I always know when the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are near. Chestnuts start showing up in produce markets. This year I picked up both fresh chestnuts and organic roasted vacuum-packed chestnuts. I have the fresh chestnuts steeping in brandy for a little New Year’s cheer. I made a puree with the organic roasted chestnuts to use in my Rustic Chestnut Cake recipe.
Chestnuts are grown here in Florida on farms and co-ops. The texture and taste of chestnuts are unlike other nuts. When cooked, the texture is somewhat tender but firm—similar to a baked potato. Roasted or cooked chestnuts can easily be broken apart with your fingers. Chestnuts don’t have that earthy taste like other walnuts or pecans. Chestnuts are a little sweet but not as much as a sweet potato.
To cook chestnuts (roast, boil, or microwave), cut a large X in the flat side of the nut. Make sure the X is deep enough to cut through the shell but not the nut. My brother always microwaves chestnuts. I usually boil or roast them, but one year I did try the microwave thing. I didn’t cut the shell deep enough. Once I removed the chestnuts from the microwave, they popped and shot across the house like ping-pong balls. I found chestnut shells all over my dining room and living room for two years. I don’t microwave chestnuts.
You can buy chestnut puree, or you can easily puree them. You’ll need about one pound of shelled prepared (roasted or boiled) chestnuts to make about one cup of chestnut puree. Simmer prepared chestnuts in a saucepan with about one cup of milk or heavy cream until heated through. Remove chestnuts from liquid and place in the bowl of food processor. Pulse the chestnuts adding a little of the milk or cream until mixture is smooth. You can also push the heated chestnuts through a sieve then add milk or cream as needed.
I call this recipe Rustic Chestnut Cake because I’m not too picky about the substance or consistency of the chestnut puree or the ground almonds. I used a food processor to make the puree and to grind the almonds, but finding little bits and pieces of chestnuts or almonds in the cake is delightful.
The finished cake is plain and simple. A light dusting of confectioner’s sugar is more than enough.
Rustic Chestnut Cake
- 1 1/2 cups pureed chestnuts
- 1 1/2 cups ground almonds
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 1/2 cups ground blanched almonds
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 5 egg whites
- 2 tbsp confectioner's sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. Coat an 8-inch cake pan with baking spray.
Cut an X on one side of each chestnut. Place chestnuts in a deep pot and cover with water. Boil rapidly for about 20 minutes or until chestnuts are soft. Remove from pot and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove the shell. Puree chestnuts.
Separate eggs. Set aside egg whites. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add remaining ingredients except for egg whites and mix well.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into mixture. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely. Dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar.
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