Preparing the Chestnuts - Roasting Method: Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Using a sharp paring knife, make a shallow horizontal cut into the chestnut meat, all around the chestnut. Repeat with each one. After slicing each chestnut, place them on an oven proof pan and roast until tender, about 30- to 40 minutes. Work as quickly as possible, it’s easiest when they are still warm. Use a dish towel to hold each chestnut as you peel them so you don’t burn your fingers. Remove the shell and brown papery skin underneath. Set aside and repeat with the remaining chestnuts.
Preparing the Chestnuts - Boiling Method: Place chestnuts in a pot, large enough to hold them, and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until tender. Peel as above. Remove them from the hot water only as you peel them, keeping the others warm. Set aside.
In a 4 quart pan, heat the olive oil with the butter and paprika. Add the onion and sauté it until it turns golden. Add the garlic and cook just until the garlic is aromatic.
Pour in the water or vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the chestnuts and simmer for 10 minutes on medium-low. Remove six chestnuts from the pot and set aside. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the bread to the pot and allow the bread to absorb the broth and become mushy. Using a stick blender, puree the soup.
Pour the soup through a sieve, pressing it through. Return the soup to the pot and add the cilantro or parsley. Keep warm until serving. Just before serving, quickly stir in the cream.
Garnish each bowl with a whole or crumbled chestnut.
Variation: After straining the soup, return to the boil and add ¼ to 1/3 cup short –grain rice to the pot. Simmer 10 minutes, then continue as written.