Tuesday February 22, 2011
Yet another Macaron Post
My love of seasonal flavors also means that the window of opportunity in which I can post about chestnut flavored anything has begun to close. Can I still write about chestnuts in February?
I have nearly reached the end of my supply of chestnut puree, and before I use up the last bit, I need at least one batch of chocolate chestnut macarons in my life. I know. My very last post was all about macarons too. Sorry.
I don’t know why chestnuts haven’t caught on with Americans. We seem to only love the idea of them roasting on an open fire. But I don’t think I’d ever eaten anything chestnut flavored (much less an actual roasted chestnut) until I moved to New York for culinary school. Even then, I don’t think I cared for the flavor all that much.
That changed in January of 2004 when I moved to Japan. As I went about my culinary adventures in Tokyo, it seemed pastry shops, cafes, and convenience stores presented me with kuri (栗) flavored snacks at every turn.
I fell in love with kuri. I learned to look for 栗 or くり written on menus and inevitably ordered whatever had kuri in it. As far as I knew, it stood for “mellow, nutty flavor of deliciousness.” I never asked anyone at school what kuri meant, I figured it some indigenous Japanese ingredient.
I ate kuri ice cream, kuri cookies, kuri pudding, kuri macarons and various kuri wagashi. Not until I purchased a Kuri Kit Kat (say that five times fast) at a Seven-Eleven did I realize kuri wasn’t uniquely Japanese. The wrapper had chubby little dark brown and tan nuts printed all over it and, suddenly, I made the connection.
Kuri meant chestnut.
Hopefully, you don’t have to travel half way around the world to discover the tastiness of chestnut. These macarons will serve as a good introduction if you’ve never had chestnuts, or hit the spot if you’re already a fan.
In Lexington you can buy fresh chestnuts at the Good Foods Coop, or a jar of whole chestnuts (already peeled, hurray!) at Liquor Barn. Making your own chestnut puree is as easy as simmering roasted chestnuts in water for 15-20 minutes and then blitzing in a food processor.
I have Mont Blanc, virtually synonymous with chestnuts in my mind, on the dessert menu at work right now. Trying to rope Rosco into a Mont Blanc photoshoot this week, so I may post about chestnuts one more time before March hits and it feels too springy to talk about chestnuts.
Any other chestnut fans out there? Are there place in America where the love of chestnuts is a little more prevalent? Because, chestnut trees all over the place notwithstanding, Kentuckians do not seem to give a flying flip about them.
29 comments and counting
Feb 22, 2011 · 11:33 AM
In Germany chestnuts are called Maroni and roasted ones are sold from little stands everywhere. I grew up in NYC but learned to love chestnuts in Germany. Your macarons are gorgeous!
· Mad Hausfrau · http://www.diaryofamadhausfrau.com
Feb 22, 2011 · 11:49 AM
Trying to rope me into a Mont Blanc photoshoot, huh? You should know by now that all you really have to do is bait the trap with desserts (and/or Indian cuisine)…
· Rosco · http://www.sideshowphoto.com
Feb 22, 2011 · 12:49 PM
Beautifully photographed and so tempting! Chocolate chestnut… delicious!
· Cheryl and Adam · http://www.pictureperfectmeals.com
Feb 22, 2011 · 12:50 PM
I love me some chestnuts! When I was a little girl, you could occasionally find vendors on the streets of Toronto who had a brazier full of roasting chestnuts, and getting a bag of hot nuts from a cart was a big treat (even more so than the candy apples that those carts also sold). It’s been years since I’ve seen a hot chestnut vendor out on the street, though.
I’m all about chestnut desserts, so these macarons are totally calling my name… but I’ve also recently discovered them as a savoury ingredient in Chinese cuisine. They’re downright sublime in a soy-sauce-based chicken stew.
· Isabelle · http://messycook.blogspot.com
Feb 22, 2011 · 4:39 PM
These look perfect! I like chestnuts, but am not fanatical about them. More for you!
· Christina · http://alittlesumpinsumpin.blogspot.com/
Feb 22, 2011 · 6:00 PM
I’ve been playing with my leftovers and ended up making a mixture of red bean paste (anko), chestnuts, and dark chocolate. I expected it to be an atrocity, but it was surprisingly good, and came out almost to a ganache consistency. I’ve been thinking about filling macarons with that mixture. If I do, I think I’ll try using a toasted rice flour or toasted soy flour instead of almonds in the macarons.
Feb 22, 2011 · 7:45 PM
@Mad Hausfrau, Another spurn-NYC-chestnuts-travel-abroad-and-love-‘em type convert!
@Isabelle, oh, I am loving savory Chinese chestnuts! A little Chinese spot near where we live has a “winter greens with chestnut” dish on the menu now and it is so, so amazing.
@Andy Actually, the anko/chocolate/chestnut mixture sounds delicious! I’ve had chocolate-an plenty of times, so adding in chestnuts doesn’t take any sort of leap of faith for me. Yum!
Do take care with the macaron recipe, maybe only substitute half of the flour for the almonds? Macarons are notoriously fussy, so you might want to only change a little at a time. Let me know how your experiment turns out!
Feb 22, 2011 · 9:32 PM
I always complain about the understatement of chestnuts here in the US. We use them for so many things in Italy and I think in Europe in general. Love this idea of Kuri macarons. They look gorgeous!
· CaffeIna · http://caffeiina.blogspot.com
Feb 22, 2011 · 10:45 PM
I’ve eaten plenty of macarons in my time, but I don’t know that I’ve had chestnut. I wish I could sample one [dozen!].
· Paris Pâtisseries · http://www.parispatsseries.com
Feb 22, 2011 · 10:45 PM
Chestnuts are overshadowed here too. Hardly see much treats or cakes with chestnuts in it. Instead, I saw an entremet called Kuri Kuri in a Japanese website, will attempt to make it sometime this weekend!
Btw, the macarons are lovely
· Swee San · http://thesweetspot.com.my
Feb 22, 2011 · 10:51 PM
Chesnut macarons. Those sound delicious. I was studying abroad in England in the fall and chesnuts were everywhere. The trees were full of them and they looked like baby hedgehogs. While we traveled around Europe, the chestnut followed us. Chestnut gelato in Italy was amazing. Thanks for posting and reminding me of those fun times.
· Spencer · http://www.saltandspatula.com
Feb 23, 2011 · 10:30 AM
So happy to see chestnut fans coming out of the woodwork! Thanks all.
@Deadly, I don’t ship, but have been known to make special deliveries. Tragically, even W+M doesn’t have macarons right now. I need to hop too it!
Feb 23, 2011 · 3:39 PM
The reason chestnuts aren’t as popular in the US is because the American Chestnut was nearly destroyed by a fungal blight introduced at the turn of the 20th century by imported Chinese Chestnut trees. By 1940 they were nearly gone. These days there aren’t many American Chestnut trees remaining, and as you might imagine, demand far outstrips supply. There are attempts to breed resistant hybrids, but this will take many years. So it’s not so much that we in America don’t appreciate chestnuts, but that we’ve not had the opportunity to try them at all.
Feb 23, 2011 · 7:01 PM
I wish chestnuts were more popular in the US! I tried them for the first time a few months ago, roasting and then making a soup out of them. It was delicious.
Your macarons look fantastic. The next time I see chestnuts at the store I’ll be sure to get some so I can try your recipe!
· Stephanie · http://www.52kitchenadventures.com
Feb 23, 2011 · 7:35 PM
E, thanks so much for that information!! I have heard that once before, but forgotten. Thank you for bringing up that point!
@Stephanie, let me know if you do!
Feb 24, 2011 · 11:58 AM
E’s info is correct, my daughter actually did a report in school about the Chestnut Tree and that is pretty much what we reported!
Your macarons are lovely! I just ordered a Macaron book and it should actually arrive today. I’ve yet to try making them, but am certainly going to give it a go. Congrats on the Top 9!
· Kim - Liv Life · http://livlifetoo.blogspot.com/
Feb 24, 2011 · 12:12 PM
Kuri? Never heard of that one and thank you for teaching me a new word! I LOVE chestnuts and I LOVE macarons so this is just a yummy post. Congrats on Top 9 today, too. I love chestnuts so much and I can’t believe this but have started on my next blog on chestnuts. Oops. Not the same, though. I had no idea they’re not popular in the US. Here in Paris they roast them in the streets…
· Jill · http://madaboutmacarons.com
Feb 24, 2011 · 1:49 PM
these look wonderful!!
· mamaloli · http://mamaloli.com
Feb 24, 2011 · 5:46 PM
I don’t think I’ve ever had a chestnut! You’ve made me want to go seek it out though. Your macarons look beautiful.
· Leah (So, How's It Taste?) · http://www.sohowsittaste.com
Feb 24, 2011 · 5:46 PM
I myself am not a huge fan of chestnuts, but my in-laws come from Italy, and chestnut season is a wonderful thing in our house. All the fruit stands in Brooklyn have them the season through, and NO ONE goes to the stand without buying a bag. They eat/roast them daily, and savor every moment of the chestnut’s existence. Though if you ask my father-in-law, NO chestnut in this country compares to one you can eat in Italy(cue the dad from My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Feb 25, 2011 · 10:06 AM
@Kim, thanks for the confirmation of E’s story! I’m glad to finally know the answer to this mystery! Now it just seems tragic, we Americans have been deprived of our native chestnuts! Here in Kentucky, we’re quite fortunate, I know many people with chestnut trees and their sold at the Farmers’ Market and at a local coop.
@Jill, a bag full of roasted chestnuts is one of my most favorite snacks. It’s been far too long.
@Leah, I hope you’ll give chestnuts a try, one way or another, before their season is fully over. Even if you just roast a few to eat out of hand, you’ll love them! Um, I hope.
@Vicky, I love it whenever you stop by for a comment, darling! I can’t believe your family hasn’t put you on probation over your chestnut indifference. I can always count on New York for delicious roasted nuts! Your father in law may be right, I’ll have to go to Italy and find out if he’s on to something. BRB.
Feb 27, 2011 · 5:30 PM
Seldom do we get such perfection here in Paris..Congrats!
· Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris · http://frombatoparis.blogspot.com
Feb 03, 2012 · 12:57 AM
Fortunately for me I was raised by an Anglophile mother who used to dreamily reminisce about walking foggy London streets to find a chestnut vendor so she could warm her chilled fingers on a newsprint cone of roasted chestnuts. We bought them whenever they were in season, scored ‘em all with X’s and roasted them in the oven on a cookie sheet. And we’re from Indiana, so if that skews the foodie demographic stats, so be it, I guess. Long live the glorious chestnut!
Feb 03, 2012 · 10:26 AM
@Psyche1226, oh, I’d dreamily reminisce too if I had such a lovely memory to go along with it! I certainly had my fair share of chestnut cones in Japan, but those times were a little more riotous than picturesque. (Viva la Yokohama chestnut!)
Feb 29, 2012 · 5:39 PM
@Victoria, macarons definitely take some practice. I don’t know how many times you’ve given them a shot, but for a lot of people it can take four or five attempts to just start getting the hang of it. The best thing you can do is calibrate your oven, skip the flavors and colors, and practice, practice if you’re aiming for perfection. Otherwise, ignore the cracks and enjoy them! Even cracked, they’re delicious.