January 3rd, 2011

Bitter Chocolate and Rendelsham Forest Chestnut Truffle Cake

As soon as the first chestnuts appeared nearby here in Rendelsham Forest my brain clicked into overdrive, and the chestnut recipes and ideas started to flow and take over.

I was working on this recipe for a while and it took couple of attempts before I was entirely happy with the result and the way this cake turned out. I was looking for texture and a taste explosion and finally I’m happy with the way it turned out.

I was inspired to redevelop this recipe as I used to make a cake not dissimilar to this one when I worked in a delicatessen many years ago in London. As I moved home several times the original recipe was inevitably misplaced, and I had to start from scratch trying to redevelop this memory of a recipe I had from years ago. I’m pleased with the result as this recipe is a great success; it’s almost a fine replica of those wonderful memories of that long-lost recipe, with the addition of fresh chestnuts.

The second part of the inspiration for this recipe is the fond memory I have of smells on Oxford Street at this time of the year. The only fond memory, I should emphasise! Walking down bustling Oxford street during the winter you can always smell the wonderful sweet aroma of caramelised chestnuts. I remember the smell as if it’s here right now – it used to smell even better when I was really hungry!

Finding chestnuts in the forest is a great fun family activity, it gives you something to do and in our case it’s free food, which we like. The trick is to get there before other people, and most importantly before the deers and squirrels get there too - apart from the fact that they actually live there, so ultimately it’s a matter of whom has the most stamina I guess…!

When the chestnuts were plentiful on a Sunday afternoon when Maria was visiting, we would drive to gate 26 with our basket in hand collecting the chestnuts from the forest floor. Every time we used to go home grumbling about the chestnuts spiking our fingers, as we always forgot to take our gloves. With or without the gloves we managed to fill the basket to the brim, it’s a great afternoon out and not only do you have something to show for it but it’s a great team building activity.

These are a few of my other favourite recipes using chestnuts:

Bitter Chocolate and Chestnut Cake Base

  • 225g 70% bitter chocolate
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 5 free-range eggs, separated
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 125g fresh peeled and roasted chestnuts
  • 100ml dark rum

Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a 28cm x 18cm x 4cm rectangular cake frame with parchment paper. In a small saucepan bring the rum and fresh peeled and roasted chestnuts to the simmer; remove from the heat and leave to soak for 10 minutes.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Whilst the chocolate is melting separate the eggs, whisk the whites with the sugar until a soft peak meringue.

Once the chocolate is melted remove from the heat and stir the soaked chestnuts, rum and egg yolks into the melted chocolate. Fold the ground almonds and whipped egg whites into the mixture.

Spoon the cake mixture into the lined metal ring. Bake the cake for 20 – 22 minutes in the pre-heated oven. Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool completely, using the back of a spoon to press the cake down. Make the mousse part.

Bitter Chocolate and Chestnut Mousse

  • 225g 70% bitter chocolate
  • 175g unsweetened chestnut purée
  • 4 whole free-range eggs, separated
  • 60ml dark rum
  • 200g double cream
  • 2 leaves of gelatine
  • 50g caster sugar

Weigh the chestnut puree and rum into the bowl of a thermomix, set the timer for 6 minutes at 80°C, speed 4. Once heated turn the speed dial to 10 for 20 seconds to smoothen the puree, add the chocolate and stir to melt. Add the egg yolks and blend till smooth.

Whip the egg whites with the sugar till soft peaks can be formed, and whip the cream till a soft ribbon stage. Fold the whipped egg whites and cream into the chocolate mixture.

Spread the mousse over the cake, level out and refrigerate until set completely before glazing the cake with the glaze. This normally takes 6 hours.

Bitter Chocolate Glaze

  • 100ml cold water
  • 100ml double cream
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 40g bitter cocoa powder
  • 2 leaves of gelatine

Soak the gelatine in cold water. In a small saucepan bring the water, cream and sugar to the boil, remove from the heat and add the drained soaked gelatine leaves, stir to dissolve, sift in the cocoa powder and mix well, pass the glaze through a fine sieve and leave to cool to 18°C before pouring the glaze over the set mouse.

Candied Chestnuts

  • 250g fresh peeled and roasted chestnuts
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1tsp unsalted butter

Cut the fresh roasted peeled chestnuts into quarters. Heat a medium non-stick saucepan with the sugar, butter and chestnuts, let the sugar start to dissolve and stir continuously to cause crystallisation whilst the sugar turns to caramel. Boil until a dark caramel colour, pour the candied crystallised chestnuts out onto a lined baking tray. Leave to set and cool. Chop the candied chestnuts into smaller pieces for serving.

To Serve

With a warm sharp long bladed knife cut the cake into 2cm wide slices. Place one slice on a serving plate garnished with chocolate sauce, spoon the candied chestnuts over the top and sprinkle chocolate cookie dust as garnish over the cake.

Serve 10 - 12 slices of cake

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10 Comments to “Bitter Chocolate and Rendelsham Forest Chestnut Truffle Cake”

  1. Madalene says:

    Dear Didi,
    Add the dissolved gelatine with the egg yolks into the melted chocolate and whip the sugar with the egg whites.
    happy cooking

  2. DiDi says:

    Do you use the gelatin and 50g sugar in the mousse? If so, when and how do you add those in?

  3. KittyM says:

    Wow this looks amazing – we are off to live in the Midi Pyrenees in four weeks – lots of chestnut forests so some great inspiration for me – thanks for sharing!

  4. Madalene says:

    HI Leon,

    your right, I’ve been a bit silly! I hav now updated the recipe.
    Happy cooking and thanks for spotting my error.

  5. Leo says:

    Lovely recipe but you don’t say when to add the ground almonds when making the base or to add the gelatine when making the mousse. I also had to double the gelatine quantity for the glaze as i could not get it to set. Other than that though this has turned out brilliantly.

  6. Amanda says:

    Did you know that I consider the words “bitter chocolate” to be just about my favourite 2 words to be in the title of anything!?
    This looks truly stunning!

  7. Chestnuts are a rare treat in the Pacific Northwest, but I’ve planted several trees and crossed my fingers that one day soon, I can make this recipe with my own crop of Castenea Dentata. Thanks!

  8. Hendrik says:

    Looks and sound great, although I have to say I’ve never had chestnuts before.

  9. Looks amazing and I love the whole chestnuts lingering at the bottom of the cake

  10. I don’t usually make desserts with this many stages (prefer to leave it to professionals like yourselves) but this looks so gorgeous that I will have to attempt it. Would it be sacrilage to use vac-packed chestnuts (all that is available in the Middle East)?

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