emerging lightly charred and smoking hot, we sit around chatting as a family, cracking the chestnuts out of their shells and popping the rich, creamy centers in our mouths. The odd nut that won’t crack or turns out dry doesn’t dampen our spirits; back into the fire the rotten few go, along with the spent shells, coaxing the hungry flame to return. The nutty smell of the fire permeates the whole house, and eventually, when it’s time to turn in for bed, I have chestnut-flavored dreams.

Such inspiration is hard to resist, come morning. Although chestnuts aren’t commonly thought of as dessert ingredients in the US, it’s a real shame, since the mildly sweet flavor and richness makes it a perfect match with sugar, and of course all sorts of other sweet ingredients, such as chocolate.  Mont blanc is a traditional chestnut sweet, often prepared with a base of crunchy meringue and topped with a mountain of chestnut creme. Taking this basic concept but dressing it up a bit further, I could hardly resist switching out the meringue for a dense, intense chocolate cake, and hiding a luxuriously creamy chocolate truffle within the chestnut peak.

It may have been created with the holidays in mind, but while chestnuts are still in season, it’s still perfectly reasonable to whip up this decadent treat just to celebrate the nut itself.

Chocolate Mont Blanc

Chocolate Fudge Cakes:

1 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
3/4 Cup Water
1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Chocolate Truffle:

12 Ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1/2 Cup Vanilla Soy or Coconut Creamer
1 Tablespoon Light Agave Nectar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Chopped, Toasted Walnuts
1/2 Teaspoon Almond Extract

Chestnut Mousse:

1 12-Ounce Package Extra-Firm Silken Tofu
1 15-Ounce Can Unsweetened Chestnut Puree, or Homemade Chestnut Puree*
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Confectioner’s Sugar for Serving, Optional

*To make your own chestnut puree, start with about twice as many chestnuts in the shell as you think you’ll need. Score the tops each in an “x” pattern, and wrap them all up in a packet of foil. Toss them on the embers of a recently extinguished fire, and let cook for 15 – 30 minutes, depending on how hot the cooking surface is. Once they crack themselves open and are lightly charred on the outside, they should be about done. Let cool, and remove the shells. Weigh out the required amount for the recipe, and thoroughly puree while still warm, until completely smooth. If you’re without a fireplace, you can also roast them in the oven.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and set out 8 – 9 mini tart or crumb cake paper molds on a baking sheet. Alternately, lightly grease and 8-inch square baking pan and plan to cut out individual cake shapes once baked.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Whisk lightly to combine.

Separately, mix together the sugar, oil, water, vinegar, and vanilla before pouring them all into the bowl of dry goods. Stir just enough to bring the batter together, being careful not to over-work it. Distribute the batter evenly between your paper molds, or pour it all into the baking dish if using. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes for the individual cakes, 15 – 20 for the single 8-inch cake, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool, and cut into 8 – 9 pieces if applicable.

For the truffle centers, simply melt the chocolate together with the “creamer,” agave, and oil, stirring until completely smooth. Fold in the nuts and almond extract, and transfer into a baking dish or metal bowl. Let cool, and then place in the fridge for at least 3 hours to set. Scoop out balls of about 2 – 3 teaspoons each, and roll them into even rounds between the palms of your hands. Place one truffle on top of each cooled cake.

Finally, to prepare the chestnut mousse, place all of your ingredients in your food processor or blender, and puree until smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Transfer the mousse to a piping bag fitted with a multi-opening piping tip, and pipe the creme on top of the cake in a spiral pattern, completely covering the truffle. Lightly dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving for a “snowy mountain” look, if desired.

Serves 8 – 9

Printable Recipe

36 thoughts on “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fireplace…

  1. I’ve found myself increasingly intrigued with chestnut-flavored desserts after comign across quite a few recipes for chestnut cheesecakes this fall. This recipe is definitely going on a to-try list. And soon before the chestnuts disappear until next year!

  2. So beautiful! And oh my gosh, that chestnut mousse sounds incredible. What a unique flavor for mousse. I just made some vegan chocolate mousse myself. I’d love to add some chestnuts next time!

  3. I am going to try to make these RIGHT NOW. They look too good not to. I don’t have tart molds, but I got muffin top sheets for the holidays, so I’ll see how those work… :)

  4. I’ve always been miffed for how to roast chestnuts in a fire before, but not any longer! I think I need to add that tradition to my life now :) And those mont blancs are gorgeous!

  5. I’m a chestnut virgin. I can’t imagine a better way to try them for the first time. Those are beautiful looking treats as well.

  6. I’ve been making chestnuts all wrong (in the oven)! Cooking them in the fire and throwing the shells back in sounds so cozy and satisfying. I love chestnuts and I have not even made ANY this year. Must run out and get some before they are gone!

    As always, I’m astounded by your creativity in coming up with entirely unique dessert ideas!

  7. Yowza! This looks dangerously delicious. I haven’t really considered chestnut flavored desserts- I tend to lean toward hazel nut or almond, but this looks to-die-for. thanks for sharing!

  8. I think I just peed my pants in excitement. I became obsessed with Mont Blancs in Japan in 2006, and ate five in the space of three days (including a matcha and azuki version). I’ve seen a few recipes around since but they’ve all involved so much cream, which is a no-no for me too. Thank you, thank you, Hannah!

  9. WOW, how exotic! And beautiful presentation, too. I have one tried chestnuts, I bought a little and roasted them according to instructions found on the interest. To be honest, I didn’t really like them. Maybe it was the texture? It’s odd, because I’ve never come across a nut I don’t like! Maybe using them in baking would be tastier for me though, I’ll have to keep you recipe in mind!

  10. What a lovely family tradition. I haven’t eaten freshly roasted chestnuts in ages. I’ve also never tried a mont blanc of any kind, and your lovely tarts have me longing to taste it even more than usual!

  11. Your first paragraph made me feel so festive! I am jealous of your fireplace and your toasty nuts!

    Your Chocolate Mont Blanc looks perfect! I think we need to hold a contest to see who can pop the most truffles in their mouth! :P

  12. My family is like yours — it just wouldn’t be the holidays without roasted chesnuts! We can’t get enough of them actually, so I love the idea of a dessert that celebrates their beautifully sweet, nutty flavor. Your Mont Blanc is stunning!

Leave a Reply