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This traditional rustic chestnut flour cake – also known as Castagnaccio – is typical in Tuscany and other areas of Italy in the fall season, following the annual chestnut harvest.
While generally it is referred to as cake, that does not quite adequately describe this dish. It’s fairly dense, doesn’t include any raising agents, and is typically not very sweet. It has ingredients that you would usually associate with more savory foods, like rosemary and olive oil.
Castagnaccio originated as a peasant meal because the main ingredient – chestnut flour – is abundant and inexpensive in the region. Ancient variations of this recipe don’t include sugar at all, relying on natural sweetness from chestnuts and raisins. This recipe has a small amount of maple syrup to boost the sweetness just a little, along with pine nuts and walnuts to enhance the flavor. Other versions may include orange zest, fennel, and other dried fruits.
This cake is really easy to make. If you love chestnuts and dried fruit, then you will appreciate the subtle, natural sweetness of Castagnaccio. However, even then, it may be a bit of an acquired taste if you generally opt for sweeter desserts.
It’s perfect for serving after a nourishing fall or winter meal or as a component of a healthy holiday feast. Since this cake is naturally gluten-free and vegan, it doesn’t need any modifications for those with dietary restrictions. The recipe is also Medical Medium compliant.
For best results, it’s essential to use fresh and high-quality chestnut flour like this Fresh & Wild Finely Ground Chestnut Flour. Since the recipe does not include a lot of added sweetener, the chestnut flour must be naturally sweet and flavorful on its own. For best results, sift the flour before using. If you don’t have a sifter, you can add the chestnut flour to a fine-mesh strainer, gently shaking over the mixing bowl to remove any clumps.
- 1/3 cup organic raisins divided
- 2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided
- 3 cups chestnut flour sifted
- 1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
- 2 tbsp real maple syrup optional
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts divided
- 1/4 cup pine nuts divided
- Soak raisins and rosemary leaves in a small bowl of lukewarm water. Set aside.
- Position oven rack to the center position. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9” pie pan. with one tablespoon olive oil. Set aside.
- Ina large bowl, combine chestnut flour, water, maple syrup, and remaining olive oil with a fork. Continue stirring until a smooth batter forms. If the batter is too thick, add another tablespoon or two of water to thin slightly.
- Drain raisins and rosemary leaves and pat dry. Add half of the raisins, walnuts, and pine nuts to batter and stir to combine.
- Pour batter into prepared pie pan and spread with a spatula to form a smooth, uniform layer. Evenly distribute rosemary and remaining raisins, walnuts, and pine nuts on top of batter.
- Place pan in the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is dried and starting to crack.
- Remove from oven and cool slightly before cutting into thin slices and serving. Enjoy!
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