Sunday, 5 June 2011

Tuscan Chestnut Flour Cake

Sometimes, it's the kitchen rather than the sewing machine that calls to me. But combining kitchen projects and nap times can be dangerous. An unexpectedly early waking can mean that your sewing project doesn't get hemmed, or you have to sew the buttons on later, but rising bread, baking cakes, and simmering jam just won't wait. So if I undertake a cooking project in a naptime, I have to be quite sure that I can be in and out of the kitchen in no time at all.

Enter this rather bizarre chestnut flour cake. I was given a bag of chestnut flour by my mother-in-law, who didn't know what to do with it but thought 'the computer' might be able to tell me how it should be used. And lo, it did! After some research, I found this recipe for what looks to be an 'authentic' Tuscan 'poor man's' cake. It is apparently made from ingredients that were all seasonal and local to Tuscany, and would be an inexpensive meal.

A few notes on the recipe. The batter is thin. Very thin. It looks more like a pancake batter than a cake batter of any kind. But have faith, and it will miraculously turn cake like. When I make this again, I will probably put a bit less water in, but it did work fine. You need to do some serious whisking to get the lumps out, too. Because of the thinness of the batter, I actually baked it for about 20 minutes before drizzling the olive oil on the top, as I thought it would just sink right into the cake otherwise. Maybe that is supposed to happen?

And finally, the taste. When I first tried it, I couldn't decide if I liked it or not. If you're after a Victoria sponge, this is NOT your cake. It is a bit chewy, a bit thick, a bit strange... But after a few bites I was hooked. It's an almost savoury dessert, quite light, and I think very good. Not bad for almost no ingredients, fat, sugar, or labour!


3 Tbsp raisins
1/2 lb chestnut flour
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, plus some to drizzle
pinch of salt
4 tsp sugar
2 cups cold water
3 Tbsp pine nuts
a few springs of rosemary (or a teaspoon of the dried stuff)

Soak the raisins in some warm water for a few minutes, then pat dry. In a bowl, mix the chestnut flour, oil, salt, sugar, and water. Mix thoroughly, getting rid of all the bumps. Add the raisins and the pine nuts into the batter and pour into an oiled 8 or 9 inch pan. (The cake won't rise, so it doesn't have to be a deep pan.) Sprinkle with the rosemary and drizzle with olive oil (or add the olive oil after a bit of baking).

Bake at 200C for an hour, or until the surface looks like it's covered in little cracks. Cool, turn out from the pan, and enjoy!

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