A twist on Mont Blanc

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The original dessert Mont Blanc may be French in origin (though I’ve seen mention of it being created for the Borgias – really?) but for me it’s synonymous with Switzerland. I’m not sure there has been any dessert menu I’ve looked at in Switzerland that hasn’t included it, even away from the alpine cantons. When I’ve looked around to spy on what other diners have ordered and what the dishes look like, there has always been at least one person tucking into one. I think I tried my first one in the panoramic tourist restaurant on Mount Titlis.  I’ve been lucky enough to visit Switzerland a few times, as I have close family that moved near Aarau some years ago. Such a stunning place. Along with strong smelling fondue, rösti, butterzopf bread, brightly coloured hard boiled eggs, Rivella (a whey-based drink), cervelat sausages, co-operatively made schnapps and raclette grills this really does conjure up memories of Swiss food for me. Even if the real Mont Blanc is a little way along the Alps, over the border into Chamonix.

Traditional recipes for Mont Blanc use a sweetened chestnut cream, but although chestnuts are plentiful in the UK during autumn it can be difficult to source them throughout the rest of the year. So, I’ve stepped away from the chestnuts and the result is a very different version of the dessert and which could be perfect even in summer, especially if you serve it with fruits like strawberries, raspberries or figs.

My alternative recipe replaces the chestnut puree with a spiced biscuit cream, making it slightly more appropriate for warmer days and not just confined to the autumn months. The result is just as delicious, perhaps even more so if you never quite acquired a taste for chestnuts in desserts (like my children).

These are individual-sized Mont Blanc Pavlovas constructed on chocolate meringues, with a strawberry centre, chocolate ganache and a spiced biscuit cream (spiced biscuit spread mixed with cream).

Notes

biscuit spreadJars of ready-made biscuit spread from Biscoff can now be easily found in the jam and preserves section at most supermarkets, but you can make a close version yourself. I have prepared a separate recipe for a spiced biscuit spread which makes the right amount for this recipe.

Makes 6-7 mini Pavlovas

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Ingredients – meringues

  • 2 large egg whites (reserve the yolks for something else, like ice cream or custard)
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of a high quality milk hot chocolate powder (Swiss if possible)

Ingredients – chocolate ganache

  • 300g of fine quality Swiss chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids
  • 250ml of double cream

Ingredients – spiced biscuit cream

Ingredients – to plate up/serve

  • Strawberries (enough for each meringue plus a few extra to serve)
  • Ripe figs or other summer fruits
  • Icing sugar

Equipment

  • Two piping bags – one with a 2mm round nozzle, one with a 3mm nozzle (or both thereabouts)
  • Large, squeaky-clean bowl for the meringue
  • Large baking tray, lined with parchment or a silicon mat
  • Balloon whisk, hand electric mixer or stand mixer for the meringue and the cream
  • Small, heavy bottomed saucepan
  • Two smaller bowls (for the ganache and biscuit cream)
  • Two very small bowls or cups to pre-measure the caster sugar and hot chocolate powder for the meringue
  • A blender if you are making the biscuit spread yourself
  • A selection of spoons and a sharp knife

Method – meringues

  1. Put your oven on to 90C fan / 110C conventional
  2. Line a large baking tray with a silicon mat or good quality baking parchment (anything less and they may stick)
  3. Measure out the caster sugar and the hot chocolate powder before you start in separate bowls
  4. In a large and very clean bowl, whip the two egg whites until they form stiff peaks
  5. While still beating the egg whites slowly add in the caster sugar, little by little, until it is all incorporated. The meringue will stay the same consistency but become glossier
  6. Using a sieve to ensure there are no lumps, add the hot chocolate powder onto the meringue mix, and then mix in
  7. Using a large spoon, put two spoonfuls of meringue mix at a time in a heap on the baking paper – if you use two spoonfuls, each heaped meringue will be the right size to give you 6 or 7 Pavlovas in total
  8. Swirl each meringue mound with the back of your spoon to flatten them slightly into heaped disc shapes
  9. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hr 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and jam the oven door open with a wooden spoon and leave the meringues in there for another hour. The Pavlovas should have a crispy underneath but be a little gooey in the middle
  10. For more information on how to make meringues please see my meringue 101 advice post or my recipe for giant chocolate meringues. I’ve also got a post explaining the science behind meringues

Method – biscuit cream

  1. Whip the double cream until it is very thick (but stop before the unwanted clotting stage)
  2. If you are making the biscuit cream yourself, crunch all the biscuits into a blender and whizz until fine crumbs. Add in almost all of the evap milk and whizz again. Test the consistency of the cream – it should be like a smooth peanut butter. If it’s too stiff add in the rest of the evap milk and whizz again
  3. Mix the biscuit spread (homemade or from the jar) into the whipped cream until there are no streaks of cream showing
  4. Put your smaller circular nozzle (about 2mm diameter) in a piping bag and spoon in the biscuit cream. It’s quite thick so won’t run out of the nozzle
  5. Twist the end tight and pop the piping bag in the fridge for later use if not constructing immediately (the biscuit cream is fairly soft and will still be pipeable straight out of the fridge)

Method – chocolate ganache

  1. Break up the chocolate into a heatproof bowl
  2. Warm the cream in a saucepan over a moderate heat
  3. Just as the first bubbles start to appear in the cream (ie just prior to it boiling) pour the cream over the chocolate pieces
  4. Leave it all for about 3 minutes, allowing the cream to soften the chocolate itself, then mix it all together until smooth
  5. Allow to cool, then place it in a piping bag fitted with a medium round nozzle (about 3 mm in diameter)
  6. Cover the end of the nozzle with a bit of kitchen foil to stop leaks, twist the end and set aside until you being to assemble (if not preparing on the same day place the ganache in the fridge in its bowl before putting in to the piping bag – them warm slightly before use)

Method – construction

  1. Slice the bottom off a strawberry so it sits flat. Place it on a meringue with a dab of chocolate ganache, so it doesn’t move about make2
  2. Pipe a layer of the chocolate ganache over the strawberry, totally encasing it make3
  3. Over the top of the ganache, pipe a continuous swirl of the biscuit cream. You’re aiming to make it look like a nest or a mound of spaghetti and try to hide all the ganache so that none shows throughmake4a
  4. Using a sieve, sprinkle some icing sugar over the top of the dessert so it looks like a dusting of snow on the top of Mont Blancmake5
  5. Serve with berries and enjoy!make6-finished
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