Cheesecake,  Christmas,  Dessert

Chestnut Caramel Cheesecake

Sugar plums are nice but visions of cold winter nights, a roaring fireplace, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts dance in my head.  Especially during the holidays, chestnuts are a traditional holiday treat I always look forward to.  They become first available in the fall but I normally wait to purchase them until the holidays and through the winter months.

There are many uses for chestnuts; my mother added it her stuffing, I’ve made chestnut soup, and my simple favorite way is pulling out a pan of roasted chestnuts, wrapping them in a towel and serving them with warm brie and freshly baked bread.  As for desserts, a puree of chestnuts swirled into cheesecake, with a touch of rum in a gingersnap, chestnut crust is simply divine.

This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Chestnut Cheesecake.  It’s flavor is subtle and not too sweet.  I topped the cheesecake with roasted chestnuts and a drizzle of caramel.

Chestnut Caramel Cheesecake

adapted from Epicurious, by Nigella Lawson

For the crust:

4 ounces (2 cups) Gingersnap cookie crumbs

1/2 stick butter

1 heaped tablespoon sweetened chestnut purée

For the cheesecake:

2 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs, room temperature

3 egg yolks, room temperature

3/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon lime juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1–2 tablespoons rum

1 cup sweetened chestnut purée

Preheat the oven to 350° degrees.  Place a baking pan on the bottom rack filled with water in the oven.  This will ensure moisture in the oven.

For the base, process the crackers, butter and heaped tablespoon chestnut purée until like fine crumbs. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan and place in the fridge while you make the filling.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth and add the sugar. Add the eggs and egg yolks, beating them in one by one until they are incorporated into the cream cheese and sugar. Pour in the sour cream, lime juice, vanilla extract and rum, and beat again until smooth and creamy. Finally fold in the sweetened chestnut purée. Don’t worry about making it fully mixed, smooth cream cheese with grainy streaks of chestnut is fine.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust and place in the oven.  When the cheesecake is ready it should be just set on top with a hint of wobbly center. Take the cheesecake out of the oven  and run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen it from the sides.  Allow to cool on a rack and refrigerate overnight.

The next day remove the cheescake from the pan and top with the chestnuts.  Drizzle caramel sauce over the top and refrigerate until serving time.

To make the topping:

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup rum

1 tablespoon sweetened chestnut purée

1/4 cup superfine sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup shelled roasted chestnuts roughly chopped (recipe below)

Combine all of the syrup ingredients except the chestnuts into a saucepan and melt together. Let the syrup boil for 10 minutes, then cool to room temperature mix in the chestnuts and set aside.

To roast chestnut:  Wash in cold water and allow to soak for about 20 minutes.  On the flat surface of the chestnut cut a X shape with a knife.  Place on a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Roast for 15-25 minutes depending on their size.  Remove from the oven when they feel tender and place in a paper bag or towel to cool about 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  Peel while still warm.

I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.

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