Chestnut & mascarpone-filled cream puffs

It’s now chestnut season in Italy and in these parts, roadsides are just littered with the dark brown nuggets and prickly outer pods which enclose them. If the bugs don’t get to them first, chestnut lovers will, as collecting castagne is a family tradition for many. Just the other day while walking the dog, I met a neighbor that had gathered enough nuts to fill a 5-gallon bucket! “When you pass this way again with your little dog, bring a plastic bag,” she tells me in italian. “Take all that you want, I have too much here!”

1 cup [4 oz.] boiled, peeled chestnuts
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mascarpone, left out for a few minutes at room temp.
1/2 cup whipping cream
confectioners sugar
1 dozen prebaked cream puff shells, small-sized

Combine the chestnuts, milk, sugar, flour, and vanilla in a saucepan; stir and cook over low heat until thickened and chestnuts are soft and easily mashed with the back of a wooden spoon; about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and puree contents in a food processor until smooth. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and set aside to cool completely.

Gently fold the mascarpone into the cooled chestnut puree. Sweeten the whipping cream as desired and whip until peaks hold their shape; fold into the chestnut-mascarpone mixture. Cut off the upper thirds of the cream puffs, remove the eggy interior and spoon the filling into the shells. Dust with cocoa powder and serve with a chocolate sauce.

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