This brownie combines two things I deeply love: brownies (obviously) and chestnuts. How wonderful are chestnuts? They add a solid, meaty bite to holiday stuffing; pair gloriously with brussels sprouts; and make rich, creamy soup. They are one of those foods that don't have a substitute. What else is like a chestnut in both taste and texture?
So, these brownies came to fruition because I had a package of cooked-and-peeled vacuum-packed chestnuts in the fridge. It was a new product at my supermarket--slightly cheaper than the jars that can be hard to find at non-holiday times--and I snapped it up without much thought. Last week, I used some of the chestnuts to make a pasta dish, and immediately started pondering what to do with the remainder. I also happened to have a can of chestnut puree (the pure, non-sweetened kind), which I think has been in the pantry for a year and a half. Somehow that equation equaled brownies.
Unsweetened chestnut puree.
After searching far and wide for a chesnut-y brownie recipe or something I could re-jigger slightly, I was left empty handed. But I still knew I could adapt something and settled on this recipe for brownies with a cream cheese swirl by the highly-regarded pastry chef, author and blogger, David Lebovitz. I knew it was a solid recipe, and I had a hunch that I could substitute the cream cheese swirl for a chestnut version.
If you love chestnuts like I do, you might seek out the ingredients and try this. To simplify, you could do it without adding the chopped chestnuts to the puree, or you could simply stir some chopped chestnuts into the fantastic brownie base. I have to note how pleased I was with David Lebovitz's recipe. Simple (you only need one kind of chocolate--amen!), unfussy, and it worked. It would be a fine chocolate brownie without the swirl, but I think I need to try the cream cheese version sometime soon.
Ready for the oven: the "swirl" is more utilitarian than aesthetic here.
Finished brownies in their handy sling.
Chestnut Swirl Fudge Brownies
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s recipe for Cheesecake Brownies
If you use an 8-inch pan, brownies will be very thick and fudgy. If you don’t like that very moist (but still “done” enough) center, use a 9-inch pan.
Makes one 8-inch or 9-inch square pan
7.5 ounces unsweetened chestnut puree (200g)
5 Tbs granulated sugar (62 g)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
100 g cooked, shelled chestnuts (about 15 medium), chopped
6 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces (85 g)
4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (115 g) (I used Ghirardelli 60% cocoa baking bar)
2/3 cup sugar (130 g)
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (70 g)
1 Tbs unsweetened natural cocoa powder (6 g)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (105 g)
Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick foil (or regular foil coated with cooking spray), leaving some over hang on 2 sides to act as a “sling” for lifting brownies. Preheat oven to 350 F.
Make chestnut batter: In a large bowl, beat chestnut puree, sugar, salt and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed until smooth. Stir in chestnuts and set aside.
Make fudge batter: In glass or other microwave safe bowl, combine butter and chocolate. Microwave on medium power in 20 to 30 second increments, stirring each time, just until chocolate is melted. Be careful not to over do it, or chocolate can burn. Stir in sugar with a whisk and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Slowly add beaten eggs to chocolate mixture as you whisk. Add vanilla. Add flour, cocoa and salt, and stir just until combined. Stir in a little more than half of the chocolate chips and spread evenly in prepared pan.
Dollop chestnut batter over fudge batter and swirl them together with a spatula; smooth the surface (since chestnut batter is thick, you won’t get a pretty swirl pattern). Sprinkle remaining chips over surface and gently press them down a bit so they adhere.
Bake 45 to 60 minutes (my 8-inch took about 55), or until a thin knife comes out with moist crumbs (but not raw batter) and edges pull away slightly from sides of pan (see recipe headnote and make the call depending on pan size and how you like your brownies; as I said, the 8-inch version will be thick). Cool in pan 10 minutes, then lift the foil over hang and cool completely (still in foil) on a rack. For very neat cutting, cool at room temp, then chill for about 1 hour before cutting.