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Slit the chestnuts on the side with a paring knife and boil for 3 to 4 minutes in the water. Remove with a slotted spoon and, once they are cool enough to handle, but still warm, peel them.
In a large, heavy soup pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and saute the speck with the onions. Add the chestnuts, fennel seeds, bay leaf, 1 quart stock, and 1 cup wine, season with remaining salt and black pepper, and bring to a simmer. Cook, loosely covered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the chestnuts are very soft but still intact.
Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool. Remove and discard the bay leaf, then puree the soup in batches and return to the soup pot. Add the remaining stock and wine to thin the soup. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the rice and mascarpone, and simmer for an additional 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, brown the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a saute pan, and crisp the bread in the pan.
Divide the soup evenly among 4 warmed soup bowls and top with the browned bread.
Yield: 1 1/2 quarts