Whether roasted or boiled – these are the latter – chestnuts are a pain to peel. Each time I make a dish using fresh chestnuts I start questioning whether it's worth it but, inevitably, once the labor is complete I appreciate the wonderfully smooth, sweet flavor. This recipe was no different. Just give yourself plenty of time to boil and peel the chestnuts and don't make the same mistake I did of starting the recipe less than 90 minutes before you intend to serve it!
After peeling, you mash the chestnut meats together with sesame seeds, honey, salt, and cinnamon. Start with the amounts called for and then taste and adjust to your liking. The recipe suggests using a mortar and pestle for this stage but I have such a small mortar that I decided to use a food processor to speed things up. I pulsed the ingredients and then kneaded them together by hand at the end.
The resulting bite-size treats are perfect for those of us who prefer less sweet desserts. As someone who is allergic to chocolate and avoiding sugar, I consider these as my own little healthy truffles. The chestnut mixture would also make a delicious base for an apple chestnut tart or filling for glutinous rice balls (see recipes at Korean American Mommy and Maangchi).
• Get the recipe: Korean Chestnut Dessert at Korean American Mommy
(Note: See the post at Korean American Mommy for an image of the balls freshly dusted with pine nuts. My own image at the top of this post was taken after they had been sitting in the fridge, jostled around a bit, and exposed to moisture. I just rolled the pine nut coating into the balls and although they weren't quite as pretty, they still tasted marvelous.)
(Images: Emily Ho)