Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vacherin Mont Blanc

When you're feeling fragile, the prospect of putting together an involved multi-component composed dessert might just be the proverbial back-breaking straw. Still, if some suitably grand dessert must be put on the table, not all is lost. There're a handful of high-impact low-effort sweets I always fall back on when time's a wastin' and I need to pull something together pronto. Enter stage left: Vacherin Mont Blanc, my most oft-used trick up the sleeve. The cooking and peeling and tamis-ing of actual chestnuts can wait for a mood more masochistic. In this particular quick fix scenario, it should be about smart shopping; if you always have a tin or two of crème de marrons knocking around in the pantry (I like the Clement Faugier brand), than you're pretty much all set. There're scores of recipes for this classic, some easy, some more elaborate (see lovely Keiko's blog for the most exquisite Mont Blanc-based desserts ever). So everytime I make Mont Blanc or a Mont Blanc-style recipe, I try to do it slightly differently.

This time round, I followed the instructions in Claire Clark's Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts, one of my favourites from 2007's bumper crop of exciting year-end cookbook releases. It's quite possibly one of the simplest recipes in the beautiful book - which ranges in scope from the modest to the most outrageously flamboyant imaginable - by the much feted pastry chef of The French Laundry. But simple here, of course, is sublimely simple.

Crisp shells of snow-white meringue hold mounds of barely sweetened, stiffly whipped cream flavoured with vanilla, rum and crème de marrons and studded with chopped marrons glacés. This is in turn enveloped by an avalanche of chestnut vermicelli. The recipe suggests plating a double-decker; while this makes for a tall and dramatic presentation, it's also a portion size that I found sufficient for 2 especially if people have had anything remotely more filling than soup and a salad to precede (hence the improvised minis in the first picture).

I spent more time tempering the chocolate for the decorations than I did making and assembling the entire dessert, perhaps a tad guilt-stricken at how painless the whole exercise was proving to be. Besides, there's absolutely no excuse for low-effort to look like no-effort!


Blogger FreshAdriaticFish said...

dear Joyceline, I've been reading your blog for a while, but this is my first comment. Your blog was one of the reasons why I started to blog at all.
Everything you post is so beautiful that inspires me to try to improve myself although I'm aware that I could never be not even close to your perfection!

6:18 pm, November 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So beautiful! So delicious-sounding! So glad to see a new post!

10:33 pm, November 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I speak for many of your readers when I say there is a long agonising wait between your postings, but when you do, evrything is so beautiful it's worth the wait!

11:41 pm, November 21, 2007  
Blogger Michelle said...

These are so neat looking! Interesting, unique, inspiring, and beautiful. I hope it's not you that is feeling fragile, but if you are, then I'm sending along a hug for you too...

7:22 am, November 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

unreal. just unreal. how perfect and beautiful and immaculate everything you touch is

1:46 pm, November 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi hi, where to buy the clement faugier marrons?


12:12 pm, November 23, 2007  
Blogger Beau Lotus 涟 said...

Hmm, that is a great idea, I've been wondering what I could do with my marrons glacés (besides just popping them into the mouth) this time of the year when we could buy them easily...

11:47 pm, November 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful!! Please share how you get the choc decors so wafer thin they're almost translucent!

10:31 am, November 24, 2007  
Blogger Anita said...

Dear J,
I love making the chestnut vermicelli, as you call it - I'm impressed with how neatly you got them arranged, as mine tend to fly all over the place! Another breathtaking dessert as usual!

3:13 pm, November 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI J this transport me to my ex swiss family in laws home... esp on autumn when the Swiss just go gaga over chestnuts and mont blanc.

stunning as usual and am sending you warm wishes from Palm Beach Florida.. but am missing all the pastry shops in europe ;-)

11:36 pm, November 24, 2007  
Blogger Hillary said...

Chestnut and meringue and gorgeousness? What a lovely combination! I think you've outdone yourself!

6:41 am, December 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that is the worst book ever, that I've bought because of you, i loved your site but now are you part of some PR agency?

7:58 am, December 01, 2007  

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