All summer long, I´ve enjoyed making ice creams and eat it with my kids straight away, just the three of us sitting on the stairs by the front door, with bowls on our laps and the sun tickling our noses. During fall, those ice cream moments did as they always do: they disappeared just like a favorite summer dress gets lost in the backmost corner of the closet. For the holidays though, for the first time in months, I felt in the mood for a frozen treat: something festive, something pretty, a combination of seasonal flavors to top of a holiday feast.
The `ice cream` I had in mind was a chestnut parfait made with crème de marrons, sweetened chestnut purée. I always have a can at home to stir it into greek yoghurt – it´s really delicious. If perhaps you aren’t a big fan of crème de marrons and find it overly sweet: I know what you mean, but in this parfait it works wonderfully with its somewhat nutty aftertaste and creamy texture. Chunks of speculoos cookies provide an extra dose of Christmas flavor (as if that were needed), while more crunch comes from little bits of crumbled meringue, raising discussion whether this parfait should be better called a vacherin.
Whichever name you prefer, it was impossible to serve this dessert without some marrons glacés sprinkled on top – though I admit it was really hard for me to come out with my hidden box. Candied chestnuts are my little treasured délice de Noël, the ultimate French Christmas treat. If you don´t want or get them, a handful of pomegranate molasses or chopped sugared almonds would be just fine. Et voilà, c´est prêt: a winter ice cream (but we stayed inside to eat it).
Speculoos chestnut meringue parfait (serves 8-10):
350 g full fat cream
60 g confectioner´s sugar
1 pinch fine salt / fleur de sel
250 g sweetened chestnut purée
2 egg yolks
6 speculoos cookies, crumbled + some extra for decoration
6 (25 g) small meringues*, crumbled + some extra for decoration
3 or 4 marrons glacés for decoration, if you can get some
I prefer to use silicone moulds for this recipe, as you don´t need to line them and unmoulding is very easy. If you don´t have silicone moulds, line one or more recipients with cling film. Set aside.
Whisk cream (it should be well chilled) with 30 g sugar and a pinch of salt until stiff. For best results, I always keep the cream in the refrigerator until I want to whisk it and also chill the bowl for a few minutes.
Once the cream is whipped, refrigerate again.
Over a bain marie, whisk eggs and yolks with the remaining sugar until pale and fluffy.
Gently fold in the chestnut purée into the whipped cream.
Now fold in the cream & chestnut mixture into the whisked eggs.
Gently fold in crumbled meringues and speculoos cookies.
Fill mixture into the prepared mould(s).
Freeze until firm, counting 6-8 hours for one large dish, 3- 4 hours for a dish with half of the mixture, and 1.5- 2 hours for small individual servings.
To serve, sprinkle with more crumbled speculoos cookies, meringues and/or chopped candied chestnuts.
* You can buy them in most bakeries, or if you want to make them yourself: 2 egg whites at ambient temperature whisked together with 100 g confectioner´s sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp cornstarch and a few drops vanilla essence. Add sugar spoon by spoon until you have a very stiff, glossy, silky meringue mixture. Spoon or pipe about 25 small meringues onto a parchment paper lined baking tray and bake/dry 1 hour at 120°C. Keep in the oven for 1 more hour with the door closed. Then leave to cool completely on a wire rack.