Crème de Marrons

December 6th, 2010 § 14 comments

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” starts the classic American holiday tune, but it’s the French who really know how to make chestnuts sing.

Crème de marrons is not a cream at all; it’s a conserve, really, made of chestnuts and sugar with a little bit of vanilla. It is very, very sweet. Initially (at least according to Clément Faugier, the most famous maker and self-proclaimed inventor of the stuff), it was a bi-product of marrons glacés, the glistening candied chestnuts that pop up everywhere around the holidays. Only pristine, whole marrons glacés make the cut to be wrapped and sold (for a small ransom), and so the the company used the broken pieces to make the crème.

So what does one do with a jar of crème de marrons? It can be served simply with fromage blanc, as a filling for crêpes, or added to whipped cream or crème pâtissiere to fill a classic bûche de noël or other cake. Stir some into an ice cream base or use it in a pear tart. You could also, of course, give it away.

Like making any preserves, this is a bit of a project, mainly because chestnuts are somewhat tedious to peel. But for me, the process is as important as the product; if it weren’t, I would never cook for myself at all.

You can use any amount of chestnuts you like for this recipe, though I suggest doing at least 1 kg (a generous 2#) to make it worthwhile.

 

Crème de Marrons

1 kg (2.25#) chestnuts
sugar
vanilla bean
water
pinch of salt

First, peel the chestnuts: Preheat the oven to 180°C (350° F). Use a sharp paring knife to (carefully) score a deep X in the shell. Put the nuts on a baking sheet and put in the oven for several minutes, until the shells start to curl open. (I actually like to use two sheets: When I’ve scored half the nuts I put them in the oven to roast while I score the rest.) Remove the nuts from the oven, and as soon as you can handle them comfortably, peel away both the hard outer shell and the papery inner shell. If they are still very hard to peel, put them back in the oven for a few minutes and try again (and work on the second sheet while the first reheats). It’s OK if the nuts break.

Place the peeled nuts in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the nuts are tender, about 35 minutes. Drain well.

Next, purée the nuts. If you have a food mill, this is the time to use it. A food processor will work as well.

Weigh the chestnut purée, put it back into the pan, and add an equal weight of sugar. For every 1 kg of sweetened purée, add 100 ml water (or for every 16 oz add 3.25 fluid oz). Split a vanilla bean and add it to the pot, along with a pinch of salt.

Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof rubber spatula, until it has thickened so that it starts to pull away from the pan as you stir. Be sure to keep your spoon going along the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching.

Remove the vanilla bean and pour into clean jars. The crème will keep, refrigerated, for several weeks. If you wish to store it long term, follow these canning guidelines.

Recipe adapted from Larousse Gastronomique (Clarkson Potter)

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§ 14 Responses to Crème de Marrons"

  • Nicole says:

    Thank you for posting this fantastic recipe! Love your site, just came upon it from girlsguidetoparis.com. I live in La Spezia, Italy and I am surrounded by chestnut trees. I only know to roast them with a little white wine and salt (so delicious) but I look forward to trying this recipe.

  • Barbra says:

    Hi Nicole – Chestnuts roasted with white wine and salt? I’m intrigued. The crème recipe isn’t difficult, but the peeling is tedious. Surrounded by chestnuts, I imagine you know that already.

  • [...] Saturday-only bars, two rows of nuts under a silky chocolate blanket. Having just made a batch of crème de marrons, I got this [...]

  • aastheroshe says:

    Thank you for this post! I just roasted a bunch and my fingers hurt from peeling them ~

  • I just made my own version of Crème de Marrons because my Marrons Glacé disintegrated. And I am completely addicted to it!

  • I came upon your website from David Lebovitz and so glad you have a great recipe for crème de marrons; I has been wanting to re-make the mont-blanc of my childhood and this is a start! Merci!

  • Barbra says:

    Aastheroshe – The peeling did a number on my hands, which are not as tough as they used to be.

    My Man’s Belly – Great idea. And yes, I’ve been spreading the stuff on everything…

    TasteofBeirut – I didn’t have a Montblanc, or even a chestnut, until I was well into my twenties. Good luck with the recipe.

  • Cynthia says:

    I just have a question what can I use instead of the Vanilla Bean since it is not available where I currrently reside (KSA). Is vanilla essence or Vanilla powder ok??

  • Cynthia says:

    By the way creme de marrons is excellent with “crepes”

  • [...] flourless chocolate truffle cake topped with a firm, chewy, toothsome meringue. I had a tube of Créme de Marrons (aka sweetened Chestnut paste) that I’d found being sold for 99p in my local deli so I [...]

  • [...] Yummi way we served it on a slice of toasted baguette with sweet + lovely chestnut creme – creme de marrons – from Ardeche. All served on romaine lettuce tossed in a bit dijon mustard mixed with the [...]

  • [...] I practiced my French while enjoying whole-wheat crêpes filled with either salmon and cheese or crème de marrons. The owner is French, and she welcomes her guests as one would be if seated in a café in France. [...]

  • [...] the picture from the website (Barbara Austin) I was following the recipe from showed a more jam like texture. Hmm, I should get a can from [...]

  • Marie says:

    Thank you for this recipe. I have my own tree in Denmark and my chestnuts are very small due to our cold climate. To make the peeling of these babies less tedious I use the following procedure: Remove the outer shell while raw, (I use a saw bladed small knife to slit it and a stump tool to wring the peel off). Then boil nuts 10 mins in small portions, move the nuts to cold water and from there remove inner peel. I dont get all the inner peel off – the food processor finishes the job. Unbroken nuts can be preserved as such and served with ice cream.

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