There’s nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread to cozy up your home for the holidays. So what about the scent of hundreds of loaves fresh out of the oven? Delightful. Such is the aroma at French bakery Maison Kayser in New York City, where master baker Yann Ledoux has brought a French holiday favorite to America: chestnut bread. The specialty bread is available only during the month of December, but with just a few ingredients and a bit of patience while the yeast works its magic, you can make the seasonal classic at home.
My knowledge of chestnuts was rather limited until my husband and I cooked our first Thanksgiving dinner back in 1995. While many people have fond memories of chestnut stuffing on Thanksgiving, my family’s stuffing of choice came out of a box. That changed once Michael and I started celebrating the holiday together.
Every year he’d set about prepping his “kitchen sink stuffing” filled with dried bread cubes, apples, crumbled sausage, celery, carrots and, yes, chopped chestnuts. As time went by, we tweaked the recipe. I taught him how to finely chop the vegetables and properly saute them, so they would almost melt into the stuffing. I began making homemade stock to swap in for the canned kind he used. One year I even managed to convince him to skip the sausage and make a vegetarian version for me. The one ingredient that always stayed in the mix, though, was chestnuts.