Chestnuts were something I’d only ever heard about while singing holiday carols but never actually tasted until coming to France. In the US, they were nuts that we imagined roasting over fires, while the snow built up outside. But when I had my first bite, I was a little taken aback. A roasted chestnut was nothing like the nuttiness you get from a pecan or walnut, but rather sweet and buttery, with a texture almost like a potato. It was a taste utterly foreign to me, an undiscovered new flavor. And suddenly, like many chestnut lovers, I was obsessed with finding all that was chestnutty.
In Paris, the smell of roasting chestnuts fills the streets in the winter, wafting from one of those cheesy stands on the streets that resemble a train engine, or even better, from a shopping cart outfitted with a metal can full of hot coals and a grill on top. One of my favorite pastries is the Mont Blanc, a meringue and whipped cream concoction topped with chestnut cream that looks similar to a brain. It’s an odd appearance for a dessert so delicious– creamy yet crunchy – a perfect mélange of texture.
My favorite place to order it is Angelina’s, which I fondly refer to as the “Parisienne-ladies-who-lunch” hang out. Widely known for their hot chocolate, they are also famous for their chestnut-flavored Mont Blanc, which they sell close to 800 of each day at their main tea salon on rue de Rivoli in the heart of the French capital!
Not one to make such a fancy, time-consuming dessert that would be devoured instantly, especially when pastry shops do it so well, I started hunting for a chestnut dessert that was easier to make, a more manageable interesting recipe.
My taste buds played with the idea of celebrating the spirit of my heritage too because whenever I think easy and dessert, I immediately think COOKIE. A biscuit so American, but climbing in popularity in France, where the combination of French flavors and the American form would be unexpected but a tasty delight to French natives and expatriates alike.
I quickly modified a cookie recipe to use chestnut cream (crème de marron) that can easily be found at any supermarket in France. Then in a twist, I added a spiced milk chocolate ganache to sandwich the cookies together. The cookie is soft and melts in your mouth. The added simplicity means that it can be made for any occasion and all year round with the canned pureed chestnut. Chestnut lovers, this recipe is for you!
Spiced Milk Chocolate Chestnut Sandwich Cookies
- 100g unsalted butter (beurre doux) at room temperature
- 75g granulated sugar (sucre en poudre)
- 1 egg
- 350g chestnut cream (crème de marron)
- 100g flour (T55 or T45 farine de blé)
- ½ packet of baking powder (levure chimique)
- pinch of salt
- 100g milk chocolate (chocolat au lait) chopped into small bits
- 80 ml cream
- 1 cinnamon stick
- pinch nutmeg
- 1 clove
- cocoa powder (poudre de cacao) (optional)
Cream together the butter and sugar using a whisk or electric mixer. Add the egg and then stir in the chestnut cream. Next, whisk in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Let set for 30 minutes at room temperature while making the ganache.
Place the chocolate pieces into a small bowl, and put a strainer on top. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and spices until it just starts to boil. Next, pour the cream through the strainer into the bowl, covering the chocolate. This will filter the spices. Gently whisk until the chocolate melts and it comes together. Let sit at room temperature to cool and thicken.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Place rounded tablespoons of dough on baking sheets lined with parchment. Make sure there is enough room in between the cookies as they will spread quite a bit while cooking. Bake 15-16 minutes until brown around the edges. Let cool and then sandwich together with the ganache. Sprinkle the tops with cocoa powder.
Et voilà! Cookies for chestnut lovers and anyone with a sweet tooth to discover!