“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack frost nipping at your nose.” The man who penned those song lyrics could very well have been Hungarian. This time of year in Magyarland, noses certainly get nipped, and you’ll see lots of chestnuts roasting on open fires – especially at the Christmas markets. Chestnut purée, or gesztenyepüré, is a wildly popular wintertime dessert over here. In fact, it’s said that a winter without snow is possible in Hungary, but a winter without gesztenyepüré is inconceivable.
Before moving to Budapest, chestnuts for me were just something you sang about at Christmastime. I don’t think I’d ever tasted one. But now, I’m hooked on Gesztenyepüré. I’m sure one big reason is that it’s usually served with mountains of whipped cream. I take that back – mountain ranges of whipped cream. I buy my gesztenyepüré prepackaged in the frozen food section. I hear making your own is pretty time consuming. All those chestnuts have to be peeled! But if you’re ambitious and would like to try, here are the recipes for both the mixture and the purée. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Gesztenyepüré Hagyományos Módon (Traditional Chestnut Mixture)
Ingredients: 2 1/4 lbs/1 kg chestnuts; 1 3/4 cups/200 g confectioners’ sugar; 4 1/4 cups/1 liter milk; 1 vanilla bean; 1-2 tbsp rum
Directions: Cook the chestnuts for a few minutes in boiling water, then pour off the water and drain. Peel the chestnuts. Dissolve the sugar in the milk, add the vanilla bean and cook the chestnuts in it until soft. Remove the chestnuts, pass them through a sieve, and beat in the room until smooth. Cream can be added if desired. The mixture can now be used to make the following dessert:
Gesztenyepüré masszából (Chestnut puree made from chestnut mixture)
Diriections: Whip the cream until stiff. Transfer half of it to a large, glass bowl or divide it between 5 or 6 dessert dishes. Force the chestnut mixture, which has been enriched with rum or milk, through a potato press, then spoon it over the whipped cream and decorate by piping the remaining cream into resettes. The dessert is often decorated with sour cherries.
Do you have a favorite gesztenyepüré memory? If so, please share.