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Chestnut-Chocolate Puree with Whipped Cream (Monte Bianco)

On the days when Milan's veil of gray miraculously dissolves, the eye is irresistibly drawn up to the perpetually white summit of Mont Blanc, gleaming like a frosty mirage in the northern sky. Monte Bianco, as the mountain is called in Italian, has this namesake dessert, which appears on Milanese tables in the fall.

slideshow Beautiful Desserts

  • Servings: 12

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  • 2 pounds fresh chestnuts
  • About 2 1/2 cups milk
  • Salt
  • 10 ounces imported semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 3 cups very cold heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


  1. Wash the chestnuts in cold water, then soak them in lukewarm water for 20 minutes to soften their shells. Using a sharp paring knife, make a shallow horizontal slash across the rounded side of each chestnut.
  2. Put the chestnuts in a medium saucepan and cover amply with water. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat; boil for 25 minutes. Scoop the chestnuts out of the hot water a few at a time and peel them while still very warm; make sure you remove both the outer shell and the wrinkled inner skin. (Don't worry about keeping the chestnuts whole; you'll be pureeing them later.)
  3. Put the peeled chestnuts in a clean saucepan with just enough milk to cover and a pinch of salt. Simmer steadily over moderate heat until all the milk has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
  4. Pass the chestnuts through the large holes of a food mill into a bowl. Stir in the melted chocolate and the rum. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
  5. Pass the chocolate chestnut puree through the food mill fitted with the same disk (or through a ricer), letting it drop onto a round serving platter. As the puree piles up, move the food mill so that you end up with a spiraled mound. Do not pat or shape it in any way.
  6. In a chilled bowl and using a chilled whisk, beat the heavy cream with the sugar until it holds its shape. Spoon half of the whipped cream onto the chestnut mound; it should reach about two-thirds of the way down and have a natural, "snowed-on" look. Serve the remaining whipped cream on the side.

Make Ahead

The chocolate chestnut puree can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. The assembled Monte Bianco can be refrigerated, uncovered, for up to 6 hours. Also refrigerate the remaining whipped cream.

Contributed By Published December 1995

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