January 6th, 2007

Marrons Glacés

Marrons glacés

(Marrons glacés from La Maison du Chocolat)


Available in shops from November to March, these glazed/ candied chestnuts are seriously ‘the’ most luxurious sweetmeats around. Upon reading up on it in D’s old copy of Larousse Gastronomique: The World’s greatest cookery encyclopedia, it says:… Chestnuts that have been poached in syrup and then glazed… Marrons Glacés were created during the reign of Louis XIV and are today manufactured chiefly at Privas, in the Ardèche…’


Ardèche, is in the South of France. It is the epicentre of the chestnuts, more than 50% of chestnuts in France are cultivated there. They do a chestnut festival in Autumn to celebrate it & many local restaurants will include a chestnut-based dish on their menu. One day I’d like to go & get stuffed on chestnuts… (although before this, I’m dying to go to a village in Alsace called Niedermorschwihr, where my heroine patissier Christine Ferber has her shop ‘Au Relais des Trois Épis’. – I’m currently working on persuading D to the trip – who says he is slightly tired of cakes right now…).

Concerning the origins that Larousse mentions – I have also read elsewhere that apparently a candied chestnut confection was served 150 years earlier in Piedmont, a northwestern area of Italy close to the border of Switzerland & France. – The origins of foods, just like the Tarte Tatin I wrote about, could sometimes have several versions to it, it seems.
Marrons glacés are a labour of love – it involves 16 different processes & is painstakingly time consuming. No wonder it is expensive (£1.85 each), but oh boy, it’s worth it.


Here is a rough description of how the chestnuts turn in to Marrons glacés:

First, the chestnuts are washed & sorted to eliminate those that are not perfectly round or has deep grooves. Then it is boiled to so that it is easier to peel the shell & the inner skin by hand. It is sorted again. Finally, the chestnuts go under a repeated process of being cooked for two days in a rich vanilla syrup (which gets concentrated as time passes). Eventually the flavour seeps into the very heart of the chestnut. Here is a link to a recipe.


This week:

Since I decided that my stall will open from 27th this year, I had the most mellow week. Which is a relief because I am still feeling bloated from all the eating I’ve done over the festive season, & am feeling unhelplessly lethargic.
In fact, this is part of the reason why I am not operating the stall til late January, because I think people would generally be staying away from chocolates & cakes post-Christmas eat-fest, & going on a mass-diet. So it’ll start on the 27th, that’s when I’ll be deviously counting on people putting down their salad forks & give up their dieting!!

December 30th, 2006

2007’s around the corner!


(Beard Papa’s cream puff)


Dearest readers, has 2006 treated you well?

The end of the year always makes me review how the year has been, & I can honestly say, it went by like a storm, fast n’ furious. 2006 was full of excitement & activity to a point of not having much energy left. I have been getting little sleep or rest because I’m busy until late every night & get woken up early every morning. A far cry from the old days…, when I used to sleep til 12 noon easy on weekends. Working & being a mum ain’t plain sailing. That said, doing something I am passionate about is so satisfying that I never find it a chore. And most importantly, my son is growing up well & there really is nothing major to complain.

This year, the stall operation has become much smoother. I now use disposable cardboard food trays for transporting my produce from kitchen to market. It is something like 70p per tray & so I’m throwing away five to six pounds every week, but atleast I don’t need to wash them at the end of a tired Saturday like I used to. And the speed of me doing these cakes & chocolates has trippled it seems, as I have more practical experience under my belt.

It was also a year of good girlfriends leaving London… Lisa, Layla, Nikki – three of ’em! *sigh…* But I mustn’t forget that it was also a year of meeting great new people too. The kindness I came across this year from some of these people still glow warmth in to my heart.

This week I am in relax-mode since the market is not open. Drinking pink champagne, wine, beer & Otima 20 year old Tawny Port (which was seriously delicious) over the Christmas celebration that stretched several days. I also had the treat of going out in to town while my parents looked after our son. We first spent money like water on Winter Sales shopping, then ate Dim Sum for lunch. A de rigueur visit to La Maison du Chocolat, & then crossing the road to check out the sales shelves at Fortnum & Mason.


Just before we went in to cinema to see the new James Bond movie (thumbs up to gorgeous Daniel Craig!), we bought the Beard Papa‘s Cream Puff (freshly made choux pastry with whipped cream custard piped inside)… Oh boy,,, it was de-licious!

I love the fact that they bake the choux pastry several times daily on premises (the ovens were just behind the counter on view), & once an order is taken, they pipe the freshly made cream & do a little dusting of icing sugar all in front of you! How wonderfully fresh is that!
It was soo cheap too – 10 cream puffs for 11 pounds (I think it was £1.30 for one). My only quarm is that the shop name works out odd in English (the shop is Japanese y’see), & the supposed ‘vanilla’ custard cream was seriously lacking in the ‘vanilla’ front. I only saw a dozen black specks of vanilla seeds in it – basically non-existant (I would have put in a lot lot more). Maybe this is what explains the low price since vanilla is an expensive ingredient afterall. – Despite this minor detail, the cream puff was crispy n’ creamy & I finished mine in nano second flat! And I can seriously reccomend you get one next time you’re in town, it’s opposite Uniqlo on Oxford Street, London. – Beard Papa, respect.


*Happy New Year 2007*

Wishing you peace, love, health & happiness,

t xxx

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