I have been to 41 of 47 prefectures, and there has really only been one quintessentially French dessert that I have seen in every one: Mont Blanc. Some of you more refined readers out there may already know what Mont Blanc pastry is, and the more adventurous nature dwellers among you will also know that Mont Blanc is a famous mountain in France. I regret to say that I knew neither of those things when I first saw this oddly formed treat, and admittedly, I was a little nervous about trying it out. When I did, I realized that it is actually quite a nice dessert treat, especially for folks who really enjoy chestnuts, since the flavor is throughout. So, for those of you out there who, like me, are unaware of the Mont Blanc pastry, please allow me to offer a short introduction.
The Mont Blanc pastry originated sometime in the 1400s along the border between France and Italy, but was popularized in France in the 1600s. The name came from its appearance to the snow capped Mont Blanc that rests in the Alps (see the comparison in the picture below). The Mont Blanc pastry first arrived in Japan in the early 1900s along with an influx of other Western delicacies, but the pastry did not become a widespread commodity in the country until a surge in the mid-eighties. From there, Mont Blanc never let up, and it ranks among the most popular dessert items in Japan.
What is Mont Blanc?
The traditional Mont Blanc pastry is based on chestnut flavors, and the popular Japanese version is layered as shown in the picture: a base of sponge cake with chestnut (whole or paste) sandwiched in between; on top of that, a layer of whipped cream; and finally, it's signature aesthetic--the stringy layers of whipped chestnut cream and the dusting of confectioners sugar that gives the appearance of the snow capped mountain in the Alps.
Where to find it:
Fortunately, you won't have to look far before finding some Mont Blanc to try: you'll run into Mont Blanc in just about every Japanese bakery, patisserie, and convenience store, so give it a shot along your journey through Japan! Bon Appetit!