Lately I have been taking notice of the little things; the things that are so beautiful, but I never previously thought of them as such. Winter was never my favorite season. But looking back to examine the possible reason for that, I think it might have had something to do with walking from class to class in the frigid cold and studying for final exams. Now, I love to brave the cold and take my dog for a walk and shoot some photos. The air is cloaked in a calmness and stillness that I don't think I have ever experienced before. I must say, starting off the new year with a heightened sense of observation of the world around me is somewhat liberating.
Last fall I featured a recipe for Risotto Bianco from a wonderful little book Canal House Cooking. This recipe for the Monte Bianco is also from the La Dolce Vita issue which I just love because it is a great dream of mine to go to Italy. The sweet treat is said to be a tribute to the infamous snow capped mountain in the alps, Mount Blanc. However, the mountains here in New Mexico are so beautiful at the moment, with their own dusting of powder, I made this "cake" as a tribute to them.
Monte Bianco (GF)
3 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4-5 cups peeled whole chestnuts, vacuum-packed or in a jar, quartered
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup kirschwasser or rum
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Bring the milk and vanilla bean almost to a boil in a medium pot over medium heat. Remove from heat and add the chestnuts. Cover and let the chestnuts steep to soften for 30 minutes. Drain the chestnuts, discarding the milk and vanilla pod. Return them to the pot and stir in the cocoa and liquor.
2. Working over a large wide sheet of waxed paper, pass the chestnuts through a potato ricer or food mill, showering them onto the paper. Pass them through a second time to make them lighter and more delicate. Lift up the corners of the paper and gently sprinkle about a quarter of the chestnuts onto a cake stand or serving platter in a mound. Sprinkle one-third of the chocolate over the mound. Repeat the layering process three more times, ending with a layer of chestnuts. Each layer will make the mound taller. Very gently shape the mound, careful not to pack down its delicate texture, into a pointed peak.
3. Whip the cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla together in a bowl to soft peaks. Cover the top two-thirds of the peak with half of the whipped cream, making swirls to resemble snowdrifts. The dessert can be refrigerated, uncovered, for up to 2 hours before serving. Dust it with powdered sugar just before serving. Slice or spoon wedges of the mountain with the snow onto dessert plates, adding a dollop of the remaining whipped cream to each serving.
Recipe from Canal House Cooking Vol. 7 La Dolce Vita by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton