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Mont Blanc (cream/chestnut/meringue)
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Yield: 10 servings. Preheat oven to 250 deg F. Grease a baking sheet, sprinkle with flour, and mark 1 9inch circle or 10 3.5 inch circles (this may require more than one baking sheet). In large bowl, beat egg whites with salt until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Beat in 2 tb sugar until mixture holds long, stiff peaks when beater is lifted. *Fold* in remaining sugar and vanilla. Place in pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tube and pipe 1 large round or 10 small ones onto prepared sheet. Bake 1 hour or until meringue is firm to the touch. If meringue(s) brown during baking, reduce heat. Transfer meringue(s) to rack and let cool. Peel chestnuts using small, sharp knife and leaving inner skin. Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Place chestnuts in shallow heatproof dish and bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until skin dries and peels off easily. Rub nuts in rough cloth to remove skins. Place peeled nuts in saucepan with vanilla bean and water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 to 30 minutes, or until very tender. Remove vanilla bean (it may be washed and reused.) Drain chestnuts, then put through food mill or sieve, or in food processor, and puree. Briefly boil together 3/4 c water and sugar to make thin sugar syrup, then set aside to cool. When cool, beat enough syrup into chestnut puree to make it thin enough to pipe through pastry bag but still thick enough to hold its shape. If using canned puree, sweeten to taste, making sure it is thin enough to be piped. Fit pastry bag with 1/8-inch plain tube and fill with puree. Beat cream until stiff, then add sugar to taste and vanilla. Beat egg white in separate bowl until stiff peaks form, then fold into cream. Place cream mixture into pastry bag fitted with star tip. Arrange meringue(s) on serving platter and pipe chestnut puree in bird's nest shape around edge of meringue. Pipe cream mixture in center, piling it high. Sprinkle grated chocolate over whipped cream and chill until serving time.