castagnaccio: chestnut flour cake

Italian Food and Flavours

In poor Italian households this cake is one of the oldest of all, traditionally children would take a hot slice wrapped in paper to nibble on the way to school. Chestnuts are plentiful in Italy and so the flour is cheap, or free if you collect dry and grind the chestnuts yourself. Chestnut flour is a useful alternative to wheat flour as it is gluten free and therefore suitable for celiacs. This recipe has no added sugar and so is also very healthy.

Unlike a traditional fruitcake the fruit and nuts are added to the top of the cake rather than mixed with the dough, which is simply chestnut flour and water.

Being quite heavy and dry to modern tastes I have modified the recipe and instead of water I use milk. I also add 100g of sugar, an egg, a couple of tbs of sunflower oil and half the fruit to the batter mix. This helps it rise and give the base a bit more taste and I am afraid I do prefer the sweetness a little sugar adds!

chestnut-cake-ingingredients (six servings)

100g sultanas

450g chestnut flour

cold water to mix

olive oil

1 tbs caraway seeds

3 tbs chopped pinenuts (or almonds)

pinch of salt


Soak the sultanas in cold water 15 minutes, drain and dry on kitchen roll. Sieve together chestnut flour and salt, stir in enough cold water to make a stiffish batter, slightly stiffer than a pancake batter.

Oil a shallow cake tin (I use a skillet – frying pan with a metal handle) and pour in the batter, smooth with the back of a spoon and scatter with caraway seeds, remaining sultanas and almonds

Bake in reasonably hot oven around 190c, for 20 minutes or until surface is crispy. serve straight from the oven or cold with a glass of dry white wine suitably chilled.





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