When I was at Potentino last fall, the chestnuts had begun to fall from the trees, making it slightly hazardous for us helmet-less visitors to walk from town to town. After one particular close call, one of the volunteers who was from England told me that apparently it’s a tradition over there to play a game called ‘Conkers’ when the chestnuts are in season.
The gist of it is that you drill a hole in your chestnut/conker, and tie a string around it, then fling it repeatedly at an opponent’s chestnut until one of them breaks and the last conker standing is declared victorious. There are, truly, Championship Conker Tournaments, and whole controversies over whether or not you should be allowed to harden your conker in advance by boiling it in a vinegar solution, which led to bring-your-own conkers being banned from the British Junior Conkers Championships in 2005.
… Let’s just think about that for a minute.
And then praise the gods for having grown up in a household with television.
I don’t know about you, but I must say I prefer eating chestnuts to battling with them. An innate Canadian pacifism, perhaps?
So, in the spirit of Make-Chestnut-Love-Not-War, I wanted to come up with a recipe that brought together some of my favourite late fall/early winter flavours. I’m also an ice cream fiend, and have been wanting to try some of the no-churn recipes I’d seen floating around the internet for some time. I decided that this would be the perfect marriage!
Whipped cream is folded into a bowl of homemade chestnut spread, with a hint of vanilla and a generous splash of dark rum. It’s heaven, already, to be sure, but to make the texture more interesting, I also threw in some dark chocolate and toasted walnuts.
No-churn chestnut ice cream with rum, dark chocolate, and toasted walnuts
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours
Yield: Roughly 1.5 L of ice cream
A decadently rich holiday treat that doesn't require an ice cream machine. Chestnut puree adapted from Happyolks and no-churn ice cream base adapted from Half Baked Harvest
For the chestnut spread:
1-2 cups of water
3 Tbs honey (plus more, if desired, to taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the ice cream:
473ml carton of whipping cream
300ml can sweetened condensed milk (American friends, yours are sold in 400ml -- no idea why there's a discrepancy; use the whole can either way!)
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
100g dark chocolate, chopped into very small pieces
1 cup chestnut puree (see recipe above, or use a store-bought variety)
2 oz dark rum
For the chestnut puree:
Preheat the oven to 425F. Very carefully, use a sharp knife to score an 'X' on the rounded side of each chestnut. Set them flat, uncut side-down on a roasting pan and add 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Put on some happy music -- you'll want it for the peeling part coming up next.
Once they're cool enough to touch, begin peeling the chestnuts. The outer shells generally come off pretty easily. (If you're having any trouble with the inner shell, set those chestnuts aside, and later, in a large pot of boiling water, drop them in in small batches, and remove after 30 seconds and rub off with a clean dish towel.) You'll lose some due to mold, or because they're just too stuck to the shell; don't worry about it.
Depending on how many chestnuts you managed to salvage, set them in a pot with anywhere between 1 cup and 2 cups of water. Add the 3 Tbs of honey and simmer for 15 minutes.
In a food processor, add the chestnuts and their bathwater, and the vanilla. Pulse until mixture is smooth and uniform, adding a couple extra tablespoons of water or milk to thin out the texture if necessary. Taste, and add more honey if desired.
For the ice cream:
In a large bowl, whisk the cream, sweetened condensed milk, and 1 Tbs vanilla until you get hard peaks. (If you're letting a stand mixer do the work, now is a good time to toast your walnuts/chop your chocolate.)
In another bowl, add the cup of chestnut puree. Scoop a few large spoonfuls of the whipped cream mixture into the bowl, and beat until the chestnut puree has lightened in texture. Fold this new chestnut mixture and the rum back into the whipped cream bowl.
Scoop half the mixture into a freezer-safe container (I like to use a metal loaf pan). Scatter with half the walnuts and chocolate. Scoop the remaining half of the cream mixture on top, and swirl the middle layer in with a knife. Smooth the top, and cover with the remaining walnuts and chocolate.