After few mounts of living in the south of Switzerland one has to make a decision – whether he or she likes chestnuts or not. From the end of summer to around Christmas time, they are simply and literally everywhere…
I was lucky to discover that I just adore them. So I had few years to enjoy the abundance of Marrons Glacés and Mont Blanc desserts, typical for this region of Europe. But it’s been a while since then.
For few years I would only have an occasional small package of chestnuts, roasted and sold on the street. They give you some time to rest and warm up your hands during the cold late November shopping tours. For me, chestnuts’ appearance on the streets, and everything related to them – the joy from their nutty taste and the nice sound produced when you crack them, marks the beginning of the Christmas gifts shopping.
But this year, before even the thought for Christmas coming to my mind I found myself with a huge pack of fresh and sweet Spanish chestnuts. The instant decision to have them in as many ways as I as possible came naturally. However that excludes one, probably the most popular and tempting – Marrons Glacé. I don’t think I’ll ever attempt to try making homemade Marrons Glacés, not only because they are really laborious, but mainly because these sweets are so special to me, I don’t want to ruin the magic surrounding them.
So here we begin with a real winter treat – easy to make, rich and velvety smooth – chocolate & chestnut truffles:
Makes 30 truffles
Preparation time: 40 minutes
150g precooked chestnut nuts
50g dark chocolate
50g muscovado sugar (or substitute with any other kind of dark brown sugar)
30ml Maraschino or other liqueur of your choice
30g cocoa powder
If you’re going to offer the truffles to kids, just substitute liqueur with 1 dose of rum essence.
I usually precook my chestnuts and keep the nuts in the airtight box in the refrigerator. It’s definitely easier to have them precooked, and you can then use them for few different meals. You have to score each with a small, sharp knife, cutting a cross into the skin of each nut. Than place them in plenty of cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 10-12 minutes. Sweet chestnuts are not easy to peel when cold, so better leave them in the hot water cool a little bit. When the chestnuts have cooled enough, begin peeling away the hard outer shell and the softer inner brown skin. For 10-12 minutes boiling you’ll have semi cooked nuts, but this way they are much easier to peel (the inner skin in particular), and they don’t fall in pieces. You will cook them completely later, following the recipe you’ve chosen.
For this one you need to measure 150g of this semi-cooked, already peeled chestnuts and crush them in large pieces. Cover them with milk and bring to the boil. Add the sugar, lower the heat and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the milk is almost evaporated, take off the heat.
In a separate small saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter and chocolate. When melted, add liqueur and stir. Mix everything together and give the mixture a quick whizz using a hand blender. I love the truffles completely homogeneous, but if you prefer them a bit chunky you can mash the chestnuts, using a potato masher and then add them into the butter-chocolate mixture.
Cool the truffle mixture in the refrigerator for at least an hour, before rolling it into balls. You can keep it like this, covered, for 2 to 3 days. When the mixture is firm, using a teaspoon pull of some of it and roll it with hands. Drop the ball (around 1 inch in diameter) into the sifted cocoa powder. Gently roll them in it until they are coated thoroughly – I use a small round tea cup with the cocoa sifted in it, and then just carefully shake it. Place each truffle in a small muffin cup and refrigerate in airtight box.
You better don’t roll the balls more than few hours before serving because the cocoa powder becomes moist and therefore your truffle balls might not look so beautiful.