Castagnaccio is rustic cooking at its best! It's packed with flavor, and contains no added sugar. When prepared in a traditional manner, it measures no more than half an inch thick and is a feast for the senses. As it cooks, the house is filled with the aroma of sweet wine, citrus, fennel and rosemary, and with the chewy raisins and crunchy nuts, it's rich in texture. It's also known to be a powerful elixir of love! One bite is akin to being struck by Cupid's arrow! Castagnaccio is typically prepared in the cooler months, and is most often associated with Tuscany but is prepared in many regions of northern Italy, where chestnut forests are native to the landscape. Some say it may have originated in Ancient Rome, as the Romans prepared a chestnut bread that is similar. Either way, Castagnaccio is a humble dish, filled with all the goodness the land has to offer. To serve, drizzle with honey and a spoonful of fresh ricotta or mascarpone whipped cream.Notes: Tightly pack the flour when measuring or the batter may end up too runny. It should be similar in consistency to pancake batter. The recipe calls for the zest of one orange, but feel free to substitute any citrus. I always try to use ingredients that are in season. In this recipe, I substituted the zest of two mandarins for the orange, but you could just as easily use a lemon and it would be delicious.
- 2 cups chestnut flour
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 1/4 cup rum or sweet wine
- 1 tspn salt
- 1 1/2 tbspns fennel seeds
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 orange, zested
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 3 tbspn extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Soak the raisins in hot water until soft, about ten minutes.
- Remove the needles from the sprig of rosemary and soak them in water. This will keep them from burning when you put the cake in the oven.
- Chop the shelled walnuts.
- Lightly toast the pine nuts, about 5-7 minutes in the oven or until fragrant.
- Sift the chestnut flour and salt in a bowl.
- Slowly add the warm water and wine, whisking constantly until well combined.
- Strain the raisins and add to the mixture. Add the orange zest, fennel, half of the raisins, half of the walnuts and half of the pine nuts to the mixture. Stir until well combined.
- Cover a 12 inch diameter hinged mold with parchment paper and lightly grease with olive oil.
- Pour the mixture into the mold.
- Sprinkle the surface with the leftover raisins, and the remaining walnuts and pine nuts. Finish everything off with a drizzle of oil and the needles of the rosemary sprig.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the pan and small cracks form on the edges.
- Allow the cake to cool before removing it from the mold. Serve it with a drizzle of honey and a scoop of fresh ricotta cheese or mascarpone whipped cream.
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