Have you ever had a chestnut cream dessert? I love eating chestnuts on their own but I had never cooked anything with them. It turns out you can turn chestnuts into an incredible, sweet, decadent puree that is super creamy and delicious. So the star of this vegan tart recipe is the chestnut cream that sits on top of a crunchy no-bake crust and is covered with sweet, soft, cinnamon apples. A beautiful vegan and gluten-free dessert for autumn and early winter season.
The inspiration for the chestnut cream/puree came from a famous French dessert called the Mont Blanc. It’s a small tart that resembles a snow-covered mountain and it’s covered in chestnut cream and whipped cream. I was so impressed by the chestnut cream that I had to incorporate it in a recipe. Well my recipe is not quite that fancy but it’s delicious and it will please a crowd.
Preparing the chestnut cream/ puree
I am going to warn you now so there are no false expectations – preparing chestnuts is not the most fun task! The vegan tart base is quite easy but the cooking and peeling of the chestnuts can take some time. Roasted chestnuts have an incredible nutty flavour. However, my experience is that if you try to roast them and peel straight away, you will be peeling chestnuts all day. On the picture below you can see how they should look like once they are out of the oven.
I have been browsing the web for some sort of magic trick that will help you peel chestnuts fuss-free. Unfortunately there is no such scenario. Of course there is a way of making the process a little bit easier but the reality is that some chestnuts will peel easier than others. I found this post on Tori Avey’s blog to be quite helpful and this is the method I am using in this chestnut cream dessert recipe. Another tip I want to mention is that you should try to choose bigger chestnuts if possible. They are much easier to work with and the third time I made this tart I was lucky to find such chestnuts.
If you want to save yourself time…
I always say that it’s best to use fresh ingredients and prepare everything yourself. However after making this recipe three times, I think using ready, peeled chestnuts might be a very good idea for this one and any other chestnut cream dessert. They are more expensive of course but the extra price will save you time and probably your fingers too. Of course, the recipe is totally manageable with fresh shelled chestnuts as well but I just want to give you the option. Some people will gladly peel chestnuts for an hour, others won’t. Here are two very good options on Amazon (affiliate links) – these organic french chestnuts or these whole chestnuts in a jar.
Making the vegan no-bake tart crust
I thought about making this recipe with a classic pie crust. I even tried it but it wasn’t very successful as I was trying to make it vegan.. Given the time-consuming chestnuts, eventually I decided it makes more sense to actually simplify the “crust” and make it as easy as possible to make. You can use this recipe with other tart fillings as well. All you need to do is blend all the crust ingredients in a processor, shape it in a pie dish and then leave it to cool in the fridge. No baking required!
Sweet cinnamon apples
The apples are the final and easiest step of this chestnut cream dessert. They are covered in cinnamon and honey (or maple syrup if you prefer) and then gently cooked in a pan with coconut oil. They are so good you can just eat them on their own. I had a bunch of small homegrown apples from the country and they were ideal for this recipe. You should be ok to pick any red / yellowish apples. Just make sure the skin is not too thick or if you want you can peel them but I prefer mine with skin on as it adds colour.
Here is the full recipe for this chestnut dessert. I hope my rant about the chestnuts hasn’t discouraged you to make this tart. It’s worth the time and you get something very delicious and quite unique at the end. When people try it, they are baffled as they can’t tell what the cream filling is made of!
- For the no-bake tart crust (25 cm /9.8" round dish)
- 1 1/2 cup whole jumbo oats [gf]
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup raw almonds (or other nuts)
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cacao powder
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 cups fresh dates (medjool are best)
- 1 tbsp smooth nut butter of your choice (peanut or almond work fine)
- For the chestnut cream / puree
- 4 cups peeled chestnuts (see notes below)
- 2-3 ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or real vanilla beans)
- 3 tbsp of honey or maple syrup (vegan)
- 4-5 cups of water
- For the apples
- 3-6 apples (depending on their size, enough to cover the tart)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1-2 tbsp honey or maple syrup (vegan)
- a bit of powdered sugar (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 220°C/ 425°F.
- Start with the tart base*. Add the oats, seeds and almonds in a food processor and blend until they are finely chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients for the crust and blend until you get a sticky date dough. In a round dish, line a piece of baking sheet and then press the dough with your fingers to cover the entire dish and also the sides. Leave in the fridge to cool while you prepare the rest.
- Read my tips above and the notes below about the chestnut puree. Start by carefully cutting a cross on each chestnut. Make sure to cut through the shell.
- Place all the chestnuts in a pot with simmering hot water for about 1-3 minutes. Drain and then roast them in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. When done, place them back in the pot and cover it with a towel or a lid for 10 minutes. The hot air inside will allow them to peel more easily.
- Peel all the chestnuts (keep them covered in the pot as you go through them to keep them warm). Remove the shell and if possible the brown skin underneath the shell but don't worry if you can't get it.
- Put the chestnuts back in the pot and add 3 cups of water. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes while trying to gently breakdown the chestnuts with a wooden spoon. Add the cloves, nutmeg, vanilla extract and cinnamon and continue to stir for another few minutes until almost all the water has been absorbed (see video). Leave them to cool on the side for a bit. If any of the brown skins have come out, you can pick them out at this point.
- When they have cooled down a bit, add the chestnut mash to a food processor with 1 cup water and 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup. Blend and check the consistency. Add up to 1 more cup of water until you get a creamy puree like the one you see in the video.
- Finally, push the chestnut mash through a sieve into a bowl. At this point you will get rid of any b?ts from the shells and the skin that the processor hasn't been able to blend. Leave the chestnut cream in the fridge while you prepare the apples.
- Cut the apples in slices and place in a small bowl. Add the cinnamon and then mix them with the honey or maple syrup.
- In a pan on medium-low heat, melt the coconut oil and then add the apples. Gently cook them for about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are soft but not that soft to fall apart.
- Time to bring it all together. Get your tart and chestnut cream out of the fridge. Spread the chestnut cream evenly in the tart. Top with the cooked apples and (optional) sprinkle some powdered sugar over it. Leave in the fridge to cool for about 1 hour and then serve.
Use a round dish no bigger than 25 cm/9.8", slightly smaller will be ok. I am providing you with the quantity needed for peeled chestnuts. It's hard to give measurements for shelled ones as often there are mouldy ones and you end up throwing some away as you peel them. Roughly you need to buy about 1.5 kg (3.4 lbs) shelled chestnuts. No matter how many you buy, you need to use 4 cups at the end ones peeled. If you don't want to go through all that trouble, (affiliate link) buy ready peeled chestnuts. See more notes and tips above in the post.