I adore chestnuts!
They have an immense sentimental value to me, like almost all Italian dishes of my childhood.
With my family, we were used to spending almost every autumnal Sunday collecting fresh chestnuts in a wood not far from my home town in Southern Italy. We roasted them in the fireplace and ate them after dinner, chatting. How sweet!
But let’s talk about Castagnaccio.
It’s very common in all parts of Italy, and there are as usual many versions. Imagine a sort of humid, not too sweet, very compact and chestnutty brownie made exclusively with chestnut flour, water and not much more.
The most famous version comes from Tuscany, and it’s made with dry chestnut flour, water and topped with pine nuts, rosemary (yes!!) and sometimes raisins. In my region, we make a different, more opulent version, the Neapolitan Castagnaccio, made with fresh chestnuts, boiled and peeled one by one, dark chocolate and often eggs and milk.
By the way, I call this one masochistic version as all the women of my family were used to boil and then peel, one by one, huge sacks of chestnuts until late night to make an incredible amount of Castagnaccio for family and friends!
Lately I fell in love with the Tuscan version made with chestnut flour: so simple, so quick, naturally and for centuries gluten- and dairy-free, way before these concepts got invented!
Your only task is to find a good quality chestnut flour: it gets quickly rancid so make sure it’s fresh and not from last year! Once you have done this, you are pretty much done as the procedure is quite straightforward.
This version is inspired by the traditional Tuscan Castagnaccio, with some delicious changes.
I added big chocolate chunks, in memory of the yummy Neapolitan version, used dates instead of raisins and added some walnuts as well.
Mix the chestnut flour with water until you get a fluid batter, then add the chopped dates. Pour the mixture into a baking pan and scatter over chocolate and nuts.
Bake until firm and let it cool down completely, then slice it into squares.
Inspired? Get the recipe below!
CHOCOLATE CASTAGNACCIO: GLUTEN FREE CHESTNUT FLOUR BROWNIES WITH WALNUTS AND CHOCOLATE CHUNKS
for a baking pan of 25×20 cm (10×8 in.)
- 3 cups (350 g) of chestnut flour
- 5 pitted dates (or more if you like it sweeter)
- 1/4 cup (50 g) of pine nuts
- 1/2 cup (50 g) of walnut kernels
- 3/4 cup of dark chocolate with 70% of cocoa
- a pinch of salt
- 2 cups (1/2 liter) of cold water
- 3 tablespoons of olive or coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons of rum
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375 °F). Line the baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Finely chop the dates and roughly chop the nuts and the chocolate.
3. Place the chestnut flour in a large bowl and add water gradually, until you get a fluid smoothie-like consistency. Add the salt and the chopped dates.
4. Pour the batter into the baking pan and scatter over the nuts and the chocolate chunks.
5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until you see little cracks over the top and a wooden stick comes out clean. Do not overbake as it gets easily very dry.
6. Let it cool down completely, then slice it into squares. You can conserve it, covered (but not in an airtight container) at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Try it with my home-made almond milk. They are out of this world!!!