During the 12 days of Christmas Cookies last year, Day 5 was Chestnut rings (" on the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five chestnut rings"). I was very happy with how those came out, but I had hoped for more of a roast chestnut flavour which they didn't have. I've been meaning to try these again since, tweaking some bits to get that roast chestnut flavour to come out, but only got around to it now. (I know, I know, Christmas cookies in September? But chestnuts should be allowed anytime in my book.) To try and get the flavour I was after this time, I roasted both whole chestnuts (given the time of year, these were from the freezer) and the chestnut (vermicelli) paste. I also tried two different textures, rolling some and leaving others rough and spiky. Finally, i tried half the batch lightly salted and the other unsalted to see what difference it would make. IN the end, I think my favourites were the ones that were rough and salted. All four variants were good though.
1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 chestnut paste
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1 c chestnuts
3/4 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1) Roast chestnuts and chestnut paste at 200°C for about 30-45 minutes until dark. The paste will taste almost caramelised. I roasted the paste in a little covered pot to keep it from drying out. The whole chestnuts don't need to be covered though.
2) Cream butter, chestnut paste and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the wet ingredients and then the dry and mix well.
3) Chop the chestnuts into pieces. Incorporate into dough. Drop by teaspoonsful onto an ungreased cookie sheet either smoothing out the balls or leaving rough) and then bake at 190°C for 8 minutes until golden brown.
I was really happy with these! The salt was necessary as it helped bring out the flavours and accentuate everything else a little. I only added a very little and not much was needed. They did taste like roast chestnuts this time. The flavour was obviously less pronounced than in whole roast chestnuts, but that is to be expected. I skipped the cinnamon and don't think it was missed. I will still keep the other recipe too, but this is a nice alternative to have up my sleeve!