feast magazine, december 2013: marrons glace chocolate cups.

marrons glace chocolate cups for Feast Magazine.

It’s December! Can you believe it? Neither can I, and we’ve got tons to do with getting holiday gifts together, trimming trees, and all the other things which go along with this time of year. The December 2013 Feast Magazine is out, and in it, I make a recipe with something I’ve never heard of prior to this assignment: the marron glacé.

marrons glace chocolate cups for Feast Magazine.

Frenchies, you know this one. Truly, it seems the whole of Europe and Australia is quite familiar with them as well, but they’re not as popular here in the States. They’re simply a chestnut, candied over several days’ time in a vanilla-infused syrup in order to produce a sticky, sweet little orb of holiday cheer. If you’ve never had it, does that sound weird? it really isn’t: the flavors are pretty straightforward, but they do take some getting used to. It’s gooey but not in a gel-ish way, and they retain the nuttiness of the chestnut rather well, considering the lengthy soak time. Eventually they’re dried in an oven, packaged up in fancy wrapping, and sold for an exorbitant amount: most go for between $4-$5 a piece. Ridiculous? Slightly, in my opinion.

But I have no sentimental attachment to them: I can definitely see how eating marrons glacé as children during the holidays would cause some to form a forever-long bond with them. They’re delicious in a very specific, confection-y way, and their tackiness (and I mean that in a textural way) can be off-putting at first, but they grow on you rapidly. Since they are a treat in and of themselves, I had to figure out a way to showcase them in something without overshadowing them with other ingredients.

marrons glace chocolate cups for Feast Magazine.

Since the holidays are a time of giving (and usually giving to a laundry list of people), and because marrons glace are pricey, I made something which lets you give the gift of fancy euro-treat without draining your bank account. It’s a twist on the very American peanut butter cup or cherry cordial: a chocolate cup with a quartered marron glacé in the center. And it’s not just chocolate surrounding that little chestnut, either: I toasted up some hazelnuts and threw them inside, and spiced the entire thing with a whiff of cinnamon, giving the whole thing that “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” kitsch.

marrons glace chocolate cups for Feast Magazine.

You can substitute here as you wish: if you don’t want to mess with hazelnuts (and there is always the pesky skin removal with those), toasted almonds are wonderful as well, and give them a slightly lighter flavor. Do, as always when you’re making a predominantly chocolate treat, use good-quality chocolate here, for flavor and also for ease of use. If you’re wondering, these are just made in a mini-muffin pan: no fancy equipment required.

marrons glace chocolate cups for Feast Magazine.

Marron glacé, at least where I am, are difficult to find, if not impossible. I ordered mine from Amazon, and although there are many very costly, fancy-wrapped options, you don’t need those for this. I ordered this canned variety, which worked wonderfully and were probably half the cost of the foil-wrapped sort. You get around a dozen per can, which would yield around 48 of these candies. To prepare them, simply open them and set them out on paper towels to get the excess syrup (they’re packed in vanilla syrup to retain some moisture) off, then use them as they are.

marrons glace chocolate cups for Feast Magazine.

And look! Insta-gifts. Super easy to make, and they travel well. I took this batch to the fine women of Feast, because I thought it would be nice to do a little “taste-and-read” for once.

“Shannon,” you say, “I can’t believe you didn’t try to make the marron glacé on your own from fresh chestnuts! That’s so unlike you!” You are right: that is so unlike me.

I did try to make them, after this assignment was safely turned in.

marrons glace chocolate cups for Feast Magazine.

I failed, and I failed big.

marrons glace chocolate cups for Feast Magazine.

As it turns out, these things are the very definition of “labor-intensive.” It seemed manageable, and I even found some really large, seemingly perfect chestnuts for the task. I got through the scoring the shell for “easy peeling,” and the boiling of them for a few minutes to soften the skin and the shell. After that? Terrordome. I almost lost a finger, and I’m fairly certain I still have bits of chestnut shells lodged under my nails. It’s un-fun, to put it mildly. Rest assured, I’m going to find the best way to do this, and I’ll share it with you when I do, but it wasn’t happening before the magazine came out. I value my life, and my hands, far too much. As far as I’m concerned, order them: it’s worth every penny you spend. Because what a pain in the tuckas.

So that’s the article! And while you’re over on Feast’s website, check out some of the other things featured this month. There’s a whole course on donut-making with some really spectacular recipes to go along with, The story of a beloved pop-up master’s new Southern food-focused restaurant (which I am dying to visit), and a comprehensive guide on making hard candy at home: something I need to work on this year, because I semi-suck at it. Lots of great things this month, friends: go dig in to this month’s issue right now.

And my little recipe for marrons glacé chocolate cups can be found right here. In the article, I tell you a little bit more about what they are and how to use them. Enjoy! I’m very proud to say that glorious photo of them for the article was taken “on location,” as it were, meaning, it was at my house. I’m a total photo geek, so it’s always a great time to watch professional food photography in action.

PS: A big thank you to all the Just One Project participants who answered the most recent question; I know the holidays mean everything gets back-burnered, but I have lots of responses to sift through, and I’m excited to see what you wrote. That’s up next, along with the next question to ponder.

Until then, chocolate cups.

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33 Comments on "feast magazine, december 2013: marrons glace chocolate cups."

  1. Deb says:

    I applaud your endeavor! I just roasted and skinned a batch of hazelnuts for holiday baking but haven’t tackled chestnuts. With such a luscious description I imagine a very tasty holiday treat for the lucky recipients!

    • shannon says:

      thanks, Deb! I’ll say this: i used to think hazelnut roasting/skinning was a hassle until i met chestnuts. NOW, not so much. :) it’s a fun treat, for sure.

  2. I, too, have never heard of them until JUST RIGHT NOW! And please don’t lose a finger, we need those fingers for delicious treats and intriguing words.

    Now to the Feast article, because I MUST READ IT RIGHT NOW.

    • shannon says:

      i’m not gonna lie; i almost lost a finger. thank GOODNESS my quitter tendency kicked in before i actually lost one. :)

      that’s the thing about these posts: i don’t like to repeat myself, but all the good info on chestnuts is in the article itself. READ AWAY!

  3. Ha! Sometimes shortcuts are necessary and well worth it. I too have tried the old score, roast and peel chestnut and after that experience I am that much more appreciative of the roasted & peeled chestnuts in a bag! I will be on the lookout for the marron glace so that I can try this recipe!

  4. Marron glacé (and desserts made with them) are also really popular in Japan!

    Genius, genius idea to put them into chocolate cups with hazelnuts.

    (I also find peeling roasted chestnuts to be “un-fun, to put it mildly” or… torturous, but luckily my fiancée Paula is weird and loves peeling them! I think she’s totally crazy because it’s frustrating and really hurts my fingers to peel them, but she thinks it’s satisfying, so now that’s become her job every year for our chestnut stuffing.)

    • shannon says:

      I have heard this about Japan! i’ve noticed several very popular desserts in Japan use chestnuts and/or marron glace, which is interesting. I’m happy you like my little chocolate cups, Allison.

      SO unfun! Tell Paula if i fail again, i’m sending her some to peel for me and send back. ;) Although i can see how it would be satisfying work: if my fingers were more up to the task, i would have liked the process, but it hurt SO MUCH after while; one too many punctures with sharp shell.

  5. I haven’t had marrons glace in years. Really good stuff – looks like a super recipe for these chocolate cups. Preparing chestnuts really can be a pain, can’t it? I actually thought about doing it this year, but then put a cold compress on my head and took a nap. Good, but not worth the effort, IMO. Although I’m sure eventually I’ll decide to do it just because. Fun post – thanks.

    • shannon says:

      SUCH a pain, John…such a pain. in a very literal way, in my case. :) I could have used the cold compress and a nap instead of the torture my fingers endured, but i’m going to keep trying to get the homemade marrons right, quite possibly WITHOUT losing fingers.
      we all love a challenge, don’t we? we do.

  6. Emma says:

    You make me want to try out this chestnut shenanigans! Also, I love your festive logo! So much festive! Yayaya! I love Christmas!

    !!!

    How many exclamations can fit in one comment before there are too many!?!

    • shannon says:

      this one would be RIGHT up your alley, Emma. and thank you! you know, i had this logo up the first year i was at this, but i had um, let’s see….ZERO readers at the time. Last year i think i forgot, but this year, bring on the kitsch. AND the blog snow. I LOVE CHRISTMAS TOO!!!! *virtual hugging and jumping up and down*

      SO MANY EXCLAMATIONS. ALSO CAPS. EXCLAMATION CAPS!!!!!!!!!!

  7. You are right Shannon-this is one food I haven’t had and always wondered about. I do adore nuts and chocolate though, so may have to consider this! And as far as being a pain in the tuckas-my dad used to tell me that I was…quite often in his! I do recall seeing something about microwaving chestnuts to make it easier to shell them, but why that is lodged in my brain, I do not know!

    • shannon says:

      I promise you, Abbe, these are pretty awesome. And i like that they work with other nuts too, aside from the hazelnuts, because i know not everyone loves them. I like almonds for this, or even macadamia nuts; i think they would both work great as alternatives!
      ha! we got the “tuckas” comments lots of times when we were little, also. I’m going to check out this whole microwaving the chestnuts thing: Sarah mentioned that in her comment also, and i’ve never heard that, but it sounds like a better/easier alternative to what i was trying. it’s a work in progress, and i hope i figure it out.

  8. Monica says:

    I just love the “snow” going on here! : ) As a huge chestnut-lover, I adore your project and this chocolate cups recipe. Marrons glace are so hard to come by and so insanely expensive that I haven’t had nearly enough of them. I love eating chestnuts and all kinds of chestnut desserts. I tried roasting them once and it was a disaster so I boil mine to eat and use the jarred, prepped variety. I am eating my weight in chestnuts right now, in fact… Happy Holidays, Shannon!

    • shannon says:

      yay for snow on the blog! that’s a big hit, it seems. :) this is what i was talking about when i told you i had a surprise for you: voila! they are NOT easy to find, for sure: i looked everywhere before i finally ordered them, so i’d love to find a way to diy them with fresh ones (working on it!).
      you’re my chestnut idol, monica. who just eats them all the time for no reason? YOU DO, and i love that.

  9. I think coating things in chocolate is always a good choice, and pairing said item with hazelnut is a win. Your tags are so cute. Where did you get them?

  10. Brianne says:

    IS IT SNOWING ON YOUR WEBSITE?!?! Oh my gosh, I can’t even contain my glee, mostly because there is NO SNOW on the coast yet and they are getting like TWO FEET at home. Rant over :)

    These marrons glace sound delicious! I’ve never played with chestnuts. I tried to make a cake with chestnut flour once, and it was a big fail. Messing with raw chestnuts sounds like the most ultimate culinary battle ever. Give a raw chestnut to an Iron Chef and watch him/her cry. The jarred guys are where it’s at, I think. Could you candy the jarred ones to get a similar treat?

    • shannon says:

      IT IS! I was going to be all “OMG WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!” about it, but yes; i did that. it is snowing over here. I can’t believe you don’t have snow up there yet! what good is living north of me if you can’t get snow really early? *sigh*

      they are pretty good: it’s one of those things that you say “oh, they’re okay!” and then you eat six more and you’re all “hhhmmm, yes, they ARE good.” And raw chestnuts? yeah…i sort of hate them right now b/c they injured me. i wanted to/did cry.
      it’s funny you asked, brianne: because the first thing i did AFTER i was maimed by raw chestnut shells was to buy the vacuum-packed, cooked sort and see if i could diy myself a marron glace with them. Experiment = failed…so far. I can get the flavor of the syrup correct, but the pre-cooked kind are generally smaller, of lesser quality, and something about them made the syrup just sit there versus absorbing into the chestnut like it was supposed to. i think if you could find peeled, UNCOOKED chestnuts, it would work. OR if you could find a magic way to peel them without doing harm. i’m now officially on a mission to get it right, so i’ll let you know/post the recipe if i DO crack the…erm…nut. ;)

  11. I have never had a chestnut. But now I want to try one. Especially a candied one. I read about them on David Lebovitz’s blog just a couple of weeks ago. I am intrigued by the idea, but not so much by the price. ;)

    I did see something about microwaving chestnuts in a Melissa Clark cookbook. Here is a link to her method (or rather her dad’s). The chestnut directions are in the note at the bottom of the recipe. http://www.melissaclark.net/blog/2009/11/no-more-tears-traditional-stuffing-is-here.html I have never tried it, but I just might now. And I might try candying some. Unless you get to it first and work out all the kinks. :) Now to buy some chestnuts….

    Love the snow!

    • shannon says:

      Sarah, it’s safe to say that NO ONE is intrigued by the price of candied chestnuts. :) I’m going to have to read through that melissa clark micro technique: the thing with chestnuts is that there’s the shell and then the skin. the shell? easy peasy. the skin? like trying to scrape off super glue, but in my research, everyone says the trick to that is heat. I MUST FIGURE THIS OUT NOW.

      Thanks! i keep seeing it on blogs and i finally figured out how to make it snow over here. it’s peaceful. i sort of wish it would “pile up” on the bottom. :)

  12. elizabeth says:

    Chestnuts have always fascinated me, and now that they are usually readily available at my Fairway, I’ve been tempted to get them but have no idea what I’d do with them. I’d like to think that I could make these, but the times I’ve worked with chocolate have been seldom at best. Maybe next year I’ll spirit some down at Thanksgiving and convince my MIL to try this recipe, as she is the mistress chocolatiere in our family.

    • shannon says:

      same here, Elizabeth! I’ve seen them on and off again (our stores typically have them from november through january), but they’re not a “nut” in the way that most nuts are nuts, i suppose. I’ve seen stuffings using them, mainly, but we don’t use them as much here as they do in Europe, i think.
      I promise, these aren’t difficult in terms of the chocolate: a simple melt, stir, and pour, but i understand that there are those of us who chocolate, and those of us who are apprehensive. :) i’m going to try to figure out how to take raw chestnuts and actually MAKE these marron glace to THEN make the chocolate cups sometime this year, but until then, if you attempt these, buy the jarred sort. :) easier.

  13. Ashley says:

    While I have heard of marron glace, I must admit I’ve never tried one. I’m entirely certain I’d fall head over heels for your version – a dark chocolate cup with cinnamon and hazelnuts and a gorgeously textured marron glace….. what’s not to love? Especially if it comes in that chic box with your APT card!

  14. I’ve never had these. AND I’M PRACTICALLY FRENCH. (Because my brother and his family live in France.) I believe I will be needing some of these.

    Maybe I’ll tell the Frenchies to make ‘em for me when they arrive for the holidays…

    • shannon says:

      WHAT.
      when i said “frenchies” i was actually referring, in part, to my Neighbors to the North i.e. YOU. i’m utterly surprised by this. I need to know if your Frenchies have had them, if they like them, and how easily they can get them. please. if they have any secrets regarding DIY chestnut-candying, like things the French have yet to divulge to the Americans (because i’m sure there are tons of things that fall into that category), i would please like to know that also.

  15. I love your holiday blog logo!!! So festive :) Gosh, I seriously can’t believe it’s December. Craziness, I tell you! Where are these days going?? I’ve never had a marron glacé but I know I’d love them since I adore chestnuts. These are such beautiful and tasty little treats! Can’t wait to click on over to the article.And I’m so glad you didn’t lose a finger! Some things are best left store-bought ;)
    P.S. I thought of you last night because I went to the pop-up Christmas shops in Union Square and they had a Momofuku stall with their Blueberries and Cream cookies, among others.

    • shannon says:

      Amy, you and me both: i can’t believe it’s December either. i have done like, 2% of my christmas shopping, and i have no idea what else to get anyone. the days are FLYING by, for real.
      so many people love chestnuts, it seems! they weren’t part of our family repertoire, i guess, so i’m just getting to know them now. You know i hate being defeated by something, even if it injures me, so i do plan to try again…after healing. :)

      you have ALL the fun in NY at christmas, don’t you! macy’s parade arial views, rock center tree lighting instagrams, pop-up shops in union square…all of it. when i come to visit, i’m doing it in december, for sure. :) that sounds so fun.

  16. Wendy says:

    I love your Feast columns, Shannon because 1. Your writing always makes me smile. 2. The recipes always look delicious 3. You introduce me to ingredients I have either never heard of or never cooked with. Marrons glace are something knew nothing about until your article and was surprised to notice them at World Market this week! I have no idea if World Market stocks them year round or possibly only for Christmas. These chocolate cups make an elegant homemade gift!
    p.s. I am glad I read through the comments where everyone but me noticed your logo festively decorated for Christmas! How cute!

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