Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Marron Glacé

marron glace
I had the good fortune of getting hold of some really big and fat chestnuts recently, not to mention being able to hand choose the plump and round ones myself! A right start for making myself some marron glacé!
Marron glacé has been one of those things in the list of items which I basically fell in love with when I first had a taste of it. And this is a rather recent “accquisition”. A more faraway memory would be roasted chestnuts peddled by an old man who rode a trishaw modified to hold a large metal pan filled with coarse black gravel-like granules nested with brown morsels. The familiar sounds of those ebony beads being shoveled while he called out “Gao lat eh, gao lat!” still rings in my ears with nostalgia. Without fail, I would pester my parents to buy us a small brown paper bag of it home, a rare treat as we werent well-to-do at all. I vividly remembered my dad being the one who would painstakingly peel them for us, while we sat and waited eagerly around him with the brown bag in the middle over a piece of newspaper. The natural sweetness of freshly  roasted chestnuts remains a taste which I crave for, even until today. When I had my first marron glacé not too long ago, I remember being blown away by the taste and textures. It was quite different of how I’d perceived chestnuts would taste like. I was overwhelmed by how “brixy” it was. But as that thin shroud of sugary sweetness melted away, came the wonderful yet familiar earthy aroma of chestnuts. What a plenitude of flavours!

marron glace

The recipe and method is really simple but somewhat laborious (sounds like an oxymoron I know!) and requires quite a bit of patience as the whole process takes a minimal of 4 days from start to completion!

marron glace

Chestnuts with most of their shells already removed. They were already so when I saw them which makes the choosing process easier! Just had to pick the fat and goodlookin’ ones!

Ingredients

1kg of chestnuts peeled

water

sugar

1-2 tbsp of trimoline aka invert sugar or glucose

1/2 vanilla pod cut lengthwise and seeds scrapped

marron glace
Wrapped with a hairy membrane known as a pellicle.

marron glace
Soaked in water ready to be boiled

Method

(1)Peel to remove most of the shell on the chestnuts and rinse them thoroughly

(2)In a deep saucepan, place chestnuts followed by water just sufficient to cover them.

(3)Bring the water to a boil and continue to simmer in low heat for about 5-10 mins

(4)Turn off the flame and wait for the water to cool down slightly until it becomes “workable”. By that, I meant that one’s able to hold the chestnuts with one hand and peel off the pellicle, i.e. the hairy skin membrane that adheres to the flesh within, together with any remnants of unpeeled shell. They should come off with ease when the fruit is still wet and hot. If not use a toothpick to guide the peeling process. Work gently so as not to destroy the intricate venation on the surface, yet  deftly as the pellicle is astringent and would quickly adhere to the flesh once it cools down sufficiently. When this happens, simply return the chestnut back to the saucepan ensuring that it is submerged into the hot water and work on the next chestnut.

marron glace
All peeled, well almost! :p

(5)Pad dry the peeled chestnuts and measure their mass with a weighing scale/electronic balance.

(6)To a deep saucepan, add sugar and water in the ratio of 1:1 in the same weight to the chestnuts. E.g. if the “dry mass” of the peeled chestnuts is 500g, add 500g of water and 500g of sugar, followed by vanilla pod and seeds.

marron glace
I placed those which I’d managed to keep intact at the bottom while the broken and smaller pieces stay on top. The logic is simple, big and whole chestnuts take a longer time to cook and thus need to be placed near the bottom which is warmer since convection currents begin there.

(7)Bring the mixture to a boil and form a simple syrup and add the peeled chestnuts.Ensure that all the chestnuts are submerged in the syrup, so depending on the girth of the saucepan, add more water if needed but keep it to as minimally as possible.

(8)When the mixture comes to a boil again, lower the flame and let it simmer in low heat for 30 mins or so.

(9)Turn off flame but leave the saucepan over the hot stove. Allow the contents to cool down very gradually.

marron glace
Barely 20 mins into the simmering, the chestnuts began to develop a darker hue.

(10)Repeat the procedure twice a day over the next 4 days, i.e. reheating the mixture with lid on twice a day, once in the daytime, and once at night.Avoid stirring the mixture too much as it would cause the chestnuts to crumble. Also avoid all temptation to lift up the chestnuts to check on their progress.

marron glace
Before the night reheating on the first day. Notice how dark the chestnuts have become?

(11)Take a look at the perimeter of the saucepan before reheating to observe for sugar crystals forming along the sides. Add 1-2 tbsp of glucose into the mixture before preheating to prevent recrystallisation of the sugar. This needs to be done only once.

marron glace
Glucose and trimoline aka invert sugar. The former is more accessible in Singapore, since its available in Phoon Huat. It basically helps to prevent recrystallisation of sugar. The latter is what I got from Osaka during a recent trip.

(12) On the 4th day, carefully remove a large piece of chestnut from the saucepan with a slotted spoon or wooden spatula before reheating. Choose a piece which is already broken or had crumbled off. Cut the piece into two and it should look somewhat transluscent almost to the core, a good indication that the candying process is almost over. Give it one final reheating. If not continue and repeat the process for another couple of days. I did mine for 6 days and refrigerated them in the thick syrup using an airtight container for a week or so.

(13)In the evening, remove the chestnuts from the syrup and rest them on a cooling rack over a large tray. This allows excess syrup to drain off. By now, the syrup would have developed a very deep brown hue. Allow the candied chestnuts to drain off their sugar concoction overnight.

(14)Very gingerly place the candied chestnuts in small paper muffin cups and pack the chestnuts in an airtight box and refrigerate until ready to serve or use!
marron glace
Transluscent to the core
marron glace

Voila! The pièces de résistance, those which managed to retain much of the desired venation at the end of the candying process. And I attribute this to (1) very low flame simmering during reheating, (2) very controlled if not at all stirring, (3) and a much deliberated avoidance to lift them out of their bathing liquids to take a peekaboo or probe at them. They are very fragile and delicate to yield and succumb to the slightest tinge of pressure. Alas not all of the chestnuts survived the candying process to look so aesthetically pleasing and yet delicious at the same time.

Despite being popularly savoured on its own, before I made my own batch, I’d never had the luxury of being able to do so. Marron glacé is used, and almost synonymously associated with Mont Blanc, the celebrated French confection using chestnut paste and purée, crème Chantilly and of course, marron glacé. So no prizes for guessing what I’m going to make next!

marron glace

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17 responses

  1. Interesting ! Never knew chestnuts can be eaten this way !

    June 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Hi joyce! Like u i didnt know candied chestnuts exist until a few years ago when i had my first mont blanc and it came with marron glace. :)

      June 30, 2011 at 5:06 pm

  2. I never knew marron glacé was so difficult (or time-consuming) to make! I just know how to eat it ;p

    Can’t wait for the mont blanc post next ;p

    June 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Hi janine! Back from down under already? I’d also been downing quite a bit of marron glace through mont blancs over the last few years. Saw them in their entirety a month back when we visited Sadaharu Aoki’s boutique in Taipei. They are freaking expensive at NT80 a pop! So I thought I’d better try to make some on my own.

      Do try it! Time-consuming and tedious but otherwise quite a foolproof confection to make!

      June 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm

  3. I only like marron glace for cakes and pastry…. to eat it neat, I would still prefer the old fashioned coffee beans roasted ‘gaolup’ :) You’ve glaced them beautifully, Alan!

    June 30, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      yeah, to eat it neat is quite a feat given how sweet it is. but its a saver when I need a rush or just to feel happy!

      July 1, 2011 at 11:00 am

  4. wa lau eh??! what are you?? First let me give you a salute! tabik!!hahaha!! six days to make these candied chestnits?!! i’m not teasing you but i really admire your ever patience, your perseverance, your determination! you know, i just cooked chicken with chestnuts 2 days ago and to peel off the skin, i almost feel like pulling my hair already and still didnt manage to peel it off completely, not like the cleaned ones that you showed here. But i didnt boil them in water, just soeaked them in hot water, maybe that’s the reason! I appreciate you ..oops i cant see wht i’m typuing now..continue next..

    June 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm

  5. haha! the words have been overlapped by the “guest, log in boxes”! alan, just want to say i appreciate all your guidance here, not only in this posts but all your posts, always very detail and i shall look forward to see your next adventure with your marron glace!!

    June 30, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      six days yeah, but day 2 – day 5 is most an half-hour affair with just reheating twice a day. Just like how some of us would boil water to brew coffee or tea. Quite senang la. haha

      to peel off the membrane, the chestnut needs to be really warm and wet. so definitely need to boil to soften the membrane. That’s when its “loose” and comes off most easily. When it cools down, I suspect it contracts and adheres to the flesh hugging it quite tightly. Using a toothpick also helps to preserve those neat grooves on the surface. I tried using a knife at first and like you’d said, a hair-pulling experience, not to mention very ugly chestnuts. haha

      July 1, 2011 at 11:06 am

  6. ALAN! you’re amazing!!!!!!!! SIX days for it! it look extremely pretty! really! awesome job! (: look forward to your next post! before that, pls remember to deliver it to me okay. im sure it’ll taste yummy! i want to eat it!!

    July 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      the tedious part is the peeling and that’s about it. after that is quite easy over the next 4-5 days. just basically reheating. I’m sure you can do it also la!

      July 1, 2011 at 6:13 pm

  7. Alan, after knowing how laborious, I don’t feel so bad for paying so much for the Marron Glace. I am very impatient, I don’t think I can wait six days lah. Better I call you six days before I come to Singapore and taste yours! Me, thick skin right? hehe

    July 4, 2011 at 1:10 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      yeah, but we must bear in mind that those italian and french mamas do this day in and out. so its probably quite a breeze for them. lol

      sure, let me know and hopefully chestnuts are in season then! :)

      July 4, 2011 at 10:41 pm

  8. maddy

    some recipes call for 1000 grams suger and 500 grams water, will that make the syrup too thick?

    July 27, 2011 at 6:15 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      I used equal amounts of sugar and water by weight. The concoction would be already very sweet and thickens to a very viscous consistency by the 2nd-3rd day. The pot is kept covered tightly with a lid over the days of glacing. This prevents loss of water through evaporation.

      So I’m not sure if doubling the sugar would help to enhance or speed up the glacing process but it sounds doubtful for a simple scientific reason. If the soaking syrup is very concentrated, its water potential would be much lower than what’s inside the chestnuts. Osmosis would occur causing the chestnuts to lose a lot of water to the syrup within a very short time.This would cause the cells to crenate making the chestnuts look very shrivelled. This seem to be a problem faced by some who tried glacing chestnuts. Hope this helps!

      July 27, 2011 at 9:19 am

  9. Pingback: Asian Food Fest #1 Oct 2013 : Japan | travellingfoodies

  10. this is a Turkish desert from Bursa – Turkey. İt’s very delightful.

    February 18, 2014 at 11:12 pm

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