Chocolate and Chestnut-Rum Cream with Chestnut Compote
Surprise each guest with a personal gift, chestnut-rum cream wrapped in chocolate and served in a pool of chestnut compote. While the basic dessert, chestnut-rum cream, is relatively simple, the technique for wrapping each one in a thin sheet of chocolate will take practice. Fortunately, clean chocolate can be remelted, so it’s OK to practice. The chestnut cream timbales must be refrigerated overnight; the sugar triangles can also be made a day ahead. The chocolate gift wrapping can be done several hours before service and the packages stored in the refrigerator; the chestnut compote can be made at the same time and set aside at room temperature. Even the plates can be decorated hours ahead. While this spectacular dessert is definitely in the “advanced” category, it can be broken down into components and made more manageable.
- Special equipment:
- Fifteen 2-inch tall by 2-inch interior diameter PVC pipe “timbales”
- Mylar from a balloon
- Simple Syrup (Makes about 5 cups)
- Sugar - 4 cups
- Water - 2 cups
- Chestnut Puree (alt. purchased chestnut puree)
- Chestnuts - 1-1/4 pounds, shelled, skinned
- Simple syrup to cover
- Vanilla bean - 1
- Simple Syrup - 1/3 cup
- Chestnut Cream
- Chestnut Puree - 16 ounces (above)
- Dark Rum - 2 teaspoons
- Vanilla - 1 teaspoon
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 2-3/4 cups
- Sugar - 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
- Unflavored gelatin - 4 packets, dissolved in 3/4 cup cool water
- Sugar Triangles
- Sugar - 1 cup
- Corn Syrup - 1/2 cup
- Water - 1/4 cup
- Dark Couverture Chocolate - 1 pound, chopped
- Chestnut Compote
- Chestnuts - 12 ounces, frozen, peeled
- Simple Syrup - 3/4 cup (above)
- Apple Cider - 3/4 cup
- Honey - 2 tablespoons
- Vanilla bean - 1
- Cocoa powder for dusting
- Dark Couverture Chocolate - 1/4 pound, chopped
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1 cup
- Sugar - 2 tablespoons
To make simple syrup: In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over high heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture reaches a full boil, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool, and store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Prepare the PVC molds: Lightly wipe the interior of the molds with vegetable oil, wiping away any excess. Pour granulated sugar into the molds and turn to coat completely with the sugar, dumping out the excess. Stand the molds on a baking sheet and set aside.
To prepare the chestnut puree: Put the chestnuts in a large, heavy saucepan and add simple syrup to cover. Split the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the pan, and drop in the pods. Put over medium heat and bring to a slow boil. Cook until the chestnuts are soft, 20 to 30 minutes, adding syrup if necessary to keep them from cooking dry. Remove the vanilla bean pod pieces. Drain the chestnuts and puree until smooth. Add the additional 1/3 cup simple syrup and puree again. Set aside.
To make the chestnut cream timbales: Combine the chestnut puree, rum, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the cream until foamy in the bowl of an electric mixer. Increase the speed and sprinkle in the sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Fold a large spoonful of whipped cream into the puree to lighten it, then fold the puree gently into the whipped cream. Make sure the gelatin is completely dissolved; warm gently if necessary to dissolve it. Stir a large spoonful of the chestnut mixture into the gelatin, then fold the gelatin into the chestnut mixture; the gelatin helps stabilize the cream. Mix thoroughly to avoid lumps. Put the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe into the prepared timbale molds. Cover the tops of the molds with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
To make the sugar triangles: Line two baking sheets with silicone liners. In the top of a double boiler over boiling water, combine all ingredients. Cook to 295 F without stirring, or until a small amount dropped into a glass of cold water separates into hard, brittle threads. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, to the consistency of thick honey. Drizzling the syrup from the tip of a spoon and criss-crossing the threads, make sixteen 3-inch triangles on the prepared baking sheets. Let cool completely. Lift the triangles off the silicone liners and set aside in a dry place until ready to use.
To assemble the creams: Work in a cool room, 68 to 75 F, and keep your hands as cool as possible.
Place two new or very flat sheet pans in the freezer for 30 minutes. Gently press the chestnut timbales out of the PVC pipe molding and return the creams to the refrigerator. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water and bring it to 110 F.
Cut a strip of parchment paper large enough to wrap around a chestnut timbale and about 1-1/4 inch taller than the timbale. It will be your pattern.
Remove a sheet pan from the freezer. Deposit about 1 cup of chocolate on the cold pan and immediately spread it out paper-thin across the pan with a thin spatula. Make the chocolate smear large enough to fit the paper pattern several times. The chocolate will set as it spreads on the pan; work quickly. Lay the paper pattern on the chocolate and run a paring knife around the pattern, cutting out the chocolate. Immediately run the paring knife under the chocolate strip to free it from the pan. Pick up the strip of chocolate; it will warm slightly in your hands, enabling it to be curved. Wrap it around one of the timbales, fitting one end to an end of the timbale and leaving all the excess chocolate at the other end. Secure the seam with a little of the melted chocolate. Lightly press the excess chocolate at the end like a package in four places with your fingers until the chocolate touches in the center and adheres. The heat of your hands will be enough to soften the chocolate. Stand the wrapped timbale on a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator. The chocolate trimmings on the pan may be returned to the pot of melted chocolate for recycling. Repeat to wrap all the timbales, alternating pans in the freezer; by working quickly you can get two or even three strips off each pan per spread.
To prepare the compote: Cut the chestnuts into quarters. Combine the chestnuts, syrup, cider, and honey in a heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the mixture, then drop in the pods. Simmer until the chestnuts are very tender and beginning to lose their shape, about 30 minutes. Set aside and cool to room temperature. Remove the vanilla bean pods.
To prepare the plates: To make a bow stencil, cut a graceful bow shape from the Mylar, keeping the size proportional to the interior of your serving plates. Make the bow big enough to cover one third of the plate interior. Place the Mylar stencil on the top third of the interior of a plate. Put the cocoa powder in a small fine-meshed sieve and hold it over the stencil. Gently tap the sieve until the stencil is toned with cocoa powder. Gently lift the Mylar, leaving a bow design on the plate, and tap off the cocoa powder into the sink. Repeat on all the plates.
Cut a 6-inch circle of parchment paper and roll into a small cone, fastening the upper edge with a paper clip; snip a tiny bit off the tip to make a small decorating cone. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Put the chocolate in the cone and draw an irregular line in a plate, creating an enclosed area at least twice the size of the base of a timbale. Make sure the line closes back upon itself. Set the plate aside; repeat with the others. The plates can be prepared to this point several hours before service.
To serve: Remove the timbales from the refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature. Beat the whipped cream to firm peaks with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Put the whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a large fluted tip. Spoon a thin layer of chestnut puree into the area bounded by the chocolate line on each plate. Push the chestnuts away from one area in the puree to leave space for a timbale. Lightly dust the timbales with cocoa powder. Stand a timbale to one side in each pool of puree. Pipe a small rosette of whipped cream at one side of the base of each timbale. Stand a sugar triangle in each rosette. Write out gift tags for each guest and secure them to the tops of the timbales with a dot of melted chocolate.