Saturday, January 3, 2015

Revised Chestnut Cheesecake Stars on New Year's Day

New Year's Day Feast
Happy New Year to all!

I found a recipe for Chestnut Cheesecake many years ago, and promptly made it with a lot of revisions. The recipe as it stood seemed to be clumsy, and with far too many steps. To me, superfluous steps are anathema. I am not saying I don't make complex recipes; I have created a few of my own. I always try to make them in the least steps possible to accomplish my ends.

The Chestnut Cheesecake I had been making for many years now is posted on my website, here. The recipe was made in an 8-inch spring-form pan. Plenty big enough, I guess, and we really didn't need anything larger here for just three of us for dinner yesterday. Still, if one was having guests and there was need, this revised version, made in a 9-inch pan, makes 16 narrow slices. Quite big enough for dessert, after a large New Year's Day meal of Perfect Prime Rib, Twice Baked Potatoes, Creamed Green Beans with Bacon and Brioche Buns! 

Best of all, this cake is totally gluten free!
Beautiful Chestnut Cheesecake II

The major change to the original recipe was the addition of another 8-ounce block of cream cheese and 2 eggs. A couple of other small changes, and with ingredients accordingly adjusted upwards, and my Chestnut Cheesecake II was a smash hit. It came out so very creamy and with such a perfect mouth feel, my sister-in-law and I were in raptures, eating it. The recipe does require a couple of expensive ingredients, particularly if you live in areas of the country where these ingredients are not available. They most certainly are not available up here where I live, but I had a can of sweetened chestnut cream/paste and a can of whole chestnuts in the pantry waiting for me to use them.
A slice of Chestnut Cheesecake II: note the coarse chopped chestnuts in the bottom.

The chestnut cream I have seen and used most often has come from France; Clement Faugier Chestnut Spread. It is a remarkably good sweetened spread that can be used for most any purpose. I love this stuff, and could easily eat it by the spoonful. This time, I had a different brand on hand; Minerve Chestnut Cream. This one is also produced in France. The key when looking for one of these products is that it be sweetened. There do exist variations without sugar; I ran into this once! Without the sweetening effect of the sweetened chestnut paste, more sugar will have to be added to the recipe. I have not tested this out, so I cannot give an alternative amount for sugar in the recipe. All I can say is that French labeling sometimes leaves much to be desired. Look very carefully.

Both these cans shown here are 17.6 ounces. I have been using this size for some time, though originally I had two 8-ounce cans. It seems easier to use this one larger can, plus the little bit extra of chestnut flavor it allows. Any amount from 16 to 18 ounces will work great.

Minerve Chestnut Cream
Clement Faugier Chestnut Spread
As for the whole chestnut part of this cheesecake, I use whole chestnuts set in the bottom of the crust and also on top for decoration. Williams Sonoma does carry whole chestnuts vacuum packed in a jar, and these are ideal. Expensive, but great quality. If you know of a source for whole, roasted and peeled chestnuts elsewhere, great. I have read that some Asian markets carry them very inexpensively. The Minerve brand also carries whole chestnuts in a jar. The last jar that I got at William's Sonoma, large though it is, was over $18. Be advised. So, this cheesecake is generally made for a special occasion, around my house. 

If you have time, and know that most of the cheesecake will be used up at once, topping with little rosettes of whipped cream and a piece of chestnut works great. If you must ready the cheesecake in advance, a little bit of frosting piped into little stars or rosettes and topped with a piece of whole chestnut works better. I opted for the latter, so the recipe for frosting will follow the cheesecake recipe. Granted, the amount of frosting I made was about double what is needed, but trying to pipe the frosting from a bag and a larger open star icing tip requires just about this much to be able to handle the bag  easily.

Chestnut Cheesecake II

serves 12 to 16

1 1/3 cup whole, unblanched almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
6 - 8 ounces whole, roasted, peeled chestnuts, divided

Preheat oven to 375. Have ready a 9-inch spring-form pan. Place the almonds and sugar in a food processor and process them fairly finely. Add in the extract and butter and continue to process until very fine. Press this mixture onto the bottom and up the sides about 1 inch. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. If the crust has puffed up a bit in baking, just press it back into corners as needed, while still quite warm. Cool the crust completely. Cut a large sheet of foil and completely cover the outside bottom and sides of the spring-form. Reserve aside 6 to 8 whole chestnuts and refrigerate for decorative topping later. Coarsely chop the remainder of the whole chestnuts and strew them into the bottom of the baked and cooled crust. Set aside. Leave oven on.

crust pressed into pan    |    crust just baked   |    outside of pan covered in foil    |    chopped chestnuts in bottom of pan

3 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt 
4 whole eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (17.6-ounce) can sweetened chestnut paste/cream/spread

Set the cream cheese into the bowl of a mixer and beat until smooth. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add this to the cream cheese and beat in until smooth. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add the whole can of sweetened chestnut paste/cream/spread and beat briefly to just combine. Use a spatula to scrape up any unmixed portions from the bottom of the mixer bowl and stir in well. Pour the filling into the cooled crust, over the chestnut bits. Tap the pan on a counter 2 or 3 times to release any air bubbles. 

1st 6 ingredients whipped  |  add in chestnut cream  |  combine well        |       poured into crust         |              baked              
Set the foil covered spring-form pan into a larger pan or casserole that will comfortably contain its size. Have hot water ready. Place the pans gently onto a lower-middle oven rack and carefully pour the hot water into the larger pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the foil covered cheesecake pan. Bake 30 minutes at 375. Reduce the oven to 325 and bake an additional 30 minutes. The cheesecake is done when most of the outer edge is set, but the center is still slightly jiggly. Once done, remove the spring-form from the water bath and set it to cool on a rack for about 3 hours. Refrigerate for at least 1 day and up to 3 days, well covered. 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5 teaspoons sour cream

Beat together the butter, sugar and salt. Add in the vanilla and the sour cream as needed, adding 1 teaspoon at a time until the frosting is stiff enough to hold star shape when piped, but spreadable. 

My Chestnut Cheesecake II
Decide how many portions to make of the cheesecake. On top of the cooled and refrigerated cheesecake, use a long knife to mark portions. Gently press the knife into the top once to mark the cake in halves, then in the opposite direction to mark quarters. At this point, divide the quarters into 3 or 4 portions apiece. Once the top is marked, pipe a rosette or star shape of frosting or whipped cream on the outer edge of each proposed slice. Cut the reserved whole chestnuts into 4 pieces each and set a quarter piece into each rosette or star

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.