Castagnaccio is a traditional Tuscan cake born as a poor peasant dish thanks to its cheap main ingredients: chestnut flour and water. To give it more flavor is then enriched with raisins, pine nuts, olive oil and rosemary (it sounds like a savory dish but it’s actually very sweet).
Chestnuts are harvested in October, when they start falling from the trees and you can start finding around the streets of some cities (you’ll notice the amazing aroma in the air) men selling roasted chestnuts in paper cones, called Caldarroste. Chestnut flour producers will then dry the chestnuts for about 20 days, after which they will toast them and grind them to get fresh chestnut flour, also called “farina dolce” (sweet flour).
In Tuscany there are many chestnut trees and the chestnut flour is therefore quite easy to find. Thanks to this we have a long tradition of chestnut cookies and cakes. The most famous one is the Castagnaccio – also called Baldino or Pattona in other parts of Tuscany.
You know it’s really Autumn when moms and grandmas start baking the Castagnaccio. Thanks to its super-easy recipe, every woman in Tuscany (especially in Siena) knows how to bake it, even if they don’t know how to cook anything else. So it comes the time of year (late October and November) where every household eat Castagnaccio. It’s so quick to make that I never saw my mom or grandma making it, it just suddenly appeared on the table and everybody was so excited to eat it that it disappeared rather quickly as well.
Note #1. In my family the Castagnaccio must always be cut into squares (or rectangles), not slices. So I did this recipe in a 20x20cm baking pan.
Note #2. I don’t like the rosemary in the Castagnaccio so I added dried rosemary only in the squares for my boyfriend. But of course fresh rosemary is recommended.
"Castagnaccio", Tuscan Chestnut cake
- 250 g 2 cups Chestnut Flour
- 50 g 1/3 cup Pine Nuts
- 40 g 1/4 cup Raisins
- 300-350 ml 1+1/3 cups Water
- EVO Oil
- Pinch of Salt
- In a small bowl put the raisins and cover with warm water. Set aside and let them rehydrate for about 10 minutes.
- Sift the chestnut flour in a large bowl, then slowly add the water while mixing with a whisk until you get a crêpe-like mixture.
- Add a pinch of salt, then transfer the mixture in a well oiled baking pan. It should not be thicker than 1.5 cm (1/2 inch). Sprinkle on top the pine nuts, the drained (and squeezed) raisins and the rosemary needles.
- As a finishing touch, drizzle on top with a little bit of olive oil.
- Bake in pre-heated over at 180°C (350°F) for about 25-30 minutes or until the cake is firm and the surface is dry and cracked.
- Let the Castagnaccio cool down and serve tepid or cool.