It’s really unfortunate, but I’ve noticed that most North Americans (both diners and restauranteurs) are totally unfamiliar with chestnuts.
Not the kind in hard, spiky, lime-green shells that pepper the ground in the autumn, the kind that you used to collect and throw at people as a kid — those are horse chestnuts, and definitely not to be eaten!
I’m talking about the kind of chestnuts that are common in French and Japanese desserts — chestnuts with a slightly nutty, sort of earthy, sweet kind of flavour.
See, over on this continent, people think that chestnuts are just for eating roasted or adding to holiday stuffing.
They don’t know that chestnuts are great with sugar, vanilla, chocolate, honey, cinnamon, and coffee, too!
Gathering the ingredients for this bread pudding might prove to be a little painstaking, but the result is totally worth your while.
Since chestnuts aren’t in season right now, using jarred or canned whole chestnuts will work perfectly fine in the recipe.
Chestnut Bread Pudding
*adapted from Marie Simmons
- 6 slices slightly stale, day-old bread
- 3/4 cup chestnut spread
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 2 tablespoons chestnut liqueur
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup shelled and chopped chestnuts
Apple version: replace chestnut spread with apple butter, replace chestnut liqueur with apple juice and brandy, replace chopped chestnuts with chopped apple.
Lightly brush a glass baking dish with melted butter, reserve remaining butter.
Use the 6 slices of bread to make 3 chestnut spread sandwiches.
Cut each chestnut spread sandwich into 9 squares and place in the baking dish — if you have more than 1 layer of bread, then sprinkle half the chopped chestnuts over the first layer before adding the second. Sprinkle with remaining chestnuts, making sure to tuck some of them between any gaps in the pieces of bread.
Brush the top layer of bread with melted butter.
In a separate bowl, gently whisk the eggs, sugar, salt, and cinnamon together until just smooth. Whisk in the milk, chestnut liqueur, and vanilla extract.
Pour the custard mixture evenly over the bread in the casserole dish.
Let stand for 1 hour, gently pressing down on the bread often in order to ensure that the custard is absorbed and the bread soaked through.
After almost an hour has passed, preheat the oven to 350°F (or 175°C).
Place the casserole dish in a larger baking pan and fill with enough water to come half-way up the sides of the casserole dish.
Bake for 50 ~ 60 minutes, or until the top of the bread pudding is puffed and browned and a skewer inserted into the center of the bread pudding comes out clean.
Allow to cool a little before serving warm! Refrigerate any remaining bread pudding.
If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth (like me) and some left over chestnut spread, you can make a sauce by whisking it with a bit of cream to thin it out and then drizzling it over your bread pudding.
Making a sauce adds to the aesthetic aspect of serving bread pudding as well, since, as tasty as bread pudding can be, it just sure isn’t all that pretty!
So, to all you North Americans who live in blissful, chestnutty ignorance, fire up those ovens and get baking! Yum!