Written by Maria Pistocchi — Wednesday, December 04th, 2013
In Italy we call it "castagnaccio" and it is a cake made with chestnut flour. Nowadays we find castagnaccio in many autumn festivals and we consider it as a cake, but in the past castagnaccio was a poor dish of the Apennines area where chestnuts were a staple food of rural populations.
It seems that castagnaccio came from Siena (Tuscany Region), as Pilade from Lucca wrote in 1500 and its ingredients were originally only chestnut, flour and water. In the course of time people also added rosemary (if available) and, during the time of pressing of olives, they also spiced castagnaccio with oil that they called new oil or "olio novo".
Piedmont, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany are the Italian Region which have castagnaccio in their menù and even today the basic ingredients remain the same: chestnut flour, extra virgin olive oil, water (or milk) and rosemary, even if in castagnaccio you can also find different ingredients, depending on the area:
and so on.
These ingredients are added to soften and improve the flavor of chestnut flour. However, the more chestnut flour is fresh the less it needs other ingredients.
The thickness of the castagnaccio varies from 1 centimeter (a sort of squashed cake) to 2-3 cm, but some people prefer it as high as a normal chestnut cake. Then there are those who prefer to eat it hot, some warm, some cold. It's great if served with the fresh ricotta cheese, chestnut honey, a generous glass of vin santo or new wine. Also very interesting with a dollop of whipped cream.
The raisin is a grape subjected to a drying process. Is obtained from Sultana, a grape variety mainly used to produce raisins as being seedless and rich in sugar.
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of some species of pine trees.
Sift the chestnut flour in a bowl and then add a pinch of salt and some milk (or water). Smooth, homogeneous but solid: that's how the compound should be, so adjust the milk/water quantity as needed. In the meantime, put the raisins to soak in warm water for 20 minutes and pre-heat the oven to 200 ° C, the perfect temperature for your Castagnaccio to cook perfectly.
Now grease a baking sheet with oil, pour the mixture of chestnut and flatten the surface with the help of a spatula. Sprinkle the surface of the chestnut cake with pine nuts, drained and squeezed raisins and washed and chopped sprigs of rosemary. Keep some of them aside for decoration.
Sprinkle the surface with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and bake at 200 ° C for about 25 minutes, until the chestnut has taken on a beautiful brown color and it will be formed on the surface of many small cracks due to the oil.
Take the cake away from the oven, cut it into slices and serve it garnished with some sprigs of the rosemary kept aside. Your castagnaccio is ready.
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