Grandma Menna’s Kitchen: chestnut cake

Date ottobre 21, 2009

Some days ago I was searching for my weekly Tuscan recipe, when suddenly an idea came to my mind. Season is changing. When I come back home the smell of fireplace is lingering around, it is getting cold and in Siena the first roast chestnut vendors are popping at every corner. It’s time for a traditional chestnut cakecastagnaccio, as we call it.

… chestnut cake, ok. How to make it? I have barely tasted it once, go figure making it! So I started searching from the main ingredient, chestnut flour. We have a DOP flour in Tuscany, from Garfagnana, Farina di Neccio della Garfagnana. After a few hours I was holding in my hands a 500 gr chestnut flour pack of the finest quality, made by Associazione Castagnicoltori della Garfagnana.

You need a very good quality chestnut cake if you aim for a good quality castagnaccio, as you use really a few ingredients and you don’t add sugar. Chestnut flour is so supposed to be sweet and tasteful, and for this reason in Tuscany we call it sweet flour. To be sure it was a good quality flour, I put a small pinch of it in my mouth… incredible! As soon as it was on my tongue, the powdery consistency melted down and a sweet taste of chestnut spread at once, tickling my memories… a little girl with a light blue padded jacket, wool gloves on her little hands, a white paper cornet and 1.000 lire of roasted chestnuts, lights form the shops, her parents and a sweet chestnut flavor.

December is the best period to buy chestnut flour, as chestnuts are picked up by hands, dried up for 40 days in characteristic places with a fire fed by chestnut wood, then ground in local stone mills. My flour was obviously packed last year, but it was still fragrant and good, thanks to certified making process.

Once understood which was the main ingredient, I had to find the right recipe. Im my area – Siena and Valdelsa – we have a chestnut cake sprinkled with raisins and pine nuts, even though the recipe written over the flour pack needed orange peel and walnuts. Why not to try both of them?

LOCAL CHESTNUT CAKE

Ingredients:

  • Chestnut flour, 300 gr
  • Pine seeds, 40 gr
  • Raisins, 40 gr
  • Rosemary, 1 spring
  • Salt, 1 pinch
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Water

Sieve chestnut flour and salt in a large bowl. Add water bit by bit, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Keep on pouring in water until you have a smooth and liquid batter, autumnal brown and warm. It is supposed to be liquid as a pancake batter. Add half quantity of pine seeds and raisins and stir again.

Use a large baking-pan, as a pizza tray (mine was 26x37cm width). Grease with extra virgin olive oil and pour in the batter. Sprinkle with left pine seeds, raisins and rosemary leaves, adding a final touch of olive oil. Bake in preheated oven to 180°C for about 30 minutes until chestnut cake is firm and covered with wrinkles. You can eat it warm or cold.

GARFAGNANA CHESTNUT CAKE

Ingredients:

  • Chestnut flour, 300 gr
  • Walnuts, 30 gr
  • Grated orange peel
  • Rosemary, 1 spring
  • Salt, 1 pinch
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Water

Follow the same procedure but add just orange peel to the batter. Sprinkle walnuts just on the surface with rosemary and extra virgin olive oil. This time I used a 24cm round mould, lined with baking paper to reduce extra virgin olive oil quantity. Bake until firm.

Tasting moment. Which was my favorite?  Orange hint is unusual and hypnotic mixed with chestnut flavor, I loved it! On the other hand, pine seeds seemed more delicate and gentle than walnuts. Maybe next time I’ll try an hybrid chestnut cake, with orange and pine seeds. Or… what about cocoa powder? I’m waiting for your opinions and suggestions!

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9 Responses to “Grandma Menna’s Kitchen: chestnut cake”

  1. cal orey said:

    Love your site. Envious of where you are. My work all has a Mediterranean slant. You are so lucky to live where you do. Please Follow or visit my blog…love to have you.
    Callie

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  2. Rachel J said:

    I poured other each and every line of this post. The words, the photos, the cake were all exquisitely crafted. I feel as if we are sharing a slice together outside in the brisk weather. Thanks for sharing this lovely cake and post. Ciao!

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  3. krsity said:

    Sounds wonderful! Have never try anything with chestnut before. Hope to try out soon. Thanks.

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  4. Jenn said:

    Gorgeous!!! The last time I made a version of castagnaccio I added in some figs, though I love the orange idea!

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  5. Chestnut flour and chocolate drops biscotti | Juls' Kitchen said:

    [...] flour it will be like having a chestnut melting on your tongue, such a real taste -, do not miss castagnaccio, the most typical and rustic chestnut cake, made just with olive oil, rosemary, raisins and pine [...]

  6. Iris said:

    I am fascinated by this! I have some chestnut flour at home and couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with it. I think this is going to be the first recipe I try. Thanks!

    [Rispondi]

    Giulia Risposta:

    Go fo it Iris, I do love castagnaccio, it’s one of my favourite seasonal dessert! try it with some pine nut ice cream now in summer, you’ll love it!

    [Rispondi]

  7. Alessandra said:

    My grandma, in Pistoia, only used pine nuts, raisins and rosemary – just like yours.

    [Rispondi]

  8. JING Tea Pairing with Tuscan Chestnut Cake | mondomulia said:

    […] so it’s also perfect for my Whole30 diet. Since it’s a Tuscan cake, I looked up Jul’s Kitchen for the recipe, as she’s the expert of this regional […]

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