November 5, 2004

a real taste of autumn

Thursday, November 4

Over the past month or so, I have made a LOT of sweets using chestnuts, from caramel pound cake with chestnuts and figs and chestnuts pound cake to mont blanc and cake roll with chestnut mousse. I enjoyed them all, very much treasuring a taste of autumn, but let's face it - I have used jars of sweet chestnut puree and chestnuts in syrup from a store, on sale throughout the year. In other words, they really weren't a taste exclusively of autumn. Therefore, I had to do something about this - making something using raw chestnuts.

This time of the year we would be able to find raw chestnuts sold at every corner in town back in Tokyo, but over here they're rare. Last year I managed to find ones imported from Korea at only one of my local supermarkets, and that was where I headed for last week. And I found some - Korean ones again. I really don't have much to complain about.

To cook raw chestnuts, you can either roast, steam, or boil them - or throw them in a rice cooker like I did this time around. I checked one reference (in Japanese) to see how to cook raw chestnuts in a rice cooker, but what I did basically was that I made a cut on the bottom of each chestnut and put them with some added water in a ricecooker, and turned it on.

It was my first experiment to cook raw chestnuts in a rice cooker, but it seemed to have worked fine.

While I would really enjoy popping the "popped" chestnuts into my mouth, I had a mission today - to make kuri-kinton, a very classic Japanese sweet made of pureed chestnuts and sugar, with or without satsuma-imo sweet potatoes. It sounds like a very simple stuff, and it actually is; it is hard to explain but whether or not because of the different variety of chestnuts, it usually tastes fairly different from French or other European sweetened chestnut products.

So I worked on the hot chestnuts and peeled them one by one, having just a bowlful of them at hand. I tasted one of them, and was a bit disappointed - they tasted sort of bland. It would totally be okay to use them for turkey stuffing or something, but seemed to be too tasteless to use in a sweet dessert. But what could I have done at this point? I kept on.

Fortunately, I had a great helper at hand: wasanbon-to, or a super-fine Japanese artisanal sugar that has a drlicate brown sugar-y taste with very small crystals and a immediately-melt-in-your-mouth kind of texture and has been much appreciated in making wagashi, or traditional Japanese confectionery. It should miraculously improve the somewhat bland taste of the chestnuts, or so I hoped.

After much efforts to put the chestnuts through a sieve, I combined the pureed - or more like ground - chestnuts with wasanbon-to sugar with a bit of added heavy cream in a pan and cooked it for a little while until it reached a nice paste-y consistency. I knew they wouldn't usually add heavy cream when making kuri-kinton, but my chestnuts were too dry to make a one mass of dough.

Then I even put the paste through the sieve again, as my kuri-kinton paste just wasn't quite smooth to my taste, probably because my sieve isn't fine enough. I tried anyways.

It took me a while to get to this point, but I was almost done now - I finished it up by putting a heap spoonful of paste in a layer of a sheet of paper towel wrung out with water and a piece of plastic wrap, then wrapping the paste to make a shape of ball, and twistintg the wrapper to shirr the paste.

It was a bit of workout with all that cutting of hard shell of chestnuts and sieving (twice) of not-so-tender nuts, but it was all paid, I guess. It must have been wasanbon-to sugar, or maybe the added cream, that had turned the bland chestnuts into something so simple but dainty...


Reid said...

Hi Chika,

Looks good! How did it taste?

Anonymous said...

i have 5 pounds of shelled peeled chestnuts. this sounds like just the thing for me. thank you for sharing!

Santos said...

how did you get them through a sieve?

fish fish said...

Hi Chika, at first when I see the 1st pic, I thought u bought it from some nice Japanese dessert shop. Wow! Impressed by ur home cooked Kuri-kinton. :) Well done!

chika said...

Hi there,

Reid - it tasted like, eh, sweetened chestnus. :P
I'd suspect some Japanese sweet shops might have something like this in Honolulu, maybe?

someone - wow I'm jelous, 5 pound of shelled peeled chestnuts at hand! Hope it worked good for you if you have tried it.

Santos - push! push! push!

fish - thanks for your compliment! I suppose there are a bunch of shops that sell "real", "authentic" kuri-kinton where you live... Kyoto's always got the fanciest Japanese sweets!

xexpat said...

hello - i was just in tokyo and had a delicious treat that i think is the same as this kuri kinton. could you confirm that the food on this site - at the top of the page ( is the same - i cannot read the japanese but it seems so similar.

thank you so very much