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Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto Cover

 

Preparation:
Cooking:
Difficulty: Easy

Castagnaccio is a rustic poor man's cake made with chestnut flour (the Italian for chestnut is castagna). It's a preparation from the Liguria region of Italy. This cake is also very common in nearby Tuscany. It’s not a soft, open textured cake; quite the opposite. It is not as sweet as you would expect for a cake because castagnaccio does not contain sugar (however some people like to dust some icing sugar over the top when it is still hot from the oven). This cake is an acquired taste; the palate will initially experience a subtle bitterness and then the bitterness will be overwhelmed by the sweetness of the chestnut. Like marmite, you will love it or hate it! 

It's a kaleidoscope of flavours; chestnut, sultanas, pine nuts, olive oil and rosemary. For many centuries it has been considered more like staple food rather than a cake or dessert. Many years ago school kids, especially from the rural areas of Liguria, used to have it for school snack. Even myself, when I was a kid, I used to buy castagnaccio from my local green grocer (fruttivendolo), sold in a square slice wrapped in greased paper. It’s an ideal bite while having a mid-morning coffee or an after lunch espresso, as I usually do.

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 1

Ingredients (Metric & Imperial measurements):

  • 375 g (13 oz) Chestnut flour (quantity available in the pack)
  • 570 g (1 pint) Water
  • 50 g (2 oz) Extra virgin olive oil (see note below)
  • 75 g Pine nuts (also known as pine kernels)
  • 125 g (5 oz) Sultanas
  • A pinch of salt
  • A couple of small sprigs of rosemary
  • These are Imperial and Metric measurements. U.S measurements available at italyum.com

Nutrition facts: Calories 650 per serving.

 

Note: use 25 g (1 oz) of the olive oil into the initial batter and the remaining 25 g (1 oz) for the final finish, before putting the cake into the oven.

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 2

Here is a close view of the chestnut flour I have used. I had this sent to me from Italy.

 

Directions:

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 3

Soak the sultanas in a small bowl of water, for about an hour. Remove some tiny little sprigs from the main sprig (10 for a mild flavouring, 20 for a strong flavouring).

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 4

After one hour soaking in water, drain the sultanas, set aside and discard the water.

 

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Add the 570 g of water (1 pint) into a large bowl.

 

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Add half of the olive oil to the water.

 

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Add a pinch of salt to the water.

 

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Start whisking.

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 9

Slowly, add the flour into the bowl, a bit at a time, while whisking. I have only two hands! one for the bowl and one for the camera; which explains why the whisk is still.....you should be whisking vigorously.

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 10

This pictures shows the stage where I have added about 50% of the flour. I whisk making sure that there is no lumps before adding the remainder of the flour.

 

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Now, that all the flour has been added to the bowl, the batter should have reached a medium consistency (not too loose).

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 12

Next, add the sultanas to the batter.

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 13

Then, add the pine nuts to the batter.

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 14

Give the mix a good stir.

 

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Coat a cake tin with olive oil. I have used a 22 cm (8 3/4") wide cake tin.

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 16

Pour the mix into the cake tin.

 

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Leave the mix to level itself for few seconds. Do not bang the tin down against the working surface; it will send the sultanas and the pine nuts to the bottom.

 

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Scatter the remaining olive oil all around the surface of the mix.

 

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Place the tiny rosemary sprigs over the surface of the mix.

 

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Place the cake tin into a pre-heated oven and bake for 35 minutes at 190°C (375°F).  My oven is fan assisted.

 

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The castagnaccio is ready. Remove from the oven and transfer it onto a plate.

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 22

This is how it looks after the baking.

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 23

Have a slice with an espresso coffee.

Enjoy!

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery WebPhoto 24

If you have found it a bit too bitter for your taste, dust the castagnaccio with a bit of icing sugar, but not too much.

 

Print recipe: Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery Federico

Federico Pezzaioli

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