In the heart of the Alps lies the majestic Mont Blanc. Standing at almost 5000m, it is the highest peak in the alps is the border of both the French and Italian alpine ranges. In the resort town of Chamonix, France, tourists and mountaineers alike flock to the base of the mountain to catch the Aigulle de Midi, transporting you to the top of Europe.
Around Chrismastime, patisseries all around Chamonix sell a sweet, edible version of the eponimous Mont Blanc. This sweet treat likely wins the award for most bizarre appearance, but it is an incredible indulgence made primarily with beloved local chestnuts that grow abundantly in the region. Imagine a biscuit base, candied chestnuts and a sweet chestnut puree piped as high as possible for the pastry to stand and you’ve got yourself the edible, delicious Mont Blanc.
Breton Sable Base
80g soft salted butter, or unsalted with a couple pinches of fleur de sel
75g granulated sugar
finely grated lemon zest
2 egg yolks
95g all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1. Preheat oven to 350F and butter tart rings that are at least 3 1/4″ x 2″.
2. Cream butter, sugar and zest until fluffy and pale in colour. Add egg yolks and mix to combine. Sift in flour and baking powder and mix until the dough comes together.
3. At this point you can either pipe the dough into the rings and up the sides or chill the dough, roll and press into the rings. I recommend rolling the dough if your tart rings are fluted and piping if they are smooth.
4. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. If the centre of the tart has puffed up, just press down the middle while still warm to make room for the filling.
5. Let cool and set aside
4 egg whites
80g confectioners sugar
pinch of lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 175F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. Whip egg whites on high using a stand mixer or by hand. Once foamy, stop the mixer, add the sugar and lemon juice and whip again until firm and glossy.
2. Pipe or spoon small mounds of egg whites onto parchment or silpat.
3. Dry out in the oven for 2 hours or until crisp. Crack the oven door open once in a while to let out any steam. Remove from oven and let cool
12 chestnuts, cooked and peeled
1. Bring sugar and water up to a simmer and add chestnuts. Simmer for 15 minutes, then drain. Let chestnuts dry on a cooling rack.
1 vanilla pod
200g cooked chestnuts
180ml heavy cream
15ml rum or cognac
1. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Place the bean, seeds, chestnuts, cream, and alcohol into a pot and bring to a simmer. Remove the vanilla bean and pour mixture into a blender and whizz until creamy. You can also use an immersion blender. Chill until ready to assemble.
2. When ready to use, put cream into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. If the cream is too thick to pipe, let it sit at room temperature and add some whipping cream to loosen it up.
1. Pick out enough whole candied chestnuts to place on top of your finished tarts. Chop the rest up coarsely and divide among tart shells
2. Top tarts with meringue
3. Pipe chestnut cream along the rim of of the tart and work your way up taking care to make the pastry look like a mountain top and not a pop can.
4. Top your pastry with one candied chestnut