Pear and Chestnut Charlotte

 

Chestnut flavoured desserts are much more common in France, in fact it was after having a divine chestnut mousse at a restaurant that I was inspired to start using the ingredient. The problem however is finding the chestnut puree in South London, I’ve only come across it once in a supermarket near me and I guess it wasn’t popular as I haven’t seen it since – I’ll be stocking up on my next trip to France.

In terms of flavour chestnut is very versatile and pairs well in both savory and sweet dishes. My favourite sweet pairings are with ingredients such as apple, pear, chocolate, maple, vanilla, caramel, coffee etc. For this Charlotte cake I decided to do two layers of sponge, a chestnut mousse, a pear mousse and decorate with mini meringues, caramelised hazelnuts and some (failed) spun sugar.

Chestnut and Pear Charlotte Gateau
Makes: Roughly 8″ round cake
Time: 3hrs+ lots of chilling time

This recipe will require the following elements:

  • 1 packet of sponge ladyfingers
  • 2 layers of génoise sponge
  • Simple Syrup
  • Pear mousse
  • Chestnut mousse
  • To decorate: carmelised hazelnuts, mini-meringues, spun sugar or you could do something simpler with white chocolate and sliced pears.

Génoise Sponge

  • 300g whole eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • 125g unsalted butter melted

Preheat the oven to 190°C and line 2 30 x 40cm flat baking trays/sheets with non-stick baking paper.

Make a Sabayon by putting the eggs and sugar in a clean bowl and whisking the mix over a bain-marie to 37°C. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and continue to whisk until it reaches the ribbon stage (Lift the whisk and the mix should fall back on itself and a trail will be left across the surface that should hold shape for a moment, before sinking back into the mix).

Carefully fold the sifted flour into the Sabayon using a spatula. When it is around three quarters folded through take 2 large scoops of the Sabayon and mix it into the melted butter. Then add the butter mix into the Sabayon and fold through until fully incorporated. Pour the mix onto the lined baking sheets, spreading evenly with a palette knife and bake in a pre-heated oven for 12-15 mins. You’ll know when they are done as they’ll be golden brown and spring back when pressed gently.  Leave to cool and then use immediately or freeze for up to a month.

Simple Syrup

  • 62ml water
  • 47g caster sugar
  • 1/2 peel of lemon zest
  • 1/4 vanilla pod split lengthways

Put water, caster sugar, lemon peel, seeds from the vanilla pod and the pod into a sauce pan and bring to the boil. Cook for 2-3 mins, take off the heat and leave to cool. This should make 100ml of simple syrup of which you will need to set aside 50ml for the glaze.

Chestnut mousse

  • 100g of pureed chestnut
  • 110ml whipping cream
  • 1 leaf of gelatine
  • 55g white chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp caster sugar

Whip the mascarpone, whipping cream and 2 Tbsp of sugar until firm and place in fridge until needed. Soak the gelatine a bowl of cold water for 3-4 mins until it has softened.

In a bain marie (glass bowl over saucepan) melt the white chocolate with the chestnut puree (do not boil the mix). When the mix is fully incorporated and silky smooth, squeeze out any excess water from the gelatin and mix it in with a balloon whisk.  Take off the heat and leave to cool.  When the mix has fully cooled fold in the the mascarpone/cream mix and place in the fridge until required.

Pear mousse

  • 2.5 leaves of gelatine

  • 250g of blended pear

  • 125g of diced pear

  • 15g egg white

  • 150ml water

  • 50g caster sugar

  • 35g de crème

  • 65g de mascarpone

Soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for 3-4 minutes it has softened.  In a saucepan bring the water and 15g sugar to the boil and poach the diced pear for 10mins. Next lower the heat and add the blended pear and gelatine (squeeze out the water first) and stir with a balloon whisk until fully incorporated and silky smooth. Place the mix into a cold bowl and leave it to come to room temperature.

Prepare an Italian meringue: Boil 35g sugar with 10ml water to make a syrup.  Whip the egg whites to firm peaks and pour the syrup in slowly, whisking on high speed until fully incorporated and the mix has cooled.  Fold in the mascarpone/cream mix gently and place in fridge until ready to assemble.

Decorations:

Try any combo of these for a scrumptious topping:

To assemble:

  • Cut an 7″ round in each sponge to make 2 rounds.
  • Place on a cake board and put an extendable cake ring around it to act as the sides (alternatively you could use a larger loose bottomed baking tin instead).
  • Take the first round of sponge and moisten with the simple syrup .
  • Cut 2cm off the bottom of each sponge finger and line the tin with them (sugar side facing out). There should be just enough space for the fingers to fit between the sponge and the wall of the tin and they should be tightly packed. You may need to cut the sponge down a little to get the right size if using a set sized tin.
  • Spread chestnut mousse over the sponge using a palette knife to get an even layer.
  • Place second sponge on top, pressing down gently from middle out to ensure no air pockets.
  • Moisten sponge with simple syrup.
  • Spread pear mousse over the sponge using a palette knife to get an even later.
  • Cover in Clingfilm and place in fridge for minimum 2 hours before serving.
  • Decorate before serving
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