The typical (gluten free, dairy free, sugar free) Italian chestnut cake.
What it is
Castagnaccio is a typical desert from the Tuscany region of Italy. It's made with chestnut flour and can be enriched with raisins, pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, rosemary - all optional. The essentials are chestnut flour (of course!), extra virgin olive oil and water.
That's right, this dessert has no eggs, no butter, no yeast and no sugar. It's gluten free and dairy free. And vegan. And it's good. Unbelievable, right?! Well, give it a go and you'll see for yourself.
I love making this dessert during autumn, but it's so fast and easy to prepare that lately I've been baking it all year round. Because it's based on a few simple ingredients, I recommend getting good quality ones to start with. Personally, I like using an Organic chestnut flour (I linked the one I like to use in particular).
400 g chestnut flour
350 to 400 ml of warm water
½ glass extra-virgin olive oil (note: if you think extra-virgin has too strong a taste, you can go for regular olive oil)
100 g peeled walnuts or pine nuts (you can do a mix of both or just one of the two, I personally prefer walnuts)
150 g raisins (you can add more if you want your castagnaccio to taste sweeter)
a handful of rosemary
a pinch of salt (i usually like Camargue salt)
Making Castagnaccio is really straightforward.
Start by soaking the raisins in cold water and leave them in water for about 10 minutes.
Sieve the flour and knead with warm water until the dough is smooth and creamy; then add the oil, leaving just enough to grease your baking tin.
Chop the walnuts by hand and add them to the mixture.
Drain the raisins and rinse them a couple of times before adding them to the mixture and stir, then add the salt and stir once more.
Grease a baking tin with extra virgin olive oil and pour the mixture in the baking tin.
Top the mixture with rosemary needles and cook in fan oven at 170°C for about 40 minutes.
You'll know your Castagnaccio is ready when the top starts to crack. Remember that Castagnaccio is not one of those soft and airy breakfast cakes, it contains no yeast or eggs so it won't rise during baking. Expect this chestnut flour cake to turn out moist and compact. If you love autumn flavors like chestnuts and dried fruit, you will really appreciate Castagnaccio for its delicate and naturally sweet taste. Enjoy!
My pantry for this cake:
What you'll need if you're in Europe:
What you'll need if you're in the US or rest of the world: