Castagnaccio – Traditional Tuscan Dessert


castagnaccio - Tuscan "poor man's" dessert

A morning with my wonderful friend Samantha baking Castagnaccio was such a treat! Our busy schedules keep us from getting together as often as we would like, so I loved that chance to get caught up over tea and baking. Samantha is my dear friend, my Italian teacher and fabulous jewelry designer. In her “other life” Sam lived and worked in Florence – at the same cooking school I attended when we rented an apartment there back in 2004. I love having someone to reminisce with about that magical, delicious time.

She arrived at my house armed with recipes for Castagnaccio, known as a Tuscan “poor man’s” dessert. It is a typical dessert for this region- not too sweet, crusty on the outside and soft and pudding-like in the middle. You know it’s done when the top cracks!

After trying multiple recipes (one Sam had to translate from Italian) we decided on this recipe she found at Epicurious. We paired it with espresso, but some Vin Santo wouldn’t be a bad choice, either.

Castagnaccio

Serves 8 people

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

3 Tbs. Sultana (golden) raisins

1/2 lb chestnut flour (you can find this at Whole Foods)

2 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil,  plus a little extra for oiling the pan and drizzling on top

Pinch of salt

4 tsp. sugar

2 to 2 1/2 c cold water

3 Tbs. pine nuts (pignoli)

A few sprigs of rosemary

 

Soak the raisins for a few minutes in a small bowl with warm water. Mix the chestnut flour, oil, salt, sugar, and water (I used 2 c. of water, but you can add a little more according to your taste and the consistency of the batter). Drain the raisins and mix them into the batter, along with the pine nuts. Pour the batter into a greased 9″ diameter pan, 2″ deep. The batter will not rise during baking, so if you have a slightly different size pan on hand, that is fine too. Sprinkle the rosemary sprigs over the top of the batter and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400 F for 1 hour. You’ll know it is ready when the surface is covered with little cracks. Cool, turn out onto a plate, and enjoy!

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