Chestnut Stuffed Apples
Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 13, 2009
I adore chestnuts—not that I don’t love all the other nuts, too, but chestnuts—well—they’re special—really special. Chestnuts have a texture like no other nuts. They’re very very low in fat so they have a totally different mouthfeel from other nuts.
Tree nuts are known for their high monounsaturated fat content, but chestnuts are different with a total fat content of 8%, while almonds contain about 80% fat and walnuts have about 87% total fat. Even the saturated fat content of chestnuts bottoms out at 2%, while other nuts range from 7 to 22%.
Chestnuts are starchy and, when cooked, their texture could be compared somewhat to a firm, boiled potato—actually, more like a creamy Asian sweet potato because chestnuts are sweet. Also, chestnuts are not crunchy like other nuts, and they’re mostly eaten cooked rather than raw. Their soft texture and sweetness set them apart from other nuts.
Try free-associating the words “baked apples” and you’re sure to arrive at familiar words like home, homespun, comfort food, old-fashioned, Mom, fragrant aromas, warmth, sweet, raisins, and kitchen. But it’s doubtful you’ll connect chestnuts with baked apples. This grand combination, heightened with orange blossom water and a heavenly sauce, invites happy gorging in a good sense—the ingredients are wholesome and nourishing. This is a great make-ahead dessert that can be served chilled or gently warmed. To warm the apples, place them in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes. To warm the sauce, place it in a saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
CHESTNUT STUFFED APPLES
Yield: 4 servings
4 sweet apples (Fuji, Gala, or Pink Lady), washed and cored
1 cup cooked, peeled, coarsely chopped chestnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange blossom water**
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups vanilla soymilk
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place the prepared apples into an 8 x 8-inch baking pan, and set aside.
2. TO MAKE THE FILLING, combine the chestnuts, raisins, dates, water, maple syrup, lemon juice, orange blossom water, and cinnamon in the food processor. Pulse and process until the mixture is almost pureed, leaving the mixture with a little toothy texture. You may have to stop the machine once or twice to scrape down the sides of the processor and process again to incorporate the stray bits.
3. Use a pointed spoon to fill the cored apples, pushing the filling firmly down into the bottom of the cavity. Mound the remaining filling over the top of the apple and smooth the top.
4. Place an aluminum foil tent (shiny side down) over the baking dish and seal the edges well. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes. Baking time will vary with the apple variety. Fork test after 50 minutes.
5. TO MAKE THE CREAMY SAUCE, combine the soymilk, brown sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a wire whip. Watch carefully to avoid a messy boil-over.
6. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir to form a runny paste. Add the paste to the gently bubbling sauce a little at a time, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, or until thickened to desired consistency.
7. TO SERVE, place the baked apples into individual dessert dishes and spoon a generous serving of the sauce into the bottom of each bowl, forming a pool of creamy sauce.
To enhance the dessert presentation, here are some suggestions:
Float fresh raspberries in the sauce
Float fresh strawberries in the sauce
Make a sauce with raspberries or strawberries blended with sugar to taste and drizzle over the top
Drizzle warm chocolate syrup over the top of the apple filling and allow it to cascade down the sides
Drizzle a small amount of rum, brandy, Kahlua, or Crème de Cocoa into the sauce
**Orange blossom water can be purchased at most Middle Eastern, Greek, Italian, Armenian, and Iranian grocery stores. If you are unable to locate it, don’t worry. Simply leave it out, and the recipe will still bring delicious satisfaction.