Vermicelles – A Traditional Chestnut Dessert from Switzerland
It Looks Like Worms!
If you’ve been in any bread or cake shops in Switzerland this Autumn or Winter you can’t fail to have noticed the Vermicelles desserts. Looking like a pile of pale chocolate worms to the untrained eye, they do look quite strange! Their name Vermicelles comes from the Latin “vermiculi” which does actually mean “worms”. However, despite this name, to the Swiss palate they seem to be extremely appealing and so very popular!
What are Vermicelles?
Vermicelles are made from a sweetened chestnut paste which includes chestnuts, sugar, milk and kirsch. You can buy the paste in Globus, Migros or Coop and it is also available frozen. However, it is not difficult to make your own (see recipe below).
Vermicelles are prepared in a variety of ways. You can find them in pastry tarts, in ice cream “coupes”, on their own with a dollop of cream or on meringues with sometimes both cream and ice cream. Be warned though, they are EXTREMELY sweet! Personally, I prefer the unsweetened roasted chestnuts you can buy in the street (or make at home) over Vermicelles dessert, but many Swiss friends are absolutely bonkers about Vermicelles!
Do It Yourself Vermicelles
Once you have either bought or made the paste you simply need to then push it through a special Vermicelles press to create lengths about 15 cm long. You can buy these devices at Migros, Coop and Globus and many other shops.
You can now create your own desserts with meringue, ice cream or cream. If you need some inspiration here is a recipe from Fooby.ch for Vermicelles tartlets.
Here is a recipe from my Swiss neighbour so that you can make it from scratch:
Homemade Vermicelles Recipe
500 – 600g chestnuts
1 litre milk (you can also use water instead for a different texture)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
100 g or caster sugar (you can use slightly less as this makes it quite sweet)
1 shot kirsch
- First of all make an incision in the shell of each chestnut and cook in a pan of boiling water for around 10 minutes.
- Shell the chestnuts then place in a saucepan with the milk and sugar and bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until the chestnuts are soft.
- Add the vanilla, kirsch and a pinch of salt and purée with a stick blender till smooth, adding extra milk if the mixture is too stiff.
- Allow to cool and then use the Vermicelles press to create the long “worms” of chestnut paste. Sometimes after cooling the mixture becomes a bit more set and needs a drop of milk to loosen it up.
- Once you have created your Vermicelles spaghetti you can then serve with cream and ice cream or with whipped cream and meringues or put in little pastry cases.
Alternatively pop in to one of the many Confiseries or cake shops in Zurich and try one there!
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