Saturday, December 18, 2010

That Old Chestnut

Candied chestnuts! 
Winter is always the humble chestnut's moment. You can get them hot in a paper bag on a corner in New York or outside the kabuki theater in Ginza. There are cones of marrons glacee in sweet shops, along with the standard montblanc dessert topped with chestnut puree. The Japanese and the French share a serious appreciation for the chestnut, along with, come to think about it, quality handbags and Jean Reno. The yummy marrons above were so creamy and sweet all the way through, but without the slightest stickiness. Table sugar! It makes these dun-colored little morsels sparkle like sugarplums in a storybook, without messing with the richness.

Yaki-kuri wagashi 
This is Japan's spin on things--a wagashi sweet made from roasted chestnut puree. Like its wagashi brethren, it's really down to the pure essence of the nut. You can see how the shape was made by pinching it in fabric to make the creases. Half the fun of these things for me is squinting at them and figuring out how they were formed. The top of this one was torched just a little to give it that charred flavor. Amazing contrast to the sweetness. Plus, I love those little mini-butane torches--it's like you're pulling a teeny-tiny bank job.

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