Chestnut are a symbol of autumn, whether they are the toxic horse chestnuts that are so much fun for children to play with (it’s safe, as long as you don’t eat them), or delicious sweet chestnuts. This is not the first recipe with chestnuts (Castanea sativa) on Coquinaria, but this is the first sweet one. The other recipes are Roman chestnut purée and Kale with chestnuts from the eighteenth century. To avoid repeating myself, I will just refer to the introduction to those recipes for more information on the culinary history of chestnuts. They are very nourishing. The French apothecary and agronomist Antoine-Auguste Parmentier (1737-1813) did not just promote the potato as basic foodstuff, but also chestnuts (and sweet potato and Jerusalem artichokes). However, producing these in large quantities were not economically viable, and Parmentier’s publications on these subjects have fallen into obscurity.
Baking with Susanna Eger
In the recipe on this page chestnuts are used as pie filling. The source is a German cookery book from the eighteenth century, the Leipziger Kochbuch from 1745 by Suzanna Eger. In the introduction to the recipe for Pasties with sweetbread I have written more on die Egerin and her cookbook. The first time I prepared this pie was for a home concert from my neighbours with music from the Middle Ages and the eighteenth century in 2016. It was also the recipe on my Christmas card from that year.
Suzanna Eger included a large chapter on baking in her cookbook: Von allerhand Gebackenen. This starts with savoury pies for meat, game, poultry and fish, several small pies with lobster and/or crayfish, and a savoury chestnut pie with whole chestnuts, meatballs, spices, lemon and ‘bienchen’, which literally means bees but are probably pine nuts. The next recipes are for several kinds of dough with butter or lard. The dough for the chestnut pie is taken from this section. It can be used for savoury and sweet fillings; the chestnut pie can be found with the recipes for fruit pies.
The original recipe
The recipes for the dough and the filling are from the Leipziger Kochbuch by Suzanna Eger, from the edition of 1712. The first edition was from 1706. In the 1712 edition the recipes can be found on pages 282 (dough) and 292/293. The facsimile edition from the 1745 edition has the same text, with some minor differences in spelling.
Nimm anderthalb Pfund Butter, zertheile sie in kleine Stückgen, thue darzu ein Viertheil von einer Metze Mehl oder zwey Pfund, thue es auff ein Bret, behalte ein weinig zum Auswürcken, brich und reibe die Butter fein geschwinde das Mehl, querle drey Eyer in ein halb Nössel süsse Sahne, daß du denckest genug zu seyn, zu einem steifen Teig; knete es nicht zu sehr, dann dadurch schmeltzet die Butter; je geschwinder, je besser. Lasse ihn zum wenigsten ein Stunde so stehen, daß es erstarre. Mondele ihn breit, mache daraus was du wilst.
Wenn man Torten daraus machet, so bestreicht man die nicht mit Eyer-Dottern, sondern man lässet sie weiß […].
Take one-and-a-half pound butter, cut into small pieces, add a quart of a Metze* or two pounds flour. Do this on a worktop – save some [flour] for rolling the dough out – and rub the butter into the flour. Beat three eggs with a half Nössel** fresh cream [and add enough to the butter-and-flour] until it is enough to make a firm dough. Do not knead too long, because the butter will melt; the shorter the better. Leave it for at least one hour to firm it up. Roll it out flat and make of it what you like.
When it is used for [sweet?] pies, baste it not with egg yolks but leave it white.
* Metze = old measure, equals 8 pounds of flour. According to Wikipedia between 15 and 20 litres, or 4 to 5.3 gallons.
** Nössel = old measure, about 4.5 decilitres.
Nimm zwey Pfund frische Castanien, koche sie bis sie linde werden, schäle und stosse sie in einem Mörser mit Rosen-Wasser ab, darzu thue Zucker, Zimmet und Muscaten-Blumen, nimm es dann heraus in einde Schüssel, thue geschnittenen Citronat, Trisenet, und ein paar Eyer-Dotter darzu, rühre es recht unter einander. Du kanst auch noch ein wenig geschnittene Mandeln darzu thun.
Mache einen Sahn-Teig, fülle das unterste Blat, mache einen Deckel darauff, wie den vorigen. Wenn die Torte fertig, und du sie nicht weiß haben wilst, so querle einen Eyer-Dotter, thue ein klein wenig zerlassene Butter darunter, bestreiche sie damit, und laß sie fein gelbicht backen.
Take two pound fresh chestnuts, boil until soft, then peel them and pound them in a mortar with rose water. Add sugar, cinnamon, and mace. Then take it from[the mortar] and put in a dish. Add finely chopped candied citron peel, Trisenet***, and some egg yolks. Stir well together. One can also add some finely chopped almonds.
Make a cream dough, fill the lower dough sheet, and make a cover as in the previous recipe. When the pie is ready and you do not want it white: beat an egg yolk with some clarified butter and baste [the pie] with it and bake it a nice yellow [colour].
*** Trisenet = spice mixture
Feel free to use shop-bought dough, but then you will miss out on this delicious rich dough from Susanna Eger. The cover of the pie can be decorated in a simple or elaborate way, depending on available time. How to peel chestnuts can be read here.
Pie for dessert or tea for 8 persons; preparation in advance 20 minutes + 1 hour rest; preparation 1 hour.
800 gr boiled and peeled chestnuts
6 Tbsp rose water
200 gr (1 cup) sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cardamom
½ tsp mace
50 gr succade
50 gr chopped almonds
6 egg yolks
350 gr (12.3 oz.) butter
450 gr (3 5/8 cup) flour
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
double cream (with the egg 2¼ dl or 0.9 cup)
+ 1 dl (3.4 fl.oz.) cold water
Preparation in advance
Prepare the filling – Heat the chestnuts and purée them. Add all the ingredients for the filling and temper well together. If fresh chestnuts are used: here you can read how to prepare them.
Prepare the dough – Put the flour in a large bowl. Add butter and salt, and cut the butter into pieces the size of peas. Break the egg in a cup, and fill it almost up (scoop out 2 tablespoons of cream when full). Beat cream and egg and add to the flour and butter. Add as much cold water until the dough is formed. Let it rest for an hour in the refrigerator.
Take half the dough, roll it out and dress a greased pie mould mould (Ø 23 cm / 9”) with it. Scoop in the filling. Roll out the second half of dough and cut small openings in it in a decorative pattern. Cover the filling with it, and pinch the edges of the dough together. Baste the dough with some egg white if you want.
Bake the pie in the oven, first 15 minutes at 200 °C / 390 F°, then lower the temperature to 170 °C / 340 F° and bake for 30 more minutes.
The pie can be served still warm or at room temperature. It is very filling, serve small slices. Goes well with cream, beaten with some sugar and cinnamon.
The editions below were used by me. Links refer to available editions.
- Susanna Eger, Leipziger Kochbuch von 1745. Edition Leipzig, 2006 (1984?), with a epilogue by Manfred Lemmer.
Rich chestnut pie
The recipe for a rich, delicious chestnut pie for Autumn and Winter, from an eighteenth-century German cookery book