I was working on a post on dried chestnuts of Bormida Valley a Slow Food presidia of the Italian Riviera (coming soon, its a kinda small reportage) and I thought that in addition to the charm history behind this ancient product I should have given some ideas on how to use them.
So I boiled the dried chestnuts I had in my pantry – just those of the Slow Food presidia which were dried with an ancient technique and bear a wonderful smoky flavor – and prepared the chestnuts cake that every single fall my aunt prepares (I actually ignore the origin of the recipe, I just call it My Aunt Chestnuts Cake).
Two tests and some small amendments made the recipe not only gluten free but, at my fair and honest judgement, simply perfect (dear auntie, no offense): really soft but solid, slightly humid but velvety, with those small pieces of chestnut that some times crock under the theeth. The cocoa powder exactly balances the sweetness of the chestnuts. The butter is very low so it’s light too.
And the cool is that when using dried chestnuts you don’t have to wait for fall to enjoy the full and velvety flavor of cakes like this (btw this was just the original purpose of dried chestnuts: be available all the year long) nor you have to mess with peeling a huge mountain of chestnuts with a low yields .
Dried chestnuts are so easy: you just have to wash them, put them in a pan with cold water and a pinch of salt and let them cook at low fire for about two hours. They will more than double their weight and once drained will be just ready for use.
Try them, better with this terrific recipe!
- 7 oz (200 g) of dried chestnuts or 17 oz (500g) of chestnuts puree
- 1 cup (200 g) of granulated sugar
- 1 cup (250 cl) of milk
- 3 1/2 tablespoons (50 g) of unsalted butter
- 4 1/2 tablespoons (30 g) of cocoa powder
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of potato starch
- 2 teaspoons (8 g) of baking powder
- Wash dried chestnuts, put them in a pan full of cold water, add a pinch of salt and let them cook at low fire for two hours. Drain, blend until they become a soft puree and set aside (if you already have chestnuts puree, of course, skip this passage).
- In a separate sauce pan pour the sugar, milk, cocoa powder and the butter. Put on the fire and blend until butter and sugar are completely melted. Let cold down.
- Preheat the oven at 350°F (180°C - gas mark 4) and grease a 10'' (26 cm) cake tin.
- Pour the chocolate and milk batter in the chestnuts puree. Whisk well. Add the eggs yolks (set the egg whites aside), the potatoes starch and the baking powder. Stir gently until homogeneous. The batter will result quite liquid, it's fine.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff, add them to the chestnuts and mix with gentle movements from the bottom up.
- Pour the batter into the cake tin and let bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is solid. If you do the toothpick test consider that it will come out humid (but without any batter on it).
- Let the cake cool in its tin before turn out.
- Decorate with powdered sugar.
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