Unless you live (or lived) in France or Italy, you’ve probably never heard of marrons glacés before and are wondering what kind of fancy schmancy thing I’m trying to pass off on you today. Marrons glacés are candied chestnuts. So yeah, even with the English translation you’ve probably not heard of them either. Yes, these chestnuts are kind of like the one’s found in grandma’s turkey stuffing. But no, these aren’t the chestnuts you find in grandma’s stuffing. Have I confused you yet?
These bad boys found their way into the Christmas candy recipes repertoire (there I go using those fancy words again – I must cut down on my caffeine) after seeing them in that damned Dean and Deluca ad. Yes, the same one that taunted me to make the ginger caramel sauce and yes, sometimes I am weak and a bit of a sheep. I will go baa-ing into that dark night (and you can lull yourself to sleep while counting these precious little candied chestnuts) if it means that I get to experience yummy things.
While this post has a rosy tone to it, don’t be fooled…making these is truly a labor of love and patience of which I have very little (patience that is). Of course, I do have a bit of vindication in this. While I used rather plebeian chestnuts (those would be regular chestnuts you find in American grocery stores), the Marron chestnut is special, and no it’s not special because it’s French and thinks that it is – it really is. Marron chestnuts do not have the halves and deep grooves of the regular chestnuts. This makes a big difference when trying to get those dammed skins off the things.
Making Marrons Glacés is a 4 day process. It’s not a hard process…it just takes a while (as do most things that are worth doing). There’s the chestnut roasting, to get the shells off. There’s the boiling and rubbing, to get the skins off (this is where my candied chestnuts took a detour). Then you’ve got the boiling in vanilla sugar syrup for 4 days. Finally, the drying part (which if you’re batch does what mine does you get to skip). Although my friend Amelia was able to get a great batch of candied chestnuts.
Shelling the chestnuts isn’t difficult, but I ended up with a thumb and index finger that were unusable for 3 days since the skin and nail were pretty much separated from having those sharp/thin shell fragments nestling up in there (OUCH!). After boiling the little buggers, it was time to remove the skins. I ended up with about 8 whole naked chestnuts when this process was complete (marrons glacé are whole candied chestnuts, not nut fragments). The rest looked like a tiny bomb had gone off in their midst. Craig thought there was a truck driver in the kitchen cooking, given all the yelling and swearing he heard. He was so concerned that he came in to help. Since so many chestnuts were broken up, 8 whole chestnuts is what came out of the pound of nuts I had, I ran out to get some whole pre-shelled and skinned nuts from TJ’s. That’s when the executive decision was made – Crème de Marrons (chestnut cream) would now be made. (See, there are no kitchen accidents – just learning experiences and some are more pleasant than others.)
I prepared each batch separate from one another because I wanted to see if they cooked the same, and they did. But the fresh chestnuts took on a beautiful golden brown hue, where the packaged nuts went from dark to darker. I also noticed that the syrup was much thicker in the fresh chestnut batch. Since they were so dark, I didn’t want to continue making them into Marrons Glacés – they would just look like a sparkly lump of coal – chestnut cream for those too!
Believe it or not, crème de Marrons is an actual item that is used in cooking (so no, I didn’t just make that up). I didn’t have an actual recipe for it so I was kind of winging it, but this stuff is truly amazing in flavor. I have since found recipes for it and it is a main ingredient for a dessert called Mont Blanc. But chestnut cream could be used as a spread on toast, heat and pour over ice cream, a cake filling, cupcake topping, or to mix it in to a favorite baked good. The other thing you can do with it is grab a spoon and eat it plain. I’m tying mine up with a bow and little spreader and giving it as gifts. This stuff can definitely give Nutella a run for its money.
Yes, the economy is still a bit in the crapper; people are still losing their homes and kids are asking Santa for practical gifts instead of all the latest electronic gadgets but that doesn’t mean the holidays have to remain giftless.
Homemade gifts are not considered cheap (unless your in your 20′s or 30′s and you give your dad a painted rock and tell him it’s a paperweight – a 5 year old can do that, you can not). I’ve given you several ideas that can be used for great homemade gifts like beef jerky, chocolate covered caramels and the like. Lots of other talented people have great ideas for homemade gifts too.
If you insist on buying a small gift, let me give you some suggestions of gifts that will make you appear cheap if not a complete lout.
- A brain shaped Jello mold. (unless the receiver is a zombie in training)
- The penis pokey book. (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like – too obvious why not to give that)
- Fake tattoo sleeves. (unless the receiver is a douchebag in training – if they can’t suck it up to get real, they shouldn’t have fake either)
- Fingerstache temporary tattoos. (do you really want to see that person constantly smelling their finger under the guise of being clever with that stache mark)
- A snuggie. (nothing says “I think you’re a lazy slob” more than a synthetic fleece blanket that will encase you so you don’t have to move should an inch of skin become uncovered)
Marrons Glacés Recipe
Makes 1 pound
Crème de Marrons Recipe
Makes 16 ounces
Ingredients for Marrons Glacés
- 1 Pound Chestnuts
- 1 Pound Sugar
- 1 1/4 Cups Water
- 1/2 Vanilla Bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste)
Directions for Marrons Glacés
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
Make a large ‘X’ cut on the flat side of each of the chestnuts, about 1/8″ deep (don’t cut into the nut itself). Lay them out on a sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes.
You should see the X’s curling back to reveal the nut.
Peel off shells once cool.
Many will still have their skins on them.
Add these chestnut to a pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil for 8 minutes.
Remove from heat and let them cool so that you can handle them.
Gently rub the nuts between a towel or use your fingers to remove the skins
In another saucepan (I used a 2 quart pan), cook the sugar, water and the vanilla over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Keep stirring while the sugar melts. Allow it to gently simmer 5 minutes, then add the chestnuts. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla bean. If you used the paste, leave it in.
Cover and allow the chestnuts to steep in the sugar syrup over night or at least 12 hours. *Bring again to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Cover and allow to stand for 24 hours*. Repeat again from * to * until all the syrup has been absorbed. This took 4 days for mine.
Do not cook longer than the stated time as it may inhibit the crystallization process.
Drying process: preheat oven to 150 degrees Farenheit cover an oven rack or baking rack with parchment paper. Spread the chestnuts evenly and allow to dry while propping the the oven door open an inch or two for 2 hours or until they are firm.
Store in a container lined with parchment paper and they should last up to 2 weeks. Or you can wrap them individually in wax paper.
Ingredients for Crème de Marrons
Same ingredients as above plus 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream.
Directions for Crème de Marrons
Follow the above directions until you get to the “drying process.”
Pour the mixture into a food processor 1/4 at a time.
Process until only small pieces remain and add the next batch until it’s all being processed.
Pour in cream.
Continue processing until smooth.
The total time that this will be processing is around 30 minutes.
Once cool, spoon into a container or jars for sealing and gifting.
Will keep, refrigerated, approximately 3 – 4 weeks.