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chestnut cream: how to roast, peel & puree chestnuts

July 25, 2012

Oh chestnuts, those little… er… chestnuts.

I kept stumbling across street vendors selling bags of brown delicious smelling goodness but never really thought to try my own hand at them – partly because I didn’t have a lovely little fire pit containing smoulderingly hot coals and partly because… oh here goes…

(pause for effect)

I’d never tried eating a chestnut before.

chestnut cream recipe

I mean, sure, I’d had the dried and reconstituted chestnuts. You know, the type you find in bundles of glutinous rice or eight treasure duck or all ground up and turned into a sweet delicious gelatinous paste and served fried up at yum cha on a plate of otherwise savoury items, leading to a very confused set of tastebuds (“Oh this is nice!” they think, until, suddenly “why is there chilli sauce on my dessert?! Aurgh!”)

And then, last month, Koji and I hit up the now newly departed Becasse for our anniversary, where they served a “Mont Blanc” for the first dessert of the degustation.

I put “Mont Blanc” in inverted commas because this was no ordinary cream and chestnut puree mont blanc. (Not that I’d ever tried a normal mont blanc before as any patisserie that sells it usually also sells opera gateaux and when faced with the choice between a mountain and a concerto, I always chose the latter).

It had still bitey stewed apples and raisins. A lick of torched meringue. A sprinkling of puffed buckwheat (I think) and a cloud of lighter than air, nutty as anything chestnut puree-custard-mousse-something-delicious-and-likely-French on top.

I fell in love at first bite.

And so it was that I bought my very first raw chestnuts.

And (again) so it was that I realised that I hadn’t the slightest idea as to what to do with them.

Luckily for me, the internet, Larousse Gastronomique and my dear family friend John Poh were at hand to help a sister out and with their combined knowledge (and my utter inability to follow instructions and just go with one method) I mish-mashed them all together and ended up with some beautifully peeled chestnuts that came out whole, and without my fingernails suffering too badly (or at all).

The trick? A three step boil-roast-steam process that guarantees successful shell and fuzz removal.

(It’s also easier than it sounds).

I later used my freshly peeled chestnuts to form a sweet chestnut puree and then a chestnut cream that adorned my birthday dacquois. You may notice that only 400g of the chestnut puree is used in the cream (despite the recipe making a hefty kilogram or so of it). I blame its edibility. By that, I’m mainly referring to how easily I can eat it. On crackers. Or off a spoon. Or off my finger.

Good luck and happy peeling!

chestnut cream recipe
 
How to peel chestnuts, make a sweet puree and then make chestnut cream
Ingredients
for peeling the chestnuts
  • chestnuts
  • a sharp small knife (serrated edged or a paring knife are good)
  • hot water
  • an oven
  • a tea towel
  • a large towel
  • a big bowl
for the sweet chestnut puree
  • 600g chestnuts (unshelled weight)
  • 600ml milk
  • 400g sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
for the chestnut cream
  • 400g sweet chestnut puree
  • 400g cream
How to make it
for peeling the chestnuts
  1. Cut a cross in the chestnut shell. Do this carefully. I cut on the rounded side because it was easier to lie the flat side down on the table. Some instructions tell you to cut the flat side, but I found it too tricky and didn’t get a much varied result from it.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 200C and place a roasting dish or oven tray inside.
  3. Pop the chestnuts into a saucepan of water and bring it up to the boil. Once it is boiling, start your timer for 2 minutes. At the end of that time, drain the water off the chestnuts and tip the still steaming chestnuts onto the hot oven tray in the oven.
  4. Leave the chestnuts in the oven for 7 minutes. By this time ,the skin will have started to peel back from the kernel.
  5. While the nuts are roasting, prepare a large bowl by wrapping it in a large towel. Put a tea towel inside the bowl.
  6. Toss the nuts inside the tea towel in the bowl and wrap the whole lot up with the big towel. This will keep the nuts warm as you peel them.
  7. Pull one nut out at a time from under the towels and pull the shell and fluffy inner skin away from the kernel. Keep going until you’re all done.
for the sweet chestnut puree
  1. Shell the chestnuts using the above method (or whichever method you prefer).
  2. Chop the chestnuts roughly then place in a saucepan with the milk, sugar and vanilla. Bring it to a simmer so that all the sugar dissolves and continue to heat for about 20 minutes so that the chestnuts have a chance to absorb some of the milk.
  3. Remove the vanilla bean. Pour the remaining ingredients into a blender (be careful! It will be hot!) then blend until it forms a thick liquid.
  4. Return the liquid back to the saucepan and heat, stirring continuously until it thickens and forms a bubbling paste. Let the chestnut puree cool before using it.
for the chestnut cream
  1. Whip the cream until it just starts to thicken.2. Add the sweet chestnut puree and continue to whip until it forms firm peaks.

 


  • #1
    July 25th, 2012

    See, this would have been helpful to have read before I exploded a pound of chestnuts in the oven a few years ago. Trust me: short of a war zone, no one has ever heard a racket like a pound of chestnuts exploding in an oven. And the resulting powder can’t all be removed and just burns and burns every time the oven is turned on….sigh. Thank you for a new and far more successful-sounding technique. 🙂

  • #2
    July 25th, 2012

    Totally agree on their edibility and how you should always make more than you need because it’s surprising how quickly it disappears 🙂

  • #3
    July 25th, 2012

    Aren’t you clever?? I love chestnuts, but tend to just buy the vacuum packed ones from France. You’re much braver than I am!

  • #4
    koji
    July 25th, 2012

    that mont blanc was amazing.

    i had to look up what an eight treasure duck was. turns out its not actually a wealthy bird

  • #5
    July 25th, 2012

    Clever clever clever Shez. I may have a go at chestnuts again now after reading this. Glad you got to Becasse (by the skin of your teeth) before they shut the doors!

  • #6
    July 25th, 2012

    Thanks for the handy tip, I’ve always struggled trying to peel them. This looks so easy

  • #7
    July 25th, 2012

    Hahah, if only I had saved my chestnut addiction until I saw this post. I had so much trouble peeling them when I craved them a few weeks ago. Thanks for this very very helpful tip!

  • #8
    Daniela Ortu
    July 25th, 2012

    Ahah thanks for this post…I remember the Montblanc as a dessert I had as a child…lovely..my mum cooked the chestnuts in a pressure cooker…but first she cut the skin exactly like you do…Will try this again at home in autumn

  • #9
    July 26th, 2012

    My parents love eating chestnuts. I have to say I dont think I feel the same way. You did make it look too easy, Shez!

  • #10
    July 26th, 2012

    I find it so hard to cut across the chestnut shell and will always end up cutting my finger.

    You are right in that they are very addictive to eat, especially freshly shelled warm from the oven!

  • July 26th, 2012

    Hi Ai-Ling,

    I found it tricky at first but went slow with a smaller serrated knife, sawing away at the shell rather than trying to slice through it in one fluid movement. Hope your fingers stay safe 🙂

    Shez x

  • #11
    Alan
    December 17th, 2012

    Best way to cut, flat side down saw slowly with a bread knife.
    Love these tips thanks, just cooking Ramseys christmas brussels sprouts/bacon/chestnuts hmmm:)

  • #12
    January 21st, 2015

    […] looked up on Google how to peel chestnuts after first exploding them in my oven.I followed this technique .It was ok, but I should’ve keep the chestnuts in the oven a little longer because it […]

  • #13
    Ashley
    April 7th, 2015

    Hi there, am wondering how long can we keep the chestnut cream? 🙂

  • April 9th, 2015

    Hi Ashley, I’ve kept the sweet chestnut paste in the freezer for a month 🙂 it will go mouldy in the fridge after a week though so use it quick if you aren’t freezing it!

Shez