Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Torta di Castagne e Ciccolato

I have just returned from six days in Tuscany where Chestnut season is well under way.  Chestnut flour is a magical but somewhat expensive product of the season.  Despite the price I thought it would be interesting to experiment with it in the kitchen.  At 6 Euro for a 500g bag in a deli within the local region and not much cheaper in the supermarket, I need to be a bit savvy about how i'm going to use it.  My first attempt, to get to know the flour if you will, was simply to use it as a replacement for standard flour in a classic sponge mix - equal parts sugar, butter, eggs and flour.  The outcome was tasty, but more like a cakey shortbread.  The comments - "would be tasty with apple....or chocolate" (or possibly both!!)  This flour is incredibly dense and needs some moister accompaniments if a cake recipe is to succeed!

So, second time round, i've changed the angle.  Add some chocolate flavour and approach the process in a different way - whisking eggs and sugar together to create a classic base for the batter and keeping the dry ingredients separate.  Also breaking the flour down with a little milk - or perhaps sour cream? (much like  Nigella recipe for chocolate fudge cake that I remember making last Christmas).  And i've got some apples coming in my Abel and Cole box tomorrow, so the rest of the flour can be for a third triumph!

This cake has the texture of a perfect sponge but with a nutty aroma and a distinctly earthy taste.  Perfect for an afternoon tea break.

6 medium eggs
150g golden caster sugar
70g organic cocoa powder
2 heaped tsp baking powder
250g farina de castagne (chestnut flour)
350ml milk

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4 (180degrees) and line the base of a 23" clip cake tin.  Grease the sides of the tin if it is not non stick.
In an electric mixer, if you have one, and on a low-medium setting, whisk together the eggs and butter until they are smooth, creamy and frothy.  This could take up to 10 minutes, or longer depending on your machine.  Whilst this is developing, you can continue with the next couple of steps.
Sift the cocoa and baking powders into a separate small bowl.  Put this to one side.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the milk.  Mix these together until a combined and thick but smooth batter is formed.  Don't be tempted to add more milk.
Once the egg and sugar mixture has reached the right consistency, add the cocoa / baking powder mixture to it, a little at a time, folding in between additions until completely combined and a deep chocolate colour.  Mmm delish!  This should now resemble a kind of chocolate mousse - perhaps a little thiner / runnier.
a spoonful at a time, add this chocolate loveliness to the flour batter mixture.  Fold in and continue to add the chocolate mousse stuff until it is all added and combined.  This is now ready for the prepared tin.  Don't be worried if the mixture appears thin.  The chestnut flour is so dense and heavy that it will all come together in the baking process to create something wonderful!
Slowly pour the mixture into the tin and place the tin in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes.
Remove, test that the cake is done by inserting a clean skewer into the centre of the cake - if it comes out clean then it is done.  It not, then pop it back in the oven for 5 minutes or so.
Once done, remove for the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Serve cool, or slightly warm, with sour cream or straight up as it is.

Katie xx