Monte Bianco, meaning “White Mountain”, is the highest mountain in the Alps and the EU. Nonna Maria, my neighbor in New York, shared this dessert with me during November and December, when chestnuts can be found in the markets. A traditional holiday dessert in Italy, it evokes the snow-capped towering peak of Monte Bianco and made me dream of cuddling with someone by a blazing fire in the winter.
1 cup whole milk
4 ounces high quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons rum
1 1/2 cups very cold heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon sugar
Place the chestnuts in a small saucepan with the milk and a pinch of salt. Simmer over medium to medium-low heat until all, or nearly all, of the milk has been absorbed (this will take 20 to 40 minutes). After 20 minutes, check the pan frequently to prevent burning. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a glass bowl or measuring pitcher using the microwave. This is best done in incremental steps of 40 – 45 seconds, so as not to overheat.
After the chestnuts have absorbed the milk, pour them into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the nuts are a roughly pureed. Pour the pureed nuts into a bowl and stir in the melted chocolate and rum. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.
Make ahead: The dessert can be made to this point one day ahead and refrigerated over night before proceeding.
Place the mixing bowl and wire beaters you will use to whip the cream into the refrigerator to chill. The whipped cream can be made with a hand or stand mixer, or a bowl and wire whisk.
Spoon a small portion of the mixture at a time (3/4 to 1 cup) into a ricer. Pass the chocolate-chestnut batter through the ricer onto a round serving plate. Repeat until all the batter has been riced, allowing the puree to mound up in the center of the plate into a mountain-like cone. Do not shape or pat down the mound.
Using the chilled bowl and beaters or whisk, beat the heavy cream with the sugar until it will hold its shape when lifting the beaters out of the cream. Gently spoon approximately half of the cream on the top of the chestnut mound, to create a snow-capped look. Serve the remaining whipped cream with the dessert. Enjoy!