I love how these look like snowballs. That, plus the fact they’re made of pulverised roast chestnuts, is the reason I made them a couple of years ago and why I made them again this year. Couldn’t remember how they were supposed to taste like, but I after several bakings, I can confirm these cookies are tender, buttery cookies you can eat in one bite.
I find them calming to make, and imagine they would be a fun group activity. They’re the kind where you just roll them between your palms, so you don’t have to deal with endless rounds of rolling, sticky work surfaces, or squabbling over equipment.
Once the warm cookies are rolled in lightly scented icing sugar, they are complete. While sugar-dusted things are often too much for me, these have just enough melting sugar to bring out the warmth of chestnuts and spice. Perfect with a cup of tea.
ROASTED CHESTNUT COOKIES
Halved from Smitten Kitchen; original recipe makes 48, I rolled them a bit smaller and got 34.
Keeps for at least 7 days in an airtight tin.
To roast chestnuts: Start with a whole bag of them to allow for extra (tossing bad ones, snacking on good ones). From 1 x 400g net bag, I got about 250g peeled roast chestnuts. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C/180 fan (400 degrees F). Carefully cut across the curved bellies of each chestnut using a sharp knife. Roast for 15 – 18 minutes or so until the chestnuts are split, the peels coming away from just-golden flesh. Leave to cool slightly for a couple of minutes, peeling them as soon your fingers can bear it. No need to get them out whole, only they’re much easier to peel if they’re warm.
Conversion note: Again, for this recipe I use 140g = 1 cup of plain flour/icing sugar.
100g/packed and heaped 1/2 cup peeled roasted chestnuts, cooled and roughly chopped (this is the prepared weight; see note above for how to roast & peel)
100g + 1 tbsp/1 stick unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
35g/1/4 cup icing sugar, sifted if lumpy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
A few drops almond essence (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used mixed spice)
A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
Small pinch salt
140g/1 cup plain flour
50g/1/3 cup icing sugar, twice-sifted if lumpy (fine, fluffy sugar adheres better)
A few pinches ground cinnamon or mixed spice
Spent vanilla pod, if used
For instructions on how to make this with a food processor, refer to recipe source above. To make by hand, finely chop or pound the chestnuts until reduced to fluffy meal. Transfer to mixing bowl and add the soft butter, beat well with your wooden spoon until combined, then work in 35g (1/4 cup) icing sugar, vanilla extract or seeds, almond essence (if using), spices, salt, and plain flour. You should have a slightly crumbly but soft dough which is easily pressed together with your hands.
Pat into disc, wrap in clingfilm or parchment, and chill for about 1 hour until cold and firm. Dough can be chilled for a day or two, or frozen for a few months.
Meanwhile, mix the 50g (1/3 cup) icing sugar, spices, and spent vanilla pod (if used) in a small dish or tin. Cover and leave to infuse.
When ready to shape and bake, preheat oven to 180 degrees C/160 fan (350 degrees F).
Remove dough from fridge and roll them 2 tsp at a time into balls. I used a rounded 1/2 tbsp measure, so my cookies were a bit smaller. If your dough is too hard and crumbly, leave until it’s malleable but still cool and firm. Space dough balls slightly over 1 cm (1/2 inch) apart on baking trays.
Bake for 14 – 17 minutes, rotating trays halfway through, until cookies are ever-so slightly puffed, dry on top, and golden on the bottom. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on trays, then roll warm cookies in the spiced icing sugar. Letting them sit before re-rolling results in a good coating. Amount of sugar may seem scanty but there’s enough to roll each cookie twice this way with 1 – 2 tbsp left over for extra dusting later.
Allow cookies to cool completely before storing. If you wish, re-roll or dust with reserved icing sugar before serving.