Make this easy chestnut cream cake and your guests, like mine, will be dipping their spoons into the pan for more! (Cuillères, because the French do not eat cake with fourchettes, as we do back home in Arizona.)
TODAY'S WORD: le marron
1. brown or chestnut (color)
3. black-eye (slang)
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ECOUTER Listen to Jean-Marc and improve your French pronunciation: Download MP3
C’est en 1882 alors que l'économie locale ardéchoise dans l’élevage du ver à soie traverse une crise due à une épidémie, que Clément Faugier, jeune homme du terroir, crée à Privas la première fabrique de Marrons Glacés.
It was in 1882, during a time when silkworm farming in the Ardèche was in a state of crisis due to an epidemic, that Clément Faugier, a young man from the region, created the first candied chestnut factory in Privas.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristin Espinasse
When I first moved to France I began to notice all kinds of unusual behavior among the French, most of it coming from my husband-to-be. Jean-Marc loves the outdoors and we would often hike down the jagged calanques, to the sea, where we enjoyed picnicking. Jean-Marc's favorite things to eat included the traditional baguette and cheese... and a brown paste that he would suck from a tube. (I know that last phrase lacks elegance, unlike my then-boyfriend).
It turned out he was relishing his favorite childhood goûter, or snack: chestnut cream in a tube! And who was I to judge the way in which he ate it--when my favorite childhood snack was Cheez Whiz? For those unfamiliar with the product, French Wikipedia offers some incite:
Il se présente sous la forme d'une pâte de couleur jaune et est conditionné dans des pots en verre.
It is presented in the form of a yellow-colored paste, and packaged in glass pots.
Not my Cheez Whiz! Mine came in an aerosol can--all the better for spraying directly into the mouth before replacing it in my grandmother's cupboard, beside her canned green beans from my grandfather's garden.
An ocean away from those delightful gastronomic episodes, I now cultivate beans in my own garden, and compensate for so much healthy eating by punctuated indulgements. (Did you know you can now buy Cheez Whiz in France?)
One of my all-time favorite, decadent desserts is this French chestnut cake that Jean-Marc's aunt often made us during harvest time at her vineyard. And when we began our own vineyard, Marie-Françoise (that's her handwriting in the opening photo) brought this beloved gâteau de marrons to our harvest picnics, to help us out. Everyone loves it and so will you!
FRENCH CHESTNUT CAKE
Le Gâteau aux Marrons
Note: you can purchase the chestnut cream here at Amazon. It's pricey, but only three ingredients are needed for this cake, which costs around $15. (I served 8 people). Also, you may notice how Aunt Marie-Françoise handwritten recipe (pictured) calls for beating the egg whites and gently folding them in. Up to you. (I'd rather spend the effort pulling weeds near my fava beans. Grandpa, you would be proud!)
=> 500 grams or 1 can(about 2 cups) of Crème de Marrons vanillé (vanilla chestnut spread)
=>100 grams of butter (about 7 tablespoons)
=> 3 eggs
In a pan, over medium heat, combine the chestnut spread and the butter until softened. Remove from stovetop and let cool before adding three beaten eggs. Stir to combine. Pour into cake pan.
Cook 45 minutes at 150C (300F)
Note: my cake seemed ready after only 20 minutes! It is a thin cake. I served it plain, but you could frost it or put a chocolate sauce on top! Sliced strawberries would be nice. Here's a picture of one I topped simply, with pecans and a dusting of powdered sugar.
Why not share this post with a friend? Thanks and enjoy. Et bon appétit!
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety