I had the idea to re-propose the chestnut soufflè from the reading of an old recipe of Pellegrino Artusi. I was looking for an intriguing way to deal with chestnuts, and this usage of fresh chestnuts was very appealing to me. In contemporary recipes, even of soufflès, the ingredient of choice is chestnut marmalade. I agree that this kind of preparation is more challenging, but these marmalades are extremely sweet and tend to make the dishes filling after a few mouthfuls.
I decided to go back to the origins, to a vintage recipe, but much lighter than the original one. The Maestro uses five eggs, and of course, the indications are extremely curt, cooking times and temperatures were taken for granted: calibrating the flames of Aga cookers and wood ovens were tasks of skilled cooks who just needed suggestions and tips in order to test new dishes; nothing to do with contemporary recipes, easy also for less experienced cooks.
Boil the chestnuts in a pot with water for 10 minutes. Peel them, and cook them in milk for 30 minutes.
Put the chestnuts and milk in a bowl and, with an immersion blender, blend them. Add the vanilla and yolks, and mix.
Heat the oven, 400 F (200 C).
Butter ramekins, making upward strokes up the sides with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with sugar, tilting to coat completely and tapping out any excess. Arrange prepared ramekins on baking sheet.
Beat egg whites and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add icing sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, and beat until medium peaks form, 6–7 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, fold one-quarter of the beaten egg whites into chestnut mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining egg whites in 2 batches. Divide batter among prepared ramekins, filling completely.
Transfer baking sheet with ramekins to oven and bake soufflés until puffed and tops feel firm to the touch, 25–28 minutes.
4 (6-ounce) ramekins