Chestnut flour cake


Castagnaccio is an unusual but old traditional cake from the Tuscan countryside. Although it is traditionally cooked in a shallow tin-lined copper pan, we can improvise by using a 14 inch baking pan or divide the batter into 2 smaller baking pans. Bakeries serve it by the slice and although an acquired taste (a bit heavy and gummy) for the American palate, it continues to be served and sold in every mountain village of Tuscany.

1/3 C. white raisins, plumped in 1/4 C. warm Vin Santo, white wine, water or milk
3 1/2 C. Italian chestnut flour
3 T. sugar
pinch salt and freshly ground pepper
2 C. whole milk or as needed to make a creamy dough
1/4 C. Italian pine nuts
1/4 C. walnuts, coarsely chopped
grated zest of one orange
3 T. olive oil
1 T. chopped rosemary leaves

Place the raisins to plump in a small bowl with the Vin Santo.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 14 inch round baking dish with olive oil.

Sift the chestnut flour in to a large bowl and stir in the sugar, salt and pepper.
Drain the raisins, reserving the liquid.

Using a wire whisk or wooden spoon, start adding the milk and the reserved Vin Santo. Stir constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Continue adding milk until the batter is the consistency of heavy cream. Add the orange zest, raisins, and half of the pine nuts and walnuts, reserving the remaining nuts to sprinkle on top of the cake before serving.

castagnaccio with ricotta and honey

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. It should not be higher than 3/4 inch. Sprinkle the top of the batter with the reserved nuts and the chopped rosemary; drizzle the top with about 1 T. olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes until the top is dark and crunchy. All of the old recipes say that it should be baked until the crust is brown and cracked like parched earth. The center will remain moist and pudding like.

Remove from the oven and serve in its traditional baking pan, or transfer to a serving platter.

Serve hot or room temperature, plain or with a dollop of drained ricotta cheese.

Optional: to make it more nourishing as a snack for children, honey may be substituted for the sugar and apples, peeled and cut into little pieces and added to the dough.

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