Recipe Box: Chestnut Tirami-su

This Monday I taught a cooking class at Bonnie Stern’s Cooking School in Toronto. The theme was “Now That’s Italian,” and the menu included white bean crostini, crab bruschetta, porcini risotto, braised lamb shanks with gremolata, roasted fennel, and this superb variation of tiramì-su, flavored with chestnut, orange, and cardamom.

Chestnut Tiramì-su, aerial view

The recipe is based on a pumpkin tiramì-su I stumbled over a few years ago in Bon Appétit magazine that I also love because it is so easy, impressive, and delicious. The idea to use chestnut was Bonnie’s. Celebrated San Francisco chef Jim Dodge, who began his career as a pastry chef, suggested pairing the chestnut with orange to enhance its flavor. Rick Moonen from RM in Las Vegas thought a little cardamom would be delicious. Bonnie thought chocolate on top would be delicious, too. We tested the recipe and we both fell in love with it. Now you can, too.

Chestnut Tiramì-su, cross-section

Chestnut purée is where all the chestnuts that weren’t beautiful to make it as marrons glacées end up. We found a large can (enough for two tiramì-su) imported from Switzerland. It’s less difficult to find than you might think once you start looking. If you have extra, freeze it until the next time you make this delicious dessert.

Chestnut Tiramì-su with Orange, Cardamom, and Chocolate

Serves 8

1/2 pound mascarpone, at room temperature (about 1 cup)

2 cups chestnut purée

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract

5 tablespoons Grand Marnier

1/4 teaspoon toasted, ground cardamom (optional)

Pinch salt

1/2 pound savoiardi

1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped dark or white chocolate, or a combination

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the chestnut purée and the mascarpone. Add the heavy cream and sugar and continue beating until smooth. Add the vanilla, 1 tablespoon of the Grand Marnier, the cardamom, if using, and the salt and mix well.

Arrange a single layer of savoiardi on the bottom of a 9-inch stainless-steel or other nonreactive spring-form pan (aluminum will react with the filling). Sprinkle them with two tablespoons of the Grand Marnier to moisten. Spread half of the chestnut filling over the cookies. Arrange a second layer of savoiardi on top. Sprinkle with the remaining Grand Marnier, and top with the remaining filling. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the chopped chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or better, overnight before serving. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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