I love these morsels ever since I bought one to have from a small paticerria in Sienna while on my honeymoon. It was coated with a candied, almost caramel-like layer giving way to a soft center while still maintaining the beautiful flavours we associate with chestnuts.
Since that day, I have always thought about making my very own. Thankfully, I manged to get my hands on a kilo of plump chestnuts of the Italian variety and I automatically thought of making these.
Making your own marron glacés isn’t quite the walk in the park – it takes four days from the start to the finish. While that sounds daunting, it actually involves a lot of resting time and more patience than hard work.
I made two batches with the kilo of chestnuts that I have. You see, the first batch had unfortunately broken down to many small piece as I was too careless in the peeling and was stirring the chestnuts way too much till they crumble. But they tasted great and were well-candied.
The second batch fared a lot better and I’ve learnt not to treat these chestnuts with the utmost care and attention and at the same time, not to be too overzealous with the stirring.
So I’m proud to say that after eight days of tempting everyone by the amazing smells of chestnuts cooking in a vanilla syrup, I now have a whole tupperware of candied chestnuts to go around. Thankfully!
It was hard to keep prying hands away from my pot for the whole week because the smell of chestnuts cooking is undeniably one of the best in the world.
I referred to Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella’s post and recipe as a guide to making these candied chestnuts.
500g whole chestnuts (best to use large, plump chestnuts)
370g granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tbsp glucose, optional
1. Use a small paring knife to score the flat base of the chestnut with an ‘X’ before boiling them. You need to score it quite deeply through the skin and membrane. This makes it easier to peel of the skin and hairy membrane.
2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Once it reaches boiling point, place the whole chestnuts in for about 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes.
3. While the chestnuts are still hot, use a wire mesh to remove one of the chestnuts and start to peel off both the skin and membrane layer. Then repeat for the rest of the chestnuts, leaving the rest of them in the hot water while you work. This step is easier while the chestnuts are hot. Work slowly and carefully and try not to break the chestnut. You can use a toothpick to remove the bits of skin that are stuck in between the grooves of the chestnuts.
4. Place the water, sugar and scrapped seeds of the vanilla, as well as the vanilla pod into pot (big enough to hold all the chestnuts and liquid) and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally to make sure that the sugar is dissolved.
5. Place all the peeled chestnuts into the pot, placing the bigger ones at the bottom and then whatever bits and pieces you have at the top. Do ensure that the sugar syrup covers the chestnuts completely.
6. Bring the pot to a boil once again, then turn down the flame to a low simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes. Swirling the pot every now and then. It is best not to stir the chestnuts too much.
6. Turn off the heat and allow the pot of chestnuts to cool back to room temperature while still on the stove.
7. Repeat this step over the next four days, twice per day, swirling the chestnuts to ensure they do not stick to the bottom but avoid stirring it too much. Add in the tbsp of glucose if you notice that some crystallization has begun at the sides of the pot before reheating on the second day.
8. The syrup should thicken over the days. The chestnuts should look glossy, almost translucent when lifted up in the direction of light. You can test a small piece of chestnut to check on its doneness on the fourth day. You may need to repeat the step for one or two more times if it is still not ready.
9. When your chestnuts are done, allow them to cool completely in the syrup before lifting them up carefully and placing them on a cooling rack over a parchment- lined tray for the excess syrup to drain off.
10. Place the candied chestnuts onto small muffin cups and store them in an air-tight container in the fridge. The small bit sized pieces can be used in desserts like in ice-cream, parfaits, or to be topped on top of your breakfast yogurt. I’ve also kept the remaining “chestnut syrup” to go along with my waffles.