{Recipe: Roasted Chestnut Cookies}

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in Boston during the winter months knows the man on the Common selling roasted chestnuts from his cart.  The aroma hits you as you walk past and, despite the blazing cold winds, instantly warms every inch of your body.  With just its scent, you experience the joys of those sweet, buttery treats.

With Christmas quickly approaching, chestnuts have been springing up all over the blogosphere. I’m quite impressed by all of the creative ways people have used them. But it was this recipe for Roasted Chestnut Cookies that popped up on Smitten Kitchen a couple of weeks ago that inspired me to pick up a bag of them at Whole Foods.

Now, there are some cookie recipes that I’ve tried that are very labor intensive and the results, unfortunately, are less than stellar.  Others, however, are labor intensive and completely worth the time, the energy, and any frustrations that may come with them.  This is one of those cookies.

The first challenge in preparing these was roasting and peeling the chestnuts.  A lesson to all: don’t just gently score the shell with the knife… pierce them.  I found the ones with a nice, healthy incision to be the easiest to work with.

Lesson two, let the chestnuts cool a little before cracking them open.  I even put them in the fridge for a little bit so I wouldn’t burn my hands.

Once I got past this stage, the cookies were quite easy to make.  The dough consists of just a couple of ingredients (mostly butter and sugar) and it can all be produced in a food processor.  Of course, as Deb mentions, it’s not required… but I can’t imagine doing all of this by hand.

These are great cookies to make for a party (you get quite a few of them out of the dough), served by a roaring fire and a cup of [spiked?] hot chocolate.  They are, in a nutshell, the perfect holiday cookie.

Roasted Chestnut Cookies

(From Smitten Kitchen, Adapted generously from Epicurious)

Smitten Kitchen’s Note: “My main changes to the classic formula, aside from the chestnuts, were to add some spice, salt, give instruction to make a smoother, easy-peasy dough in the food processor and to warn about the baking time. These cookies can go from “holy buttery chestnuts!” into the dry territory with just a little overbaking. Better to err on the side of caution.

I also encourage you to start with a whole pound of chestnuts, although you’ll only need about 2/3 of them, because chestnuts are notorious for surprising you, once roasted, with rotten centers. If you’ve got a winning batch (as I did), you get a little to snack on and everyone wins.”

Makes about 4 dozen 1-inch cookies

Ingredients

1 pound chestnuts

1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) butter, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon + additional for coating

A few gratings of fresh nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups all purpose flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut a small X on the top of each chestnut with a very sharp knife. Don’t be afraid to cut into the “meat” of the chestnut a little; I found that the the ones that were the most easy to peel start with a deep enough cut that the skin peels back while roasting. Roast chestnuts on a baking sheet for about 20 to 30 minutes, until a darker shade of brown and the X peels back to reveal the inner nut.

Cool on tray and then peel. Don’t worry if they break up as you do so if you have to dig them out in pieces, you won’t need whole ones for this.

Once the peeled chestnuts are fully cool, chop them coarsely on a cutting board. Measure 1 cup of chopped chestnuts, and dump them in the bowl of a food processor. Grind them until they are very well chopped, then add the softened butter, and pulse again until combined. Add 1/2 cup of your powdered sugar, vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and flour and pulse until an even dough is formed.

[No food processor? Chop-chop-chop those chestnuts as fine as you can, then use an electric mixer to whip the butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Add the vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, flour and chestnuts and beat until well blended.]

Divide dough and wrap each half in plastic, chilling for one hour or until firm. Once chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and a few pinches of cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside. Working with one half of the chilled dough at at time, roll it into 2 teaspoon-sized balls (I use my 1 tablespoon measure, but didn’t fill it) in the palm of your hand. Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheet but no need to leave more than 1/2 inch between the cookies; they won’t spread.

Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 14 to 17 minutes. (See Note up top about baking times.) Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. To touch them up before serving, you can sift some of the leftover cinnamon-sugar mixture over them.

Do ahead: Dough can be chilled in the fridge for a day or two, longer in the freezer. Chestnuts can be roasted in advance, kept at room temperature for a day or so. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.

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Angie's RecipesDecember 20, 2010 - 5:19 am

I love chestnuts! But haven't tried them in cookies. And why not! I love how they look, earthy and delicious!

KennedyDecember 20, 2010 - 5:57 am

Your pictures are so beautiful!

The Duo DishesDecember 20, 2010 - 6:06 am

These are similar to cookies we've made with hazelnuts and walnuts (and pecans too! ha!). They are so good. Hazelnuts are a little work too, but not as much as chestnuts. As you said, some labor intensive desserts are worth it.

Ken│hungry rabbitDecember 20, 2010 - 8:13 am

Please send me some. I can almost taste them by looking at your photos.

ElizabethDecember 20, 2010 - 12:17 pm

They were SO so good. Thank you for bringing them for the cookie swap!

Sarah @ Semi-SweetDecember 20, 2010 - 1:01 pm

wow – these are special – I bet they're absolutely delicious. as usual, your photography is gorgeous!

StephDecember 20, 2010 - 1:19 pm

I've never had a chesnut before, but these sounds amazing! And I love all of your photos

Adora's BoxDecember 20, 2010 - 1:38 pm

How wonderful! It is so good to cook with Christmassy ingredients such as chestnuts at this time. This seems like something I would eat non-stop.

The CilantropistDecember 20, 2010 - 2:04 pm

Great recipe Brian, and I love your photos of the chestnuts especially, makes me want to whip these up now! They are a little like a chestnut Mexican Wedding cookie, no?

C ThorntonDecember 20, 2010 - 2:05 pm

Wow, what a discovery. I see chestnuts and I think stuffing. That's it. Now I'm going to think about these beautiful cookies!

Amelia PSDecember 20, 2010 - 2:08 pm

Oh, they look delightful, like a shortbread, but with more "meatiness"!

Amelia PSDecember 20, 2010 - 2:08 pm

P.s. If you like chestnuts, check out also my Marrons glacés & Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) dessert, perfect for the holidays http://tinyurl.com/234qyle

Bianca @ Confessions of a ChocoholicDecember 20, 2010 - 2:38 pm

Ooooh these look like perfect little holiday cookies. I've never baked anything with chestnuts, but I do love them!

sara @ CaffeInaDecember 20, 2010 - 4:29 pm

If you love chestnuts you should go to Italy (with me of course!) in November. We eat chestnuts in so many possible ways that here I've never seen. These cookies though….wow….I don't think I've ever eaten cookies like this.

mywanderingspoonDecember 20, 2010 - 4:33 pm

Finally another chestnut recipe. Love them…great job. A lot of work but at the end wonderful desserts:)
Recently I made chestnut puree,it was amazing.
http://mywanderingspoon.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/chestnut-puree-homemade-with-whipped-cream/

Island VittlesDecember 20, 2010 - 5:36 pm

how wonderful! I missed these on Smitten, but I'm so happy to find them here — we have a fire in our wood stove going permanently right now, and it would be so great to pull a pan of chestnuts our of the embers and turn them into cookies! After I munched on (just a) few dipped in butter, of course…Theresa

Sippity SupDecember 20, 2010 - 6:04 pm

Chestnuts are a holiday favorite, but they are not all that easy to find in CA. But I love the romance of this cookie. GREG

The Small Boston KitchenDecember 20, 2010 - 6:39 pm

Awesome! I've been wanting to take a stab at using chestnuts in some sort of capacity and this looks like a great way!

Andrew FrishmanDecember 20, 2010 - 6:39 pm

MMnnnn!. . . I LOVES me some chestnuts, especially when they have been cookified.

¿No sería más seguro castañas asadas en el fuego con las medidas de seguridad adecuadas?

saltyseattleDecember 20, 2010 - 7:16 pm

And oh look! You love putting nut balls in your mouth, so I guess we're even :) xo

MeganDecember 20, 2010 - 7:33 pm

I always wished we could have a man selling roasted chestnuts from a street cart but we dont have such a thing here in my neck of the woods. They always sound so festive as does this cookie.

Cake DuchessDecember 20, 2010 - 8:02 pm

These photos are spectacularl! These cookies remind me of Christmas in Italy. Love this recipe.

Evan @swEEtsDecember 20, 2010 - 8:22 pm

So I haven't ever lived in Boston (I wish) but I have visited during the holidays and I know exactly the man you're talking about selling the chestnuts! These cookies look fabulous. Thanks for sharing :)

katDecember 20, 2010 - 8:43 pm

What a great idea!

JackieDecember 20, 2010 - 9:41 pm

I read these this morning and I've been thinking about them all. Day. I love chestnuts but have never thought about putting them in cookies. Until now. I can just imagine the depth of flavour… mhmmm…

Jax x

RJ FlamingoDecember 21, 2010 - 1:10 am

Oh, I miss chestnuts! I love the ones from the vendor carts, and I even love the ones I used to roast at home, though they weren't perfect. This post brings that flavor right back to me, and I'll bet those cookies are awesome!

AmyDecember 21, 2010 - 3:22 am

I love roasted chestnuts, but was looking for a way to use them besides just snacking on them! Thanks for the great recipe :) !

Jun BelenDecember 21, 2010 - 4:14 am

They remind me of Mexican wedding cookies because of how they are coated on powdered sugar. I could almost taste the sweet, buttery flavors of chestnut just by looking at your photographs. Lovely.

SaraDecember 21, 2010 - 4:18 am

Love chestnuts but I have never roasted them at home! I bet your house smelled awesome! Lovely cookie recipe! Thanks for sharing!:)

K o r iDecember 21, 2010 - 1:34 pm

Your photos are amazing! I was just in Europe and saw roasted chestnuts at their Christmas markets…so fun and festive, but I've never tried making them at home! Thanks for sharing your recipe, and a very Merry Christmas to you!

DavidDecember 21, 2010 - 3:21 pm

I love the smell (and taste!) of roasted chestnuts. It's always so exciting when you find a cookie recipe you never tried before. Want these now!
Merry Christmas!

JoanneDecember 21, 2010 - 3:30 pm

After scoring and peeling an indefinite amount of chestnuts for Thanksgiving, I swore never again. Ah but these look so delicious! Alright fine. Again.

A few of these babies with a good batch of creme de menthe infused hot chocolate…I'd be one happy camper.

briarroseDecember 21, 2010 - 6:50 pm

Wonderful holiday cookie. They look just delicious.

Baking BarristerDecember 21, 2010 - 10:46 pm

This chestnut-on-corner thing is very East Coast–I've NEVER seen it out here before. I've never actually had a chestnut before, I think. I'm willing to try them if you're willing to ply them ;)

LimeCakeDecember 22, 2010 - 2:44 am

I love chestnuts! These cookies look fantastic. Happy holidays!

MonetDecember 22, 2010 - 7:25 am

You need to quit your day job and become a food photographer…your shots are just stunning! I wish we still lived on the East Coast so we could sample some of these chestnuts (I've never tried them before…a shame, I know) Thanks for sharing another great baking recipe with me. I hope you are having a week of family, friends and love!

tasteofbeirutDecember 22, 2010 - 4:08 pm

There is a man who sells chestnuts out of his cart in Beirut and this year he started early , at the end of September. I have never tried making cookies out of chestnuts, usually gobble them with butter and honey drizzled on top, but these look like a classic. A must try recipe soon.

Lindsey @ Gingerbread BagelsDecember 22, 2010 - 4:37 pm

I LOVE roasted chestnuts but it's been so long since I've had them. I've never had roasted chestnuts in cookies though. They sound and look soooo good. I love how you showed the chestnuts whole and then peeled, just gorgeous. The cookies are stunning too! :)

SheenaDecember 22, 2010 - 9:18 pm

I haven't had roasted chestnuts in so long, these cookies sounds just like mexican wedding cakes so I know they would taste amazing!

CristinaDecember 23, 2010 - 12:01 am

What a beautiful post. I was in New York a couple years ago and could smell roasting chestnuts on street corners. They smell so good – I regret not having stopped to buy some to see what they taste like. I've never had chestnuts before. I'm going to check Trader Joe's after this weekend and give them a try. And then, I want to make these cookies. :)

LirenDecember 23, 2010 - 1:53 am

So glad you jumped on the chestnut bandwagon, aren't you glad you did? I love this cookie, it reminds me of the Mexican wedding cookie, as someone mentioned. Nutty, crumbly, and powdery, they look finger licking good :) Your images are beautiful.

Kitchen MDecember 23, 2010 - 4:54 am

I love chestnuts!! Yes… I once toasted them in the toaster oven without piercing the shell and made a big mess… I also discovered that boiling is a pretty easy way to cook them. These cookies remind me of Mexican wedding cpokies, which I LOVE! I'm definitely making them soon. Thanks for sharing.

Chef DennisDecember 23, 2010 - 12:46 pm

I have never roasted chestnuts before, thank for the great tips! I have some I bought earlier and basically they were just for decoration, now I can actually roast them!!
cheers
Dennis

PavithraDecember 24, 2010 - 3:10 pm

I I love chestnut but not tried cookie though. TThis looks so delicious.

pPavithra
wwww.dishesfrommykitchen.com

CristinaDecember 26, 2010 - 9:38 pm

Hi Brian: Just wanted to thank you (and Liren) for the inspiration on roasting & using chestnuts. I'm looking forward to making these cookies with the chestnuts I've just roasted. Thanks again for a great post. ;)

~Cristina

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