The castagnaccio is a chestnut flour cake (castagna in Italian means chestnut) with raisins, pine nuts, walnuts and rosemary. There is no yeast nor baking powder, nor sugar. As much of the Tuscan food that is now considered fancy elsewhere, this was born as a poor man's meal: everybody could go and pick up chestnuts in the wood and make flour out of it. According to some, the origins would go back to the Ancient Romans, when a chestnut bread was made out of coarsely ground chestnuts, and stuffed in travelers' and workers' bags. There are some fools that dare question the origin of Castagnaccio as a typical Tuscan dish though: but they are fool, nothing more.
|Cracking up - this is what it should look like when ready|
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Castagnaccio Ingredients (for 8 people)
- 250g (1/2 a pound) chestnut flour
- 2-3 cups of water (500-700ml) - it depends on the quality of the flour
- 1/3 cup (75g) of raisins
- 1/4 cup (50g) pine nuts
- 5 walnuts (peeled and coarsely ground) - if you don't have the walnuts, don't worry.
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 20-30 needles of rosemary
- Pass the flour through a sieve and put it in a bowl.
- Add water to the mix, slowly, while mixing. You want the batter to be soft enough to fall from the spoon, but not too liquid. Normally 2 1/2 cups (600ml) is the perfect amount of water, but you may need more or less.
- Add the olive oil, the pine nuts, the walnuts, the raisin and mix them all well together.
- Oil a pan large enough so that the poured batter is 1cm thick (0.4 inches). Pour the batter in.
- Throw the rosemary needles on top of the batter. Do not stir: you want the needles to be visible.
- Bake the castagnaccio at 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius) for 30-40 minutes. The castagnaccio is NOT ready if there are no cracks appearing on the surface: the cracks means the cake is perfect.
- Take it out, let it cool and enjoy it. You can eat it on its own, or with a teaspoon of ricotta cheese on top, which is how my family traditionally eat it. Wrapped in a plastic foil, it will last 4-5 days, but it will dry out a bit.
|The right size and thickness|
|Doesn't it look beautiful?|
PS: crazy people will tell you that you can't make castagnacccio if you don't own a copper pan. But they are crazy. Let them be.