If I believe: a Mont Blanc

When I was doing a Google Hangout baking session with my friends, Ann and Sylvie, I was struggling hardcore with what to make. I really wanted to do a strawberry Mont Blanc, but I had these dates in my refrigerator that have been laying there for at least four weeks, and I also had a plan to make a maamoul tart with them. Maamoul, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is a Jordanian date cookie. The cookie itself is like a yeast leavened dough stuffed with a sweet spiced date paste. Then I had the idea, why not combine elements of maamoul with a classic chestnut Mont Blanc? I also thought about other classic date desserts, and immediately thought of sticky toffee pudding.

So for the components of my cake, we have a maamoul brown butter cake, which is essentially a financier with a spiced date cake running through it. The spices I used were cinnamon, cardamom, and anise, which are typical in maamoul, and almond, since there are almost almond-like notes in the original cookie as well. I did a spiced butterscotch, using a liquid from rehydrating the dates, the same maamoul spices, brown butter, and some cream that I also used to cook down chestnuts for a chestnut puree for this recipe as well. In addition to the chestnut puree, we have chantilly cream and meringue sticks to round out the entire Mont Blanc experience. Essentially, the bottom of the dessert is a maamoul sticky toffee pudding, and the top is a Mont Blanc, with the toffee bridging the two together with notes of both date and chestnut in it!

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For the maamoul brown butter cake:
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup rehydrated date paste
4 tablespoons brown butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
a pinch of salt
a pinch of sumac
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

In a bowl, sift the almond meal with flour and baking soda. In another bowl, combine your spices and salt with the date paste, cider vinegar, buttermilk, vanilla extract, almond extract, and the brown butter. Fold the two mixtures together to form your batter. Line 4 metal crumpet molds with butter and place onto either a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Fill the molds about 3/4 the way full with your batter. Bake the batter at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely before removing from the molds and transferring into the refrigerator.

For the rehydrated dates:
1/2 cup dried dates
1/2 cup hot water

Combine the two ingredients together in a large bowl, making sure that the dates are completely submerged in the water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Once the water is cooled down, remove your dates, and reserve the water for your butterscotch. Chop up the dates into a paste.

For the chestnut puree:
1 cup roasted and peeled chestnuts
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons brown butter
a pinch of salt

Roughly chop up your chestnuts. Combine in a pot with the heavy cream and water and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes on medium-high heat. Transfer the chestnuts into a blender and puree with all of your brown butter, salt, and stream into the blender the heated cream, little by little, until the chestnuts are completely blended into a smooth paste. You should only use about half of the cream for this portion of the recipe. Be sure to reserve the rest of it for making your butterscotch with! Pass the puree through a sieve to remove any lumps, and cool down the puree to room temperature. Transfer the cooled down puree to a piping bag with a piping tip that has several holes in it. I used a Russian piping tip for mine.

For the meringues:
1 egg white
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip your ingredients together until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Transfer into a piping bag with a small round tip. Pipe thin lines of the meringue onto a parchment-lined sheet tray. Bake these at 285 degrees F for 10 minutes. Allow the meringues to cool down slightly before immediately transferring to an airtight container so that they will not go soggy.

For the butterscotch:
Reserved date water
Reserved cream
2 tablespoon brown butter
a pinch of cardamom
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of anise seed
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup roasted and peeled chestnuts

Combine all of your ingredients, except for the chestnuts, and bring to a simmer on a pot until the liquid has cooked down by half. You should have a glossy sauce that is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Chop up your chestnuts and fold into the sauce and allow that to cool down before using in the cakes.

For the chantilly cream:
1/3 cup heavy cream
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

Whip everything together to stiff peaks. Transfer into a piping bag.

For assembly:
Roasted and peeled chestnuts

Carve out a small hole in each of your cakes. Pour in your butterscotch into each cake, making sure to let it soak into the cake itself. Pipe on top of the butterscotch a generous amount of cream. Pipe over that the chestnut puree. Top the Mont Blanc with chestnuts, meringue sticks, then grate a meringue stick over the top of the Mont Blanc right before serving to effect snow.

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