Photos: epiceriedecharles.fr and recette.cuisine.notrefamille.com
Text by Simone Blaser
This Christmas, we’re indulging in a holiday treat that is both delicious and oh-so-French: the marron glacé. That’s code for glazed chestnuts—gooey nuggets of pure holiday joy. When done wrong, they are overpoweringly saccharine; but at their best, they have a nutty and subtle sweetness so delicate and modest, it’s no wonder they gained popularity in Louis XIV’s court at Versailles.
The first recipe emerged in the 16th century around Lyon, and has lasted throughout the centuries. These candies are made over the course of a few days by soaking peeled chestnuts in sugar syrup and drying the chestnuts once the liquid has been absorbed. MG-diehards claim to taste the difference between marrons glacés made according to this traditional-if-lengthy cooking process and those created according to more time-efficient recipes (a.k.a. cop outs!).
What makes these French candies different from other, more famous cousins like the macaron? Tout simplement, it’s their seasonal lifespan, their but-once-a-year allure. My favorites are from Pierre Hermé, a confectioner who rarely disappoints. For less luxe options, you can find them at most chocolate shops (and even boulangeries and supermarkets), but get them fast! The good ones are only around through the holiday season.
Feeling motivated? Try glazing your own marrons at home. Make sure to plan ahead—it takes a few days to complete the process.
1 lb. chestnuts, shell and membrane removed
1 lb. sugar
650 ml. water (plus or minus 2.5 cups)
1 vanilla bean
1. Fill a large saucepan with water, enough to cover the chestnuts (with shell and membrane removed). Bring the water to a boil and cook for 8 minutes. Drain and discard the water. Rub the chestnuts between a dish cloth until the skins come off.
2. In a different pan, cook the sugar, water, and vanilla bean over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Gently simmer for 5 minutes, then add the chestnuts. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla bean.
3. Cover the pan and steep over night or for at least 12 hours. Bring again to a boil and cook for 1 minute more. Let the pan stand for 24 hours. Repeat this step again until all the syrup has been absorbed (3-4 times).
4. Preheat the oven to 65 degrees Celsius or 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover an oven rack with parchment paper. Distribute the crystallized chestnuts evenly and allow to dry out with the oven door propped open a few centimeters for 2 hours (or until chestnuts are firm and dry).
5. Cool completely. Store in a container with parchment or waxed paper between the layers. Should keep for about 2 weeks.
Written by Simone Blaser for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.