1 ½ CUPS CHESTNUT FLOUR
1/3 CUP SUGAR
1 TB BAKING POWDER
2 TB COCOA POWDER – more for dusting
2 TBS HONEY
PINCH OF SALT
½ EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
2 LARGE EGGS – room temperature
1 CUP WHOLE MILK
½ CUP DRIGE CRANBERRIES
1/3 CUP WALNUTS – toasted, chopped
½ CUP RASINS
1/3 CUP PINE NUTS – toasted
VIN SANTO – for plumping raisins
- Preheat oven to 350º.
- Lightly brush a 9-inch cake pan with olive oil.
- Put the raisins and dried cranberries into a ¼ cup of Vin Santo to plump them up.
- Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, honey eggs and milk.
- Slowly pour the liquids into the dry ingredients, whisking very well and
- Making sure there are no lumps. The batter should be smooth but a bit liquidy.
- Reserve some of the fruits and nuts to sprinkle on top of the cake. Add the remaining to the batter
- And mix well to make sure all is combined and spread evenly.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle the reserved fruits/nuts on top and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cake begins to swell lightly and the middle is set.
- Remove from the oven and cool completely before removing from the pan.
- When ready to serve dust lightly with powdered sugar and cocoa powder. When serving, sprinkle some warmed honey on each slice.
It has always been the custom in our house to start Sunday dinners or Holiday dinners with antipasti followed by a pasta dish. Some of our friends start with a soup and what better one to start a special dinner with than this delicious and satisfying Chestnut Soup!
4 SLICES BACON or PANCETTA – chopped
3 TBS BUTTER – unsalted
1 LARGE SHALLOT – roughly chopped
1 SMALL CARROT – roughly chopped
3 GARLIC CLOVES – peeled and sliced
1 CELERY STALK – roughly chopped
1 SMALL LEEK – roughly chopped
6-8 CUPS CHICKEN STOCK
2 ¾ CUPS WHOLE ROASTED CHESTNUTS – peeled and chopped
½ TSP NUTMEG – or to taste
SALT and FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER – to taste
1 SPRIG THYME
PINCH OF CINNAMON
½ CUP HEAVY CREAM
- Using a large saucepan, cook bacon or pancetta, over medium heat until slightly crisp.
- Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside to cool and crumble for garnish.
- Pour off a little of the fat and in the same saucepan add the butter, vegetables and garlic.
- Cook, stirring occasionally for about 6-7 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not crisp.
- Add the stock, chestnuts, pinch of cinnamon and thyme and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and cook, partially covered until the chestnuts are very tender – 30-45 minutes.
- Remove from heat, discard thyme sprig and let cool slightly.
- Working in batches, puree soup in a blender until smooth. It is best to put a towel over the blender when pureeing hot liquids as hot liquids sometimes cause the blender to pop the lid and spray the liquid.
- Return the soup to the saucepan and warm over medium heat while stirring in the cream, nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Continue cooking until the soup has gotten slightly thick – about 5 minutes. If too thick just add more broth. Pour into warmed soup bowls and garnish with the crumbled bacon or pancetta.
Once the fall months and cooler weather arrived, early years at home followed an Italian tradition of ending dinner meals with roasted chestnuts and a glass of wine. My Dad would actually not roast the chestnuts but carve a big X on each chestnut and cook them on the stove in his big cast iron skillet. Sometimes we enjoyed them with clementines, tangerines or a cheese. On holidays if we were fortunate enough to have a bottle of Vin Santo made and generously shared by my fraternal cousin, Andrea in Montefollonico, the little town where my Dad was born, that was savored and sipped in little glasses.