What’s this hiding in the freezer? Peeled chestnuts! Excellent. Our lovely friend W had given us a bag of farm fresh chestnuts back in autumn, and I’m glad I’ve squirreled some away.
Freshly roasted chestnuts were a special treat when we were growing up.Street vendors (hawkers) would set up massive woks filled with what I assume to be small bits of hot charcoal (sometimes mixed with coffee beans). The nuts would be stirred and cooked in the coals and the smell wafting down the street would set our tummies rumbling.
With a package of hot chestnuts bewteen us, my brother and I would peel away, ignoring burnt fingers as we raced each other to gobble up as many nuts as possible.
Chestnuts can be a pain to peel, but I find the best way to do it is via the boiling method (as recommended in The Cook’s Companion). First, score outer skins – I just use scissors to snip crosses into the pointy ends, then simmer nuts for 15 minutes. Remove one nut at a time from water and peel. The inner skins are easier to remove when warm.
If eating them straight, I definitely prefer the taste of oven roasted chestnuts (about 15-20 mins at 180˚C). Don’t forget to snip the skins though. Cleaning bits of exploded chestnuts out of the oven is not a fun way to spend the day (been there, done that).
Since I’d frozen the chestnuts, the texture wasn’t going to be the best for straight eating, so I made them into sweetened chestnut puree. Then into Mont Blanc inspired cupcakes.
The recipe please...
I devised my own recipe using the formula and tips found on this baking science website. A successful attempt as you can see. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it too.
Sweet chestnut puree
- 500g peeled chestnuts
- 1 cup milk (or enough to barely cover nuts in a saucepan)
- about 3 tablespoons caster sugar (adjust according to taste)
Chestnut cupcakes (makes 12 medium cupcakes)
- 100g flour
- 125g sugar
- 60g butter (softened at room temperature)
- 60g sweetened chestnut puree
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 tbsps reserved milk (depending on dryness of chestnuts)
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180˚C and line cupcake pans with cases. Sift dry ingredient into bowl and beat on low speed for about half a minute or so. Lightly beat eggs and vanilla extract and two tablespoons of the milk together until well mixed. I usually do this in a jug.
Put butter and half the egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Beat on low speed until the flour is incorporated, then increase the speed (I use hand-beaters, so this means high speed) and beat until the mix is light. Scrape down sides of bowl if necessary.
Add chestnut puree and rest of egg mixture in two batches, beating well each time. Again, scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. Add more milk if necessary (if mixture seems too dry). Spoon/pipe into cupcake cases and bake for about 12-15 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack.
- 1 cup thick cream whipped with 1 tsp sugar and ½ tsp vanilla extract (or seeds if feeling extravagant).
- 1 cup sweetened chestnut puree.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Store uneaten decorated cakes in an airtight container in the fridge but bring to room temperature before serving. The texture of the cakes becomes denser when cold.