One of the things that makes Japanese food culture so interesting is that unless you’re eating grilled or simmered seafood, it probably originated outside of Japan. Tempura (Portuguese), Ramen (Chinese), and Karei Raisu (Indian) are just a few examples of borrowed food. For such a tradition oriented country, it amazes me how quickly they assimilate food into the national repertoire. As food migrates there, it undergoes a transformation and takes on a new life as a different dish unto itself. Purists may argue it’s not authentic, but I call it the journey of food.
Baked goods, with the exception of Casutela (of Portuguese origin), come almost exclusively from France. Heck, the Japanese word for bread is “pahn” (“pain” spelled in French). Shoe Kureamu (Choux à la Crème), Kuroasan (Croissant), and Monburan (Mont Blanc) are all staples of any Japanese bakery and Kureipu (Crêpe) is a common snack on the streets of Tokyo; and if you can get past the ridiculous spelling, they’re all good. Kureipu for example aren’t soft and tender like a proper French one; they’re sweet and crisp, shaped like a cone and filled with fruit, cream, chocolate and even cheesecake.
But this post is about Mont Blanc. No, not the tall mountain in the Alps. I’m talking about the cake. Well, actually the original is made with meringues, but like all the other dishes, this too went through some changes. While each bakery makes it slightly differently, at its heart, Monburan is a soft layer of cake with a pillowy mound of chestnut cream, all topped with strands of sweet nutty chestnut puree. It’s creamy, sweet and earthy with 3 different textures in each bite. Hands down my favourite cake.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not much of a baker, and there’s a good reason for that. I hate measuring things, I’m impatient, and I like to take shortcuts. That’s a classic recipe for disaster in the realm of baking, but for this cake, I made an exception. Since I’ve never actually made a genoise before (and have heard horror stories akin to those told about souffles), I followed Tartelette’s recipe to the letter for the cake. This was also the first time I’ve picked up a pastry bag since I was 10 or 11, so apologies for the shameful piping, but they taste just like the ones you’d get in a depachika bakery.
I know passing something as viscous as chestnut puree through a double mesh strainer sounds like a real pain (believe me it is), but don’t skip this, and don’t substitute a single mesh strainer or food mill. To get the smooth velvety consistency, it has to be passed through a very fine mesh. I found that working with small amounts and using the blade of a rubber spatula (with the handle removed) to force it through worked the best.
for genoise (from Tartelette)
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 C of sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 C cake flour
1/4 C cornstarch
for chestnut puree
15 oz. can of pureed chestnut (this should be just chestnut, no sugar or other additives)
1/2 C cream
1/2 C sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 vanilla bean
for chestnut cream
3/4 C heavy cream
3 Tbs powdered sugar
1/3 C chestnut puree
pastry bag with a medium round tip and a large round tip
18″ x 13″ jellyroll pan
double mesh strainer (very small holes)
make the genoise
Setup a double boiler by filling a pot large enough to hold your mixing bowl and bring the water to a simmer. Move your oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 400 degrees F. Prep an 18″ x 13″ jelly roll pan by lining it with parchment paper and buttering the paper.
Put the eggs, yolks, sugar and salt in a metal mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Put the bowl in your double boiler and whisk, heating until the mixture reaches 100 degrees F (luke warm). Mount the bowl on the mixer and beat with the whisk attachment for 5 minutes. The volume will triple and pale yellow ribbons of egg will flow off the whisk when they’re ready.
Combine the flour and cornstarch. When the egg mixture is ready, sift 1/3 of the flour mixture into the eggs and fold together. Repeat twice more, folding between each addition until you can’t see any more clumps of flour. Pour into the prepared baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
When it’s done, slide the whole thing off the baking sheet onto a wire rack to cool.
make the chestnut puree
Slice the vanilla bean in half length wise and scrape the seeds into a small saucepan. Add the cream, sugar and whisk in the yolk. Heat over low heat, continually stirring until the mixture begins to thicken. Take the pan off the heat and allow the vanilla bean to steep while the mixture cools.
When the mixture is cool, put it in a food processor along with the pureed chestnuts. Blitz until smooth and creamy. Put a spoonful of chestnut puree in the double mesh strainer over a bowl and press through using a spatula. Strain the rest of the chestnut puree, cover and set aside.
make the chestnut cream
In the clean dry bowl of an electric mixer, add 3/4 C of heavy cream. Using the whisk attachment, beat until the cream holds soft peaks. Add the sugar and beat until the sugar is incorporated. Add 1/3 C of the strained chestnut puree and mix until the cream holds firm peaks being careful not to over mix.
assemble the cake
When it’s completely cooled, separate the cake from the parchment paper and trim off the edges. Cut out eight 2″ x 1.5″ rectangles and put them on a platter.
Put a large round tip on a pastry bag and fill with the chestnut cream (not the puree). Pipe 3 layers of cream onto each piece of genoise, making each layer smaller, giving it the shape of a barn roof.
Put a medium round tip (about the size of cooked spaghetti) on another pastry bag and fill with the chestnut puree. Starting at the bottom corner of one of the cakes and pipe chestnut puree in one continuous stream going over the top, down the other side, then looping back up and over again. Ideally you’ll cover the whole thing with one continuous stream of puree, but if it breaks, just start back from where it broke and continue piping.