Kitchn Love Letters

The Secret to Better Desserts? This $3 French Pantry Staple

published Nov 25, 2023
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Mont Blanc, cakes, sweets, chestnuts, white background
Credit: shironagasukujira/Getty Images/iStockphoto

So many wonderful fall ingredients have made their way into my tiny kitchen. While pumpkin spice everything and caramel apple anything is all the rage across the U.S., in Europe it is all about chestnuts — more specifically, desserts made with chestnut purée. 

This time of year, you’ll find them in every high-end patisserie in France. Top pastry chefs go hunting in the woods for chestnuts, which they then turn into a sweet and sticky purée. It’s used in decadent, indulgent desserts like Mont Blanc, where it’s piled on top of a buttery tart shell (along with whipped cream). 

Credit: Michelle Tchea

In all honesty, this might be my favorite French dessert. But like many great French desserts, it involves a lot of components and time spent in the kitchen — something I’m not fond of, despite being an avid baker. As much as I like to think about making everything from scratch, I have to admit that when it comes to this dessert, I take several shortcuts. I buy buttery tart shells, whipped cream (or mousse), and ready-made chestnut purée.

The chestnut purée is so beloved in France and the alpine regions of Switzerland that you can find ready-made chestnut purée (named “marron purée”) in jars and even tubes next to the jams and honey in the supermarket aisle. These days, you can also order both online. How doubly convenient!

Credit: Michelle Tchea

What’s So Great About Clement Faugier Chestnut Spread?

One of the best and most common, readily available tubes of chestnut purée is the one by Clement Faugier. It’s my go-to choice when making any dessert with chestnut purée. It’s made in the company’s factory in Ardeche, a region in France known for growing chestnuts.

I like that it comes in a tube, too: In Europe, most chestnut desserts like the Mont Blanc require the chestnut purée to be squeezed out of a piping bag and in tiny little noodle-like strips. For less-experienced bakers, you don’t need to mess around with any other tools; you just simply squeeze it straight from the tube!

Credit: Michelle Tchea

The chestnut purée also comes in cans (and in bulk!), which makes it perfect for desserts that call for more of the deliciously sticky-sweet paste.

What’s the Best Way to Use Clement Faugier Chestnut Spread?

In Switzerland, the sweet ingredient is commonly found in ski resorts (alongside fondue), which is where I get my inspiration from. Rather than being too precious, I take a cue from the Swiss slopes and embrace simplicity: I place hard meringues at the bottom of a glass jar, dollop lots of whipped cream over the meringue, and then squeeze the entire tube of chestnut purée on top — et voila! Dessert made in a flash.

Rather than using cream, try spooning the chestnut purée as the filling in your next Swiss roll or Yule log cake. After having two epic desserts, featuring chestnut ice cream (at Le Vieux Chalet in Switzerland and Petri in Stockholm), I went home to recreate the from-scratch sweet with Clement Faugier’s spread. It might not be “Michelin-worthy,” but it was certainly my own culinary masterpiece.

Buy: Clement Faugier Chestnut Spread, $2.95 for 2.75 ounces at Yummy Bazaar

What budget-friendly baking staples are you stocking up on right now? Tell us about it in the comments.