I like to use crème de marrons anywhere I would use Nutella or almond butter: stirred into plain yogurt or oatmeal; dolloped on vanilla ice cream; or spread onto pancakes. Chestnut cream is also a key ingredient in some pretty fancy-pants French desserts. —Catherine Lamb
Peel the chestnuts. You can do this with your favorite method, if you have one, or use the one that worked for me: First, score your chestnuts with an “X” deep enough to cut through the outer skin. Place about ten at a time in a 400° F oven (work with relatively small batches of chestnuts, as it's easiest to peel the nuts while they're still warm). Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the skin starts to peel back around the “X.”
Transfer chestnuts onto a towel and peel as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. If the skin is stubborn or difficult, return chestnuts to the oven for a few minutes.
Once chestnuts are peeled, put them in a pot and cover them with about an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the chestnuts are very tender when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, combine sugar and water in a large skillet. Turn the heat on medium-low and cook until the sugar is dissolved.
Drain chestnuts. Purée in food processor with 1/4 cup of the sugar liquid until smooth (depending on your food processor, you might have to do this in two batches). If you need more liquid to purée, do so.
Scrape chestnut purée into the pot with sugar water and stir to combine. Add the vanilla and the salt. Put over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until it's thick enough to not fall off a spoon when you turn it upside down. This only took me a minute or two.
Let cool and serve! You can push the pur®re through a strainer if you want it extra extra smooth, but I was cool with it. Keep in the fridge. I like to eat my chestnut purée stirred into plain yogurt, but it's also lovely in any place you would put Nutella.