Yummy Bazaar is continuing the article series about the most frequently asked questions about gourmet foods and traditional ingredients.
This time we’ll be answering the most searched questions about Marron Glace, the famous luxury French confectionery made with chestnuts.
What is Marron Glace?
To put it simply, Marron Glace is a type of candied and glazed chestnut. It originated in northern Italy and southern France and took a particularly distinguished place among candied chestnut confections due to a particularly intrinsic, complicated, and time-consuming preparation process.
To make Marron Glace, a chestnut must be fully saturated with syrup down to the very core. It may sound easy, but it requires following a very precise process: the chestnuts must first be cooked to a specific texture (not too hard, not too soft) and then candied for a week, if not longer.
The process is straightforward but delicate and easy to mess up. Marron Glace is considered a luxury product, and [producers must adhere to rigorous standards during the production process. A proper Marron Glace must have a thin coating of crunchy glaze, but the chestnut itself must be very tender and soft, with practically a melt-in-your-mouth quality to it.
What Color is Marron Glace? What Does Marron Glace Look Like?
Interestingly enough, Marron Glace doesn’t have a set color associated with it - the color of the confection depends on the color of the chestnuts. The color may range from a very pale dusty brown to a darker shade, almost like pale milk chocolate.
Due to the sugary glaze, Marron Glaces also tend to have something like a golden sheen.
What Does Marron Glace Taste Like? What Flavor is Marron Glace?
Marron Glace is sweet (but not saccharine sweet, despite all the sugar and long period spent immersed in syrup) but delicate, with a deep, nutty, and buttery flavor, with slight caramel notes from the syrup.
Vanilla pods or extract have become frequent flavoring ingredients in modern Marron Glace recipes, so it’s common for these candied chestnuts to have a more floral, slightly perfumy aroma.
Why is Marron Glace so Expensive?
It’s a combination of natural factors and the accumulated reputation!
First of all, making Marron Glaces is a delicate, labor-intensive, and costly process. To start with, the chestnuts need to look a certain way (be as close to one another in size as possible). Then each chestnut needs to be cooked to a specific point and then individually treated with the sugar concoction for days upon days.
Second of all, a proper presentation has become an essential aspect of Marron Glaces, which in itself is a double-edged sword. Marron Glaces need to look uniform; they cannot be broken or even have a cracked glaze. And they’re pretty fragile and easy to damage. Clement Faugier’s sweet chestnut spread (or Creme de Marrons) was explicitly invented due to the need to find a way and utilize the broken candied chestnuts that couldn’t be sold otherwise.
And, when presented as candies, they’re supposed to be individually wrapped and stored in elegant boxes.
All these aspects have made Marron Glace a costly product to produce. But have also earned it a reputation as a luxury good, which allows manufacturers to maintain the high prices dictated by the production process.
What Makes the Best Marron Glace?
The proper adherence to the production process. There’s really no cutting corners with this one.
A good Marron Glace must be moderately sweet, its texture delicate and soft, and its color bright with a golden sheen.
Is Marron Glace Vegan?
Yes, Marron Glace is an entirely vegan product. The only ingredients that are supposed to be involved in making these sweet treats are chestnuts and sugar.
Of course, it’s always wise to check the labels if you’re practicing a vegan lifestyle. But, generally, the ingredient list for Marron Glaces tends to be short, and there are few, if any, alterations. Certain additions like vanilla pods or extract (for a more robust aroma) and glucose syrup (for a softer texture and longer shelf life) have become common, but that’s it.
Classic Marron Glaces are not the type of product that uses additional preservatives (which further cements them as a luxury product). It’s because Marron Glaces are naturally “long-lived” on their own and don’t necessitate further help to maintain shelf stability.
It decreases the risks of the treats being non-vegan even further. The only possible way for a Marron Glace to be non-vegan is if it’s made in a facility with non-vegan products, and there’s a possibility of cross-contamination. If so, this information will be displayed on the product label.
Does Marron Glace Contain Alcohol?
Traditional Marron Glace is an alcohol-free product. It’s basically supposed to be a simple candied chestnut.
However, as with many other traditional recipes, some brands have put their unique spins on the product. While they’re not considered a classic, finding “boozy” Marron Glaces on the market IS possible if you try hard enough. This type of candied chestnut is typically preserved in a jar with syrup, and the syrup contains alcohol as an additional flavoring ingredient.
Spirits like rum and brandy tend to be the most common choice.
Again, alcohol-flavored Marron Glaces aren’t the most common, but it never hurts to check the ingredient list, especially if you’re interested in syrup-preserved ones.
Is Marron Glace Halal?
Yes, traditional Marron Glace is supposed to be Halal (and Kosher, as well)!
According to Wehalal.co, halal sweets either mustn’t contain gelatin or must only contain vegetarian gelatin or gelatin from beef that was slaughtered in a halal way (i.e., the butcher followed guidelines for Zabihah).
Halal candy also mustn’t contain any alcohol. So Marron Glace, preserved in syrup containing alcohol, is, by default, not halal.
That said, unless the product is outright marketed as halal, we once again urge you to check the label before making a purchase. If there’s a chance of cross-contamination from non-halal products, then the product label is supposed to mention it, even if its minuscule traces of alcohol or animal products.
Is Marron Glace Gluten-Free?
Yes, Marron Glace (at least, traditional Marron Glace) is a gluten-free product.
The risks of it not being gluten-free once again arise from the cross-contamination risks at the production facilities. If they’re being made in the same facility as other products containing gluten, they might contain some trace amounts.
Usually, the manufacturer will disclose this information on the label. But thankfully, many prominent companies outright provide information about whether their product is gluten-free or not (including Clement Faugier and Corsiglia, both of which are gluten-free).
How Do You Eat Marron Glace? How Should Marron Glaces Be Served?
Marron Glaces can be served by themselves, without being paired with anything, as well as used as an ingredient (usually decorative) for other desserts.
Both ways are considered typical.
In the end, while a luxury gourmet product, Marron Glaces are still candies. In this regard, they’re not very different from, say, luxury chocolate. Gourmet chocolate is traditionally considered to be best enjoyed by itself, but there are no rules against using it for other, more complex desserts.
Marron Glaces are the same. Simply serve them with a cup of tea or coffee (black and unsweetened is considered the best option in both cases), or use them to decorate your pie, cake, or parfait.
What Do You Pair with Marron Glace?
Marron Glace is a surprisingly easy ingredient to pair. Like other sweet chestnut products, it goes particularly well with classic elements like chocolate and creme pâtissière (more so if the chestnuts have been candied with vanilla in the latter case).
Other nuts, especially the ones with sweet but deep and toasty flavors, like hazelnuts and pecans, are also a good pairing.
Seasonal autumn fruits are a less common but surprisingly well-balanced flavor pairing. Try pairing pears and apples with candied chestnuts. For example, you can try decorating a simple pear galette with some Marron Glaces. It’ll instantly add a luxurious note to the dessert, elevating something quick and easy into a gourmet category. Or you can just assemble an easy parfait with some vanilla (or hazelnut) ice cream, whipped cream, and slices of fresh pear, and then decorate it with a Marron Glace on top.
Clement Faugier even had a brilliant idea of pairing Marron Glace with… chestnuts and made a sweet chestnut spread by combining crushed Marron Glaces with classic chestnut puree.
As for the drinks, a cup of black tea or coffee would be the best pairing. The ones with deep, slightly nutty, sweet, and smoky notes tend to work best (ex., Darjeeling tea or Colombian and Cuban Arabica roasts). Try to avoid bitter blends and roasts.
How Long Can You Keep Marron Glace? How Long Does It Last?
Marron Glace is a surprisingly shelf-stable product. Sugar is already actively used as a preservative in foods and beverages. When paired with chestnuts (already a pretty shelf-stable product by itself) and glucose syrup, which tends to prolong product shelf-life further, you have a nigh-invulnerable combination on your hands.
Marron Glace, even those without any additives and preservatives (lest you count sugar and syrup), can easily last up to 24 months when properly stored. Even if you open the packaging, as long as you keep the individual candies in their wrapper (or the jar tightly closed, if we’re talking about Marron Glaces in syrup), they will maintain their texture and flavor qualities, and be suitable for consumption for months, unless external factors (temperature and moisture) somehow damage them.
How Do You Store Marron Glace?
The key to taking proper advantage of Marron Glace’s long shelf life is to store them in the correct way. It’s not that hard, considering manufacturers usually do half the job for you.
Candied chestnuts often come in individual wrappers or a jar (if they’re kept in syrup). On your end, you just need to make sure that they’re kept at a low temperature, in a dry and dark place - away from direct sources of heat and moisture.
Simply keep the candies wrapped (or the jar lid tightly screwed on), and store the Marron Glace in a vegetable compartment of your refrigerator (or any other place with a temperature of around 40-42 degrees Fahrenheit).
You will need to put in a little extra effort if you unwrap the candies to serve guests and have some left over. In this case, wrap each Marron Glace in parchment paper (individually), and place the candies in an airtight container before returning them to the refrigerator.
Can You Freeze Marron Glace?
Yes, you can freeze Marron Glace, though it’s far from the ideal way of storing them. It’s best to avoid freezing Marron Glaces unless you’re in need of last-ditch effort.
One of the signature characteristics of quality Marron Glace is the texture: a combination of a hard and crunchy outer shell and soft inside. Once Marron Glace is frozen and then defrosted, its texture may dry out and harden due to moisture loss. The freezer should, however, have no influence over its flavor qualities.
The best way to avoid texture breakdown is to store the candied chestnuts individually wrapped in an airtight container and carefully defrost them. The best way would be to transfer them to the refrigerator overnight and then keep them at room temperature for a couple of hours more to ensure they’re fully defrosted.
Luckily, considering the long shelf-life of the product, the likelihood that you’ll ever find yourself in a situation that requires freezing Marron Glace is relatively low.