Castagnaccio, migliaccio, baldino. So many names for such an old, traditional dessert, as beloved in Tuscany as in all the regions where chestnuts thrive.
Its origins are hotly debated, but as early as around 1500 people were talking about a widespread dessert with a strong resemblance to this one. Its recipe is actually very simple, and it’s easy to imagine families in the mountains salivating at the thought of chestnuts during the long, bitter winters.
In the mountains, where you would have been desperate for any help that nature could give you, chestnuts were a form of daily bread.
I prefer making castagnaccio quite thin, no more than 2cm high; but you do see thicker versions here and there, even some as tall as 5.6cm. De gustibus non disputandum, as they say…
The method is very simple. Sift the flour into a bowl, add the salt and then gradually pour in the water, slowly diluting the mixture until it’s malleable and without lumps. Take a pan (preferably made of iron) and grease it well. Pour in the mixture and level it out, while mixing in the raisins (which you should have already rehydrated), the pine nuts, the walnuts and the rosemary. Splash a bit of good extra virgin olive oil over the whole ensemble and put it in an oven preheated to 175°C/345°F for roughly 30 minutes.
Be aware: the cooking time and temperature varies significantly from oven to oven.
Serve with a good Vinsanto.
INGREDIENTS FOR A TRAY OF CASTAGNACCIO
Chestnut flour 500 g
Water 650 g
Pine nuts 100 g
1 sprig of rosemary
Raisins 80 g
100 g of extra virgin olive oil: 40g for the dough + a bit to grease the tray
Fine salt 5 g