Friday, January 28, 2011

Castagnaccio.. Or Chestnut... Ok..really Almond Bread

This recipe I found in the memoir A Thousand Days in Tuscany written by Marlena de Blasi. It struck me with it's simplicity and the way she described eating it as if eating a perfect cloud of soft tenderness and tastes delicious with a light sweet white wine. I was sold. I actually wrote the recipe in my journal and had to extricate the recipe a few days ago from the depths of my journal madness!
This recipe was originally a war time dessert meant to be inexpensive and easy to make in the Northern region of Tuscany. I really want to live there, but this is as close as I can get on the quiet and cold Montana morning.
The original main ingredient is chestnut flour. But you try to find chestnut flour in northwest Montana.. the grocer looked at me like I had two heads! So I have substituted almond flour drastically changing this recipe so much that I shouldn't even still be calling it Castagnaccio, but well, I really want to. So, I'm calling it that anyway.

And it's fun to say, just say it "Casta-gnoo-chioooo" Really fun right?!
Also, because the almond flour changed the flavor so much, I added a little bit of Parmesan cheese to make this a savory bread rather than a sweet bread. This is in my typical 'Hot Mess' fashion. I am planning to serve it with soft blue cheese and brie with a delicious white wine from the trip to Napa-Sonoma Valley.
Maybe in the future I will be able to find some Chestnut flour and do it right. If you can find the right ingredients, please make the adjustments and use the same amount of chestnut flour that I did with the almond flour and omit the Parmesan cheese.
This is also a great gluten free and low carbohydrate recipe for those who may be making dietary switches this new year. It isn't exactly low in fat or calories, but the low carbohydrate and gluten count help my dad keep even blood sugar levels so I am willing to sacrifice the fat for him. And it's loaded with fiber and protein from all the nuts and it's the good kind of fat so I feel less guilty!

1 pound of almond flour (use Chestnut if you can find it)
1 tsp. fine sea salt
cold water (I used about a cup and a half)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup walnuts; chopped
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. rosemary leaves, minced to a powder
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (omit this for the traditional recipe)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Lightly oil a 10 inch cake tin.
3. Pour flour and sea salt into a large bowl and in a thin stream begin adding cold water, beating with a fork or a wooden spoon until the batter takes on the consistency of heavy cream.
4. Add the pine nuts, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, and oil. Beat for 30 seconds.
5. Mince the rosemary into a fine powder and add to the batter. 
6. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm in wedges with your favorite cheese and light white wine!

Servings: 12

Nutritional Skinny:

263 calories / 23.4 g fat / 9 g carbohydrates / 4.6 g fiber / 9 g protein

 Mental Health Benefit: This recipe is slightly unconventional which always seems to give me a boost. Trying something new and exposing myself to something different. The other important thing to note is that it's okay to try 'operational workarounds' when the original idea isn't working. I made a few changes to this recipe because of the limitations of my grocery store and turned out with a brand new recipe that was delicious! It also gave me a little confidence to be more creative with other recipes! Stay tuned!

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