Castagnaccio

Castagnaccio
 
Recipe from The Babbo Cookbook by Mario Batali

Notes: An unexpected drop-off of chestnut flour got me searching for recipes that used this ingredient. I settled on this Italian cake, typically made during the fall. The variations and regional differences are numerous and some include savory ingredients like rosemary. Gina DiPalma's version in the cookbook is described as being more accessible, and contains a bit of wheat flour, baking powder and egg. Curiously, the linked recipe, this version in the NY Times, and the one in the book, are all attributed to DiPalma but are all slightly different. I guess you just keep tweaking until you get the result you want.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, only differing in the baking time (30 minutes, ten more than what's directed) as the interior temperature was only 150°F at the 20 minute mark. After a half hour, it was just over 180°F so I knew the eggs were fully cooked. Instead of vin santo and chestnut honey, I used white port with a splash of dry white wine, and blueberry honey. There's plenty of syrup to baste on the cake, and I only needed about two-thirds of it.

Having never tasted this cake before, I had nothing to compare it to, except fruitcake. The first thing you notice is the smoky flavour of the chestnut flour. It's very distinctive and unexpected, and not what you imagine chestnuts to taste like. To my surprise, my tasters at the office ate the whole whole cake! I like this combination of nuts and dried fruit, and the floral taste of the honey. It's a definite change from traditional fruitcake, and an interesting recipe for my repertoire.

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