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Chestnut cake

(Il castagnaccio - migliaccio di farin dolce)

  • 400 grams of chestnut flour
  • a mixture composed of:
    the skin of an orange
    the leaves of a big branch of rosemary
    half spoon of cocoa
    one spoon of sugar
    one glass of Marsala
    a pinch of salt
    5 or 6 spoons of olive oil
    3 cloves
    half spoon of powder cinnamon
    milk
    30 grams of shelled pine seeds
    30 grams of sultana
    30 grams of butter
    some other olive oil
    some leaves of rosemary and some more pine seeds to garnish the cake
In a large soup tureen drop the chestnut flour, previously sieved in order to eliminate any tough parts of the chestnuts. Make a sort of hollow in the middle and gradually pour (by turning the stuff with a big whisk) the over mentioned mixture obtained with 1/2 litre of hot milk and 1/4 of hot water mixed for a long time in order to disintegrate all the solid parts. The result of this mixing should be a very neat and quite runny batter. Now add the sultana (previously reconstituted in hot water) and the first 30 gr. of pine seeds, then turn the stuff and mix it very well; if necessary (that means if the stuff would result too thick) add some spoons of hot water. Then with the butter grease a quite large baking tin (the edge of this tin must be quite low) and pour the batter, taking care to form a low thickness (maximum 3-4 cm). Bathe the surface of the batter with some oil, sprinkle it abundantly with rosemary leaves and pine seeds, then put in the oven at a temperature of 160 degrees for about 30 minutes or, alternatively, until the cake will present a brown crust, deeply crunchy.
Take out from the oven, let it cool down and then cut it in large slices and serve with "vinsanto" (a kind of sweet wine).
This is a chestnut bun typical of the entire Tuscany; generally it is more Spartan than ours. We have presented it much richer and spiced because we wanted to remind the Tuscany town that, more than the other towns, has handed down the tradition of cakes: we are talking about Siena and specifically of one of its cake, the "panpepato", which is a very good and tasty cake, but today is quite completely forgotten. If the chestnut cake is made very thin, cooked very well, dry and crunchy, it is a tasty and a quite light cake.

A Giuseppe Alessi recipe
Translated by Gianna Toni
Picture by Kee-Ho Casati


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