Do you like chestnuts? I LOVE chestnuts! I think the best way to enjoy these seasonal treasures is to roast them over an open fire and eat them one at a time. You can also eat them with some sticky white rice, top your salads with some chopped chestnuts, or find a way to incorporate them with anything else that you like to eat.
In Korea I used to see fresh chestnuts in the market whenever weather started to get cold. However, for some reason, it’s been very hard to find chestnuts in my local grocery stores in California. I’ve looked every year since I moved to the States but I couldn’t find any chestnuts. I guess 2008 was finally my lucky year because I finally found chestnuts when I was in Trader Joe’s and then again at Albertson’s (a grocery store chain).
I’ve been enjoying the chestnuts that I found by roasting them over an open fire as well as in the oven. I also decided to make some chestnut cupcakes with my favorite chiffon cake and a little chestnut spread icing from scratch! I could have used canned chestnut spread or puree, but 1. it was a little pricey and 2. I wanted to try to make it from scratch. So, let’s get started making some chestnut spread icing and vanilla chiffon cupcakes!
INGREDIENTS & EQUIPMENT
Ingredients – Makes 18 cupcakes
For the Vanilla Chiffon Cupcakes
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar A (see above picture)
1/4 cup and 2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup and 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup chopped, cooked chestnuts (optional)
5 egg whites
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar B (see above picture)
1 pound whole chestnuts
1 cup sugar
1 cup chestnut spread
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon brandy or rum
Mixer (Hand or Stand)
Food processor or Blender
Your favorite holiday cupcake baking cups
HOW TO MAKE
Making the Chestnut Spread
1. Soak whole chestnuts in hot water for 30 minutes.
2. Peel the outer skin with a knife.
3. Soak them in hot water again for 15 minutes.
4. Use a scraping motion to peel the inner skin with a knife. Don’t worry about getting every little piece of the inner skin right now; we’ll do that later.
5. Soak the 90% peeled chestnuts in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain the water and then fill again until the water covers all of the chestnuts.
6. Bring the water to a boil and continue to boil the chestnuts for 5 – 7 minutes before draining again.
7. Peel the leftover skin from the chestnuts by hand or however you see fit – the skin should come off very easily.
8. Once again, fill the water up to where it covers all of the chestnuts and boil them on medium heat.
9. As you boil the chestnuts, the water level will go down as the water begins to evaporate. When the water level reaches the halfway mark on any of the chestnuts, add the cup of sugar to the chestnuts and reduce the heat to medium low. When the water only covers a third of any chestnut, they should all be ready for the next step.
10-12. Pour everything (the liquid and chestnuts) into a food processor or blender. Blend it all until you get a mushy consistency, you can strain the puree afterwards for a smoother spread. (Photo 11: Before puree & Photo 12: After puree) Store in a container and cool completely before use.
Making Vanilla Chiffon CupcakesBefore you start
1. Preheat the oven to 300 F.
2. Separate egg yolks and whites.
3. Sift cake flour and baking powder together.
1-2. Whip the egg yolks for 30 seconds.
3. Add sugar A and mix well until everything reaches a pale yellow color.
4. Add water and continue mixing.
5. Add olive oil and continue mixing.
6. Add vanilla extract and continue mixing.
7. Add flour and baking powder mixture while mixing at a low speed just until you no longer see the flour.
8. Fold the optional chopped chestnuts into the cake batter with a spatula.
9-10. Whip egg whites for 1 minute at a high speed in separate container and then add half of sugar B while continuing to whip.
11-12. Add the rest of sugar B and continue to whip until you reach a medium peak.
13-14. Add half of the meringue to the egg yolk mixture and gently fold with a whisk. Then, add the remaining half meringue to the mixture and gently fold.
15. Scoop the mixture into your baking cups. An ice cream scoop usually provides the perfect amount for each baking cup!
16. Stir each cupcake once with some type of stick to let air escape from the mixture and then bake the cupcakes for approximately 25 minutes.
17. Leave the cupcakes in the baking pan for 5 minutes before taking them out to cool.
18. I placed half of my cupcakes upside down as soon as I took them out of the oven. This is something that you would need to do if you were baking a full sized chiffon cake to keep it from sinking. The half that weren’t upside down did not sink so you can cool your chiffon cupcakes right-side-up.
Making Chestnut Spread Icing
1. Whip the heavy cream at a medium speed for 1 minute. Then, add chestnut spread.
2. Beat until they are well blended.
3. Add your favorite brandy or rum and continue beating until it forms stiff peaks or it reaches a thickness to pipe.
4. Now, you may put the chest nut spread icing in a piping bag and decorate cupcakes.
SERVING & STORING
Serving: You can serve as soon as cupcakes are cooled and iced. Icing cupcakes before you serve is recommended if possible.
Storing: Any icing that contains whipped cream needs to be refrigerated. Please store leftover iced cupcakes in a refrigerator.
- Making the Chestnut Spread: Make sure that you cool the chestnut spread completely before you whip it with the heavy cream. If the chestnut spread is warm, the icing will be runny. Putting the spread in a refrigerator helps for cooling quicker.
- Making the Chestnut Spread: I probably wouldn’t mind buying canned chestnuts in the future because it was very time consuming to peel them even though it may cost a little more than peeling them myself.
- Making Vanilla Chiffon Cupcakes – Folding (Steps 13 & 14): Remember to scoop the very bottom of the bowl to ensure that the heavy ingredients (flour, sugar, yolk, etc.) mix properly with the meringue.
- Making the Chestnut Spread Icing: When you beat the chestnut spread with the heavy cream, make sure that you DO NOT over whip! If you whip the icing for too long, the fat will become chunky and the fluids from the heavy cream will start to separate.
I always love chiffon cakes because they’re surprisingly moist and fluffy. Making cupcakes with this vanilla chiffon recipe was great, they were just like mini-chiffon cakes. Since I love chestnuts, I especially enjoyed adding the chestnut bits into the actual cupcakes.
I don’t really like making things super sweet, which is why I enjoy baking everything from scratch. This way I have more control over how sweet my desserts taste.