Poor man’s chestnut cake (Castagnaccio)

Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery

Poor man’s chestnut cake (Castagnaccio)

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.
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Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Calories 650 kcal

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Ingredients
 

  • 375 grams (13 oz) Chestnut flour (quantity available in the pack)
  • 570 grams (1 pint) Water
  • 50 grams (2 oz) Extra virgin olive oil (see note below)
  • 75 grams Pine nuts (also known as pine kernels)
  • 125 grams (5 oz) Sultanas
  • A pinch of salt
  • A couple of small sprigs of rosemary

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.

    Instructions

    • 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).
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • After one hour soaking in water, drain the sultanas, set aside and discard the water.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Add the 570 g of water (1 pint) into a large bowl.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Add half of the olive oil to the water.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Add a pinch of salt to the water.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Start whisking.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • 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.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • 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.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Now, that all the flour has been added to the bowl, the batter should have reached a medium consistency (not too loose).
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Next, add the sultanas to the batter.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Then, add the pine nuts to the batter.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Give the mix a good stir.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Coat a cake tin with olive oil. I have used a 22 cm (8 3/4") wide cake tin.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Pour the mix into the cake tin.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • 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.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Scatter the remaining olive oil all around the surface of the mix.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Place the tiny rosemary sprigs over the surface of the mix.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Place the cake tin into a pre-heated oven and bake for 35 minutes at 190°C (375°F).  My oven is fan assisted.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • The castagnaccio is ready. Remove from the oven and transfer it onto a plate.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • This is how it looks after the baking.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • Have a slice with an espresso coffee.
      Enjoy!
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
    • 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.
      Poor man's chestnut cake (Castagnaccio) | Bakery
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    Federico
    Jeremy

    Buon appetito! Thank you from Federico (recipe Maestro) and Jeremy (web Geek).

    Nutrition

    Calories: 650kcal
    Keyword Bakery
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    Published
    Categorised as Bakery

    By Federico

    Federico Pezzaioli is an ex-badass Italian Paratrooper on a mission - to make creating delicious authentic Italian food really easy. He researches, writes and photographs each recipe with the same attention to detail he used to apply to packing his parachute.

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