castagnaccio (chestnut flour bread or cake)

Traditionally, Castagnaccio involves a few raisins for sweetness. Ours uses only the natural sweetness of the chestnuts. Of course you could add a few raisins of your own…

How many of you have tried this oh-so-easy recipe? Yes, it appears in our third cookbook, The Blue Ribbon Edition: From Our Kitchen to Yours, but it’s simply too delicious not to nudge you again. Try it at home! As I said in our 3rd cookbook, chestnut flour is mentioned in print as far back as the 16th century in Italy when the chestnut was often referred to as a “grain that grows on a tree.” Chestnuts were survival food. In the mountain regions of Italy, the nuts were used fresh during season, and then dried and ground to make flour so there would be food when it was snowy.

I don’t know whether the original, peasant chestnut bread had either pine nuts or sesame seeds, but I’ve used them both here. Leave them out if you like. This unleavened bread will be divine no matter. I first discovered chestnut bread when I was in college, in the 1960’s. Now it’s a treat I make for company. I love it with a salad of spring greens dressed with lots of garlic and good extra virgin olive oil

  Bake at 175 degrees

1¼ C chestnut flour 3 Tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp sea salt ½ Tbsp fresh or dried rosemary
1¼ C water 1 Tbsp caraway seeds (optional)
few Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) 1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Mix flour, salt and water in a small bowl with a Tbsp of EVOO. You’ll have a rather thin batter.

Oil a 12-inch pizza pan and pour the batter onto the pan, spreading it out evenly with a spoon. Top with pine nuts and herbs, drizzle with another Tbsp EVOO, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the bread turns golden brown and the surface is a little crispy.

This is another way to make chestnut flatbread, and it’s the way I like best. Heat a large cast iron skillet (12 inch diameter) over medium heat until a drop of water will dance on it. Add 1 Tbsp EVOO and swirl pan to distribute it. Stir the batter and then add to the skillet all at once. Cover pan and cook for 2 minutes. Spread another 2 Tbsp of EVOO on top and cook, covered, 5 minutes more. When the bread appears dry around the edges, loosen with a spatula and then flip it over. Reduce heat to medium low and cook 5 minutes uncovered. Put bread on a plate and allow everyone to tear off pieces.

*You can make this with garbanzo bean flour instead.