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by Emma Lord

Most days of my life are just another day spent in pursuit of cake, which is probably why I’ve ended up working at so many bakeries. While I’m not the savviest of all bakers, I always managed to wedge myself into customer service or office positions, mostly so I could scam free day-old dessert and be the official “taste tester” of anything that came out of the oven. In my several years of experience, though, one of my happiest discoveries was the first time I ever tried a marron glacé, or candied chestnut. Have you ever tasted something so delicious that you felt like spontaneously singing a Disney song? Because that’s how candied chestnuts make me feel.

They’re kind of hard to describe until you’ve had one — the texture is a little bit like a prune, and it’s sweet but not too sweet, with just the right amount of crunch in the outer shell. They were the reason I was so excited about the new Chestnut Praline Latté from Starbucks, but hold your horses, because that latté is not at all a fair representation of how delicious actual candied chestnuts are. (That drink actually tastes like a liquid graham cracker, if anyone wants to know.)  Anyway, while candied chestnuts can certainly hold their own as a tea time snack, they also taste DELICIOUS baked into things. So if you’re willing to take a risk and buy some (they’re seasonal, so odds are a specialty store has them nearby, or you can always order them on Amazon now through January), here are a few ways you can mix them up:

1. Bake them into cookie dough.

Image: scubadive67 on Flickr

If you want to be adventurous but don’t want to get too ambitious in the kitchen (the holidays are rough, y’all), you can add two cups of chopped candied chestnuts into a sugar cookie recipe or chocolate chip cookie recipe for some extra flavor.

2. Add them to a cheese platter.

I’m one hundred percent trying this idea this year — you can top a block of cream cheese with candied chestnuts and honey, and you’ve officially brought the coolest dish to the holiday party. (That, and you will use significantly fewer of the candied chestnuts, so now you can EAT ALL THE LEFTOVERS YOURSELF).

3. Bake them into a pumpkin roll.

Image: meddygarnet on Flickr

Discovering the glory of the combined flavor of pumpkin and candied chestnut is how I imagine the creators of Nutella felt after combining chocolate and hazelnuts for the first time.

4. Make a chocolate and marron glacé tart.

This recipe also calls for rum, and I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year than with chocolate and alcohol.

5. Spread the jam version onto croissants.

Image: Bonne Maman on Amazon

The jam version of chestnuts has a completely different texture, more like a preserve, but it’s perfect for spreading on yummy things like croissants or toast or pretty much any other bread-based dessert you can get your hands on.

6. Make meringue dessert shooters.

Image: yellowsaffron from YouTube

Thank goodness for YouTube and the joy it brings us, because there’s a full tutorial on this ten-minute dessert.

7. Bake them into a Yule log.

The bakery that I worked for (Fluffy Thoughts in McLean) did this for a few of their Yule logs last year, and although I never sampled this version, I’ve been told it’s mind-bogglingly delicious. So go out and try something new this holiday season! I promise the peppermint bark and salted caramel lattés will still be there when you return.