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Chestnut spread is a sweetened or unsweetened puree of chestnuts and water. Other ingredients such as vanilla and sugar are commonly added to sweetened versions of the spread. This versatile puree originates from the Ardeche region in the southeast area of France. Typically, chestnut spread is eaten with bread, croissants, toast, or muffins. It can also be added to desserts, eaten on top of ice cream, or included in a variety of dishes.
Both the sweetened and unsweetened versions of chestnut spread are commonly consumed during the Christmas season, and are known as a traditional holiday food. The spread is still eaten all throughout the year, but becomes more popular as Christmas approaches. Many choose to purchase chestnut puree, while others choose to create their own version from scratch. The puree can be frozen for up to a year if it is made before needed.
Ingredients included in chestnut spread are usually easy to find and quite minimal. Typically, only chestnuts, water, sugar, and vanilla are needed. If the spread is unsweetened, chestnuts and water are the only ingredients. Pre-made chestnut spread for purchase is usually easier to find during the holiday season, and may be available in a variety of different brands depending on where the consumer shops for it.
It is common in both America and Europe to eat the spread on breads and pastries such as crepes, bagels, toast, brioche breads, and muffins. Chestnut spread is a popular and versatile breakfast item. This puree can also be used on dessert foods or included in certain recipes. It goes well with desserts such as plain vanilla ice cream, chocolate cake, or pie. While the spread is normally added to or used on desserts or sweet dishes, the unsweetened version can also be used in savory dishes, such as soup.
Chestnuts are hearty, versatile nuts offering many health benefits. They are quite starchy and contain a great deal of healthy proteins. Free of gluten, they are a popular nut to use in gluten-free foods and recipes and are ideal for those suffering from celiac disease or gluten allergies.
Lower in calories than most nuts, chestnuts are full of essential vitamins such as vitamin C. They also contain a large amount of dietary fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol levels. Minerals found in chestnuts include zinc, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
I love chestnut spread, but I would only recommend the sweetened kind to first-time consumers. Unsweetened chestnut spread is definitely an acquired taste. I put it on just about everything I'd ordinarily put maple syrup on, like pancakes and waffles. It's also great on vanilla ice cream, but I think it competes a little too much with more complex flavors.
I've heard of people adding other spices to the basic chestnut spread recipe, such as nutmeg or allspice, but I don't think it's necessary. Chestnuts have such a distinct flavor of their own that you really don't want to distract from it with spices. Vanilla is good enough.
Chestnut spread must be a regional thing in the US, since I've never seen it on store shelves here in the South. It does sound interesting, though. I've started drinking a chestnut-flavored coffee beverage this year and I would like to try other forms of chestnuts now. I had roasted chestnuts one time and didn't really like the flavor much, but they may not have been roasted properly. They tasted a little bitter to me. The chestnut flavor in the coffee tasted sweeter than that.
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