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chestnuts: misc comments and chestnut puree recipe

I made cookies with sweetened chestnut puree a few months ago and it
worked really well. I thought I send in a posting but maybe I
didn't. I just used it as a straight replacement for butter and
creamed it with sugar. (Perhaps I should have decreased the sugar
because the puree was sweetened but I didn't.) The resulting
chestnut/sugar mixture had the same texture you'd expect in the
creaming step. After adding the flour, etc, it was a little stiffer
and the cookies didn't spread when baking but I really liked the
result. I think I baked the cookies for a little longer that usual.

The only downside. The puree is expensive. I was making a chocolate
chestnut torte (sorry lowfat but not fatfree, from Alice Medrich's
"Chocolate and the Art of Lowfat Baking" and I had leftover puree and
decided to experiment. I don't know that I would go out and regularly
buy a can of puree to use for baking cookies.

Finding cooked peeled chestnuts: Gourmet and fancy food stores (I've
found them at Zabar's in New York City) sell vaccuum-packed cooked
peeled chestnuts. Perhaps you can also find them in Italian or French
food shops. Perhaps there are even some sites on the internet that you
can mail-order from. 

Finding chestnut puree: again gourmet stores but also in some grocery
stores. The local grocery store has a section with some imported
products. The puree I found is from Switzerland, I think. 

Lastly, here's an untested recipe for sweetened chestnut puree. I
found it on a website, sorry I don't remember which.

Chestnut Dessert Puree
(makes about 8 cups thick puree)

4 pounds large, heavy chestnuts (watch out for worm holes) 
4 cups water, more if necessary
3 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
Optional: milk (to thin the puree)

1. Halve chestnuts with a heavy knife or cleaver. Place in a very
large skillet or saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Boil for
about 10 minutes or until the shells can easily be removed.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Remove chestnuts, a few at a time, from the water.  Peel off shells
and husks, then place nuts in a large heavy saucepan.  Add water,
sugar, and vanilla bean to the pan and stir to mix in the sugar. The
liquid should just cover the chestnuts. (Add more water if it

4. Bake uncovered for 2 to 3 hours. (Time will vary considerably,
depending upon dryness of the nuts.)  Stir nuts every 30 minutes,
adding water, if necessary, until they are very tender and the syrup
is very thick.

5. Let chestnuts cool completely in the syrup, then puree them in
batches in a food processor or blender, adding milk or cream if you
want to have a thinner puree. Press the entire mixture through the
fine disc of a food mill. Divide the puree among 1- or 2-cup freezer
containers. Seal, date, and freeze.

 From Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie, Better Than
Store-Bought: A Cookbook (NY: Harper & Row, 1979, ISBN 0-06-014693-1,
out of print), pp. 248 - 249. This recipe is for a chestnut puree that
may be served as-is or combined with liquors, creams, custards, and
the like to make more elaborate preparations an all-purpose chestnut
dessert base, in other words.