Monday February 28, 2011

Mont Blog Mont Blanc with a twist

Following my love letter to chestnuts on Tuesday, which ended with a public guilt trip aimed at squeezing more marron photography from Rosco, I had to put up or shut up. Wednesday he dropped by the restaurant, camera in hand, ready to photograph Mont Blanc.

Rosco hadn’t heard of the mountain or the dessert, but that hardly comes as a surprise. Mont Blanc gets no recognition here in the States. Sure, it dates back to the 17th century, but nevertheless remains virtually unknown outside of France… and Japan. Long story.

I went to one of the best culinary schools in the world, specializing in baking and pastry arts, but I’d never heard of Mont Blanc (or モンブラン, monburan, as they say in Japanese) until I moved to Tokyo. There, it enjoys wild popularity and has a place on any pastry menu worth its salt sugar.

caramel mont blanc

You’d recognize it anywhere. The presentation never changes. It always stands as a tall, wild tangle of thin chestnut strands, piled high like the eponymous Mont Blanc, sometimes capped in snow-like powdered sugar. Generally a simple affair of pureed chestnuts and whipped cream with, perhaps, a meringue tucked inside to lend some substance. It only has visual complexity, the dessert itself? One note: soft, sweet, chestnut.

Without question, my favorite dessert.

It embodies everything I think a restaurant or pastry-shop dessert should. A special indulgence that you’d unlikely whip up for yourself; sophisticated, fun, and well worth the cost.

chestnut mont blanc

Even so, I didn’t have the courage to put it on the dessert menu at work. I don’t just have to make dessert, I have to sell dessert; often to people who’ve suffered from decades of near criminal pastry-negligence in Lexington, where most restaurants relegate dessert to something pulled straight off the Sysco truck and barely thawed in time for service. Here, people here have good reason to skip dessert.

So the Mont Blanc, a dessert no one’s ever heard of, focused on a single flavor most people don’t care about, with an appearance more pasta than pastry embodies the very idea of a tough sell.

My desire to to proselytize the wonders of the Mont Blanc notwithstanding, I needed to make sure it actually sold. So I did what any American would. I sweetened the deal with chocolate and caramel.

mont blanc cross section

A chocolate brushed chocolate tart shell filled with chocolate pastry cream seemed like a good start. A roasted chestnut nestled in the center, hidden under of a mound of salted caramel whipped cream and then draped in a hundred million threads of chestnut cream. The caramelized chestnut perched on top dares you not to swoon.

Have I done the unthinkable, bastardizing a classic pastry for my own evil purposes? Or does this variation fall within the acceptable usage guidelines for pastry?

Here’s my Chocolate Caramel Mont Blanc Recipe if you’d like to join me in corrupting this French pastry to American sensibilities.

posted byStellaand filed under:  Chocolate  Sideshow Photos  Tarts

50 comments and counting

Feb 28, 2011 ·  4:01 PM

You’re right! Never seen one or heard of it, but it sure is pretty! Sounds pretty tasty too!

 · Christina ·

Feb 28, 2011 ·  4:24 PM

You dared us but I’m still swooning. I also love this dessert and I’m so surprised to read that in the US it’s not well known – yet. My favourite part is all the sweet chestnut threads. What you’ve done with the added chocolate and salted caramel in there is just so tempting & stunning. Vive la variation bravetart!

 · Jill Colonna ·

Feb 28, 2011 ·  5:31 PM

So enjoyable to find a new treasure…and this tart is definitely that!

 · Liz · http://www.thatskinnychickcanbake.blogspot.comw

Feb 28, 2011 ·  6:16 PM

very nice presentation and interpretation – impressed! By the way, this is a very popular dessert also in the German-speaking part of Switzerland – called Vermicelles

 · Jack ·

Feb 28, 2011 ·  7:30 PM

You have made Adam so happy! When he lived in Italy he lived on what they called Monte Bianco Italian for the same. Of all the things he misses from his life there I think he misses this the most. Great recipe, Thanks!

 · Cheryl and Adam ·

Feb 28, 2011 · 11:07 PM

I know it’s a shame that they don’t know what Mont Blanc is here. I love it! I’ve never tried to make it myself though…thanks for the inspiration!

 · CaffeIna ·

Feb 28, 2011 · 11:13 PM

Both versions sound worthy of entry in the Dessert Hall of Great Fame. I love chestnuts and would like the non choc version better just because I’ll never get enough chestnut in this life – but I applaud your invention. Mont Almost Blanc?

 · Rona Roberts ·

Mar 01, 2011 ·  4:15 PM

I have actually heard of Mont Blanc believe it or not, and have heard of this dessert too! Looks so amazing, I love your presentation and the pictures!

 · The Farmers Wife ·

Mar 01, 2011 ·  6:53 PM

Looks like a pretty even between the never-had-it and I-love-it crowd. Glad to know this little pastry is working it harder than I thought.

@Jack, Vermicelles, huh? That's a lot more descriptive than naming a tan colored dessert "Blanc," if you ask me.

@ Cheryl and Adam, hurray! Okay, if Mont Blanc is one of the things you miss most from your time abroad, then you’re my kinda person.Love it!

@Rona, yup. Classic chestnut is still my favorite.


Mar 01, 2011 ·  7:18 PM

I had Mont Blanc at Angelina in Paris 7 years ago and have never seen it recreated. Your version is quite different than what I remember, but interesting and delicious looking, nonetheless. I think it is more of a compliment, rather than a bastardization to attempt to recreate it.
As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….

 · dinaavila ·

Mar 01, 2011 ·  7:36 PM

Oh, at Angelina?! I’m jealous! I have seen photos of their version, which is of course the original, and they are very different. More of a round profile?

I first saw one in Japan, and theirs seem, universally, to be more mountainous and triangular. So, funnily enough, I’m making an American imitation of a Japanese imitation of the French original. Talk about lost in translation…


Mar 01, 2011 ·  8:34 PM

Stella-your “lost in translation” comment makes me think of the Monty Python spoof on the DVD of Holy Grail where they have translated a scene into Japanese and then provide English subtitles of the literal “retranslation” on screen.
p.s. this looks DELICIOUS!

 · Carrie · 

Mar 02, 2011 ·  2:29 AM

gorgeous mount blanc. Your blog is such an inspiration especially this post. Congrats on top 9.

 · visda ·

Mar 02, 2011 ·  8:35 AM

Oh, I love this!!! Wondering why we don’t have more of this in the states! I think we should corrupt america with this tasty looking treat! Thanks for sharing

 · Lynn ·

Mar 02, 2011 · 12:32 PM

I love this. It’s so whimsical with the thin threads of chestnut cream…it almost looks like angel hair pasta. Very cool and so awesome!

 · Steph @ okie dokie artichokie ·

Mar 02, 2011 ·  1:28 PM

Adding chocolate and caramel is the next logical step – not bastardization! Sure wish somewhere around my ‘hood would make these.

 · Laura ·

Mar 02, 2011 ·  2:18 PM

That looks so good! Love the detail in your presentation & photography is obviously top notch too!

I am a new blogger & this inspires me! Thank you & congrats on making Top 9!

 · The Harried Cook ·

Mar 02, 2011 ·  5:31 PM

I think your bastardisation is absolutely allowed. Without a shadow of a doubt.

 · Holly B ·

Mar 02, 2011 ·  7:14 PM

Keep bastardising! This is amazing. And amazingly yummy looking.

 · Pudding Pie Lane ·

Mar 03, 2011 ·  8:35 AM

that looks and sounds amazing, I’m now very hungry!

 · Rhi ·

Mar 04, 2011 · 12:04 PM

So comforted to see that everyone’s okay with me corrupting innocent French pastries with cheap American flavor combos!

@Carrie, lol! I haven’t seen that one, I had to YouTube it. Thanks!

@Visda, what an incredibly sweet thing to say. Thank you so much!

@Laura, whew. Glad to know I wasn’t out in left field there. Pure logic.

Thanks for the kind words, everyone. I’ll pass the photo compliments onto Rosco!


Mar 04, 2011 ·  5:41 PM

Mont Blanc is one of my favorites!!!

 · Jessica ·

Mar 05, 2011 ·  6:50 AM

Ohmigosh I LOVE mont blancs! And yours are so pretty! Chocolate definitely works with chestnut but I think I prefer the original

 · amanda ·

Mar 05, 2011 ·  5:04 PM

I know in Japan they serve that a lot at the pastry shops when I was there and I savored every piece of it. I thought it was french since it has a french name, and originally it was supposed to be inverted, with the white chantilly on top to make it look like the mont blanc, or the white mountain. I guess people adapated it and changed it to inside out, and my french teacher has never heard of it. I wonder what is going on!!

 · Judy Zhu ·

Mar 05, 2011 ·  7:53 PM

Great work. So creative. I love the section shot too. Thanks.

 · Jessica ·

Mar 06, 2011 ·  5:43 AM

Yum! We have a Japanese Patisserie within biking distance of our house, and I love their MontBlanc cakes. I recently made some chocolate chestnut cupcakes as they also sell Bonne Maman chestnut puree. So, no need to add chocolate and caramel, although chocolate is a wonderful addition.

 · Zo ·

Mar 06, 2011 ·  2:02 PM

Zo, so jealous that you have a Japanese Patisserie so close. Lucky girl! I see from your blog that you’re in Christchurch; my husband and I spent a week in Auckland and a week just outside Chch for our honeymoon. Best decision we ever made, we’re in love with NZ now! Cheers.


Mar 06, 2011 ·  9:51 PM

Keep corrupting it’s a learning experience!

 · Sandra ·

Mar 15, 2011 ·  6:43 PM

I’m trying to make the Mont Blog but the chocolate pastry tart dough instructions are incomplete! What is the cooking time? in what temperature? Do i need to blind bake them?

 · 85238az · 

Mar 15, 2011 ·  7:00 PM

Thanks for pointing that out! I just updated the tart dough recipe with the finished instructions. Sorry for the trouble! If you’re on twitter, you can try asking me any questions there, I’m always on! Good luck with the Mont Blancs!


Mar 29, 2011 ·  5:12 PM

I just found your blog through thekitchn. I live in Chicago, and it feels tragic that I can’t come to your restaurant right now and get this dessert…because that’s what I want to do! I love chestnuts and usually do savory things with them (soup, tarts, stuffing). I don’t think I have the will to make the whole recipe myself. Hmmm.

 · Julie ·

Mar 29, 2011 · 11:11 PM

Let me know if you’re ever in the neighborhood! These would be a bit onerous to make just for yourself…But, I’d like to think they’re worth it. I love chestnut stuffing too!


Apr 01, 2011 ·  3:40 PM

Hmmm, in Central California restaurants and home hosts serve Sysco brownies topped with gummy ice cream dripping with caramel and chocolate flavored syrup – and garnished with canned whipping cream. Your post brings tears to my eyes. Kentucky is not that far away, is it?

 · HeraHere · 

Apr 01, 2011 ·  9:13 PM

Ugh, HeraHere, we have that kind of grossness here too! So, so gross. Nothing says indulgence like something from a spray nozzle, right? Glad you enjoyed the Mont Blanc. I bet if you headed south a little, you could find a cafe that sells them. I“ve had one or two in LA.


May 22, 2011 ·  2:42 PM

He publicado una foto de esta entrada y un enlace a tu blog en Mis Favoritas de esta semana… si quieres verlo está en Espero que te guste!

 · Salomé ·

May 22, 2011 ·  3:41 PM

Wowwwwwwwwwww… What a wonderful and lovely cupcake!!!!.

 · Laube ·

May 23, 2011 ·  9:38 PM

@Salomé, gracias!

@Laube, thank you. xoxo


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Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this prior to. So nice to locate somebody with some original thoughts on this topic. really thank you for beginning this up. this website is something that’s required on the internet, a person using a little originality. helpful job for bringing some thing new to the online!

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Nov 10, 2011 ·  8:02 PM

@Eyeweardaily, glad to brighten up your day a bit. Cheers!


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