Over the past year and a bit living in Hong Kong, I’ve been surprised at how much HK-ers love their western sweets. I’ve always been told that Asians are lactose intolerant (and was always thankful that seemed to skip me) but since moving here, I beg to differ! There are countless cake / dessert / ice cream / fro-yo shops, cafes and patisseries with mostly dairy based sweet temptations (mousses, cheesecakes, tarts). Italian and French cake and chocolate cafes are in abundance and yes, they are always packed full of sweet toothed customers!
So to my delight, of course I’ve had to ‘investigate’ the sweet side of HK. Something I discovered was the popularity of chestnut desserts, something I haven’t seen much growing up in Australia. Every cake shop seems to have a variety of chestnut something. So when ‘nuts’ came up as our theme for this month, I thought I would take influence from this city I’m living in.
Before this, my only experience with sweet chestnuts was with a brandy chestnut dessert my mum used to make when I was young – and aside from anything chocolate – it was my favourite. I actually haven’t had it for at least 20 years, always meaning to make it but always making something else. All this time I thought she had passed me the recipe but no, it seems it was lost. So I had to recreate it from memory and taste!
I wasn’t sure whether my guests liked chestnut desserts, so I decided to play it safe and pair it with chocolate. In keeping with the nut theme, I made an ‘almost flourless’ chocolate cake. The original recipe uses whole nuts, processed to a texture, but I decided to use ground almonds and some plain flour instead. I should have known better – thinking it would lighten the cake but instead it did the opposite. I have posted the original (one of my all time favourite+simple+100%flourless choc cake recipes) for this post – it is lighter, moister, has more texture and would just add that bit more to make this dessert perfect. Otherwise, it was still pretty good.
The chestnut cream was an easy mix of canned chestnut puree, whipped cream, sugar and marsala (in place of brandy). And it tasted just like Mum’s. Yum.
Each serve was quite a hefty portion (for lack of smaller tart tins), so most of us couldn’t finish it in one sitting. The beauty of serving it at my place meant I could save my leftovers and eat them the next day. Perfect.
You can find the recipe here.