Thursday, October 7, 2010
Castagnaccio - A Perfect Fall Dessert
Earlier this week, I touched upon the wonderful time I had at last weekend's New York Culinary Experience, where I had the good fortune of taking a class with Babbo's Pastry Chef, Gina DePalma. Focusing on rustic Italian desserts, Chef Gina introduced us to her personal fall dessert favorites that were inspired by her visits to Italy. In many cases, she's adapted the recipes to her personal liking and the tastes of the Babbo clientele. Our tastebuds concurred, as we enjoyed each one of her creations that we made under close instruction.
The particular dessert I'm going to concentrate on here is called Castagnaccio, which is a spicy, chestnut flour-based dessert. It's filled with everything but the kitchen sink including pine nuts, dried cherries, golden raisins, rosemary, cocoa, chestnut honey and a whole bunch more. It might sound a bit wacky but once this toothsome dessert hits your palate, you won't be sorry you made it.
Castagnaccio (Serves 16)
2 cups of chestnut flour
2 tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs baking powder
1 tbs cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
1/3 cup of golden raisins
Heaping 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 branch of rosemary leaves, stripped and chopped
3 tbs chestnut honey
For Chestnut Honey Syrup
1/2 cup chestnut honey
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 cup Vin Santo
2 wide strips of orange zest
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and line a 9 x 2 inch cake pan with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, place chestnut flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, cocoa powder and sugar. Mix well to combine, then mix in the nuts and dried fruit. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Add the eggs to the well, followed by the olive oil, rosemary and honey. Combine the well ingredients lightly with a fork, then using your hands, mix everything together until completely combined. Press mixture into cake pan evenly, smoothing the top.
Bake for approximately 20 - 25 minutes, or until puffed and slightly cracked. Remove the pan to a rack to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then unmold the cake onto the rack to continue cooling. Invert it so the top of the cake is facing up.
While the cake is cooling, place all the syrup ingredients into a small saucepan, stirring to combine them. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Brush the hot syrup over the surface of the warm cake. As the cake continues to cool, keep brushing it lightly with the syrup on the sides and top, until it is glossy and moist on the surface.
Transfer the Castagnaccio to a stand or plate for display. Serve in very thin slices with a glass of dessert wine.