Holiday Flavor: Chestnut Cookies
No open fire? No problem. Carrollton farmer Greg Miller shares his advice for turning chestnuts into a sweet treat.
It’s been more than 70 years since Nat King Cole sang about chestnuts roasting on an open fire in “The Christmas Song,” but how many of us have actually experienced the tradition it talks about? We asked Greg Miller, owner of Empire Chestnut Co. in Carrollton and president of the Route 9 Cooperative, for his advice on roasting the holiday treat at home.
“The chestnuts are in the shell, and the shell should be scored with an X,” he says, explaining that the marking prevents the nut from exploding. “It is more like baking a potato. [Chestnuts] are 50 percent water, so they are high in moisture with not much fat.”
Those with a fireplace can place chestnuts in a metal roaster (basically a screen basket on a long stick), giving them an occasional shake similar to making popcorn over a campfire. You can also use a traditional oven, cooking the scored chestnuts on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until tender.
Miller has also found other ways to use the nut, including a cookie recipe he created for a company meeting that uses chestnut flour. Miller shared his recipe with us so you can give it a try this season.
Chestnut Cookies | Makes about 40 cookies
1 1/2 cups sweetened chestnut puree (see below)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 400 F. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar by mashing it with a fork or using a mixer. Add eggs, chestnut puree and vanilla. Blend well. Add wet to dry ingredients. Portion out in teaspoon-size balls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 7 minutes.
1 cup water
1 cup chestnut flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
Heat over medium-low heat while stirring, until the chestnut granules are soft (it may require adding a little bit more water). The final consistency should be something like mashed potatoes — moist, but not flowing. Let the mixture cool before use.