My Castagnaccio ricco – chestnut pudding

castagnaccio

 

Castagnaccio is one of the oldest sweet dishes in the Italian repertoire: chestnut flour whisked with water and a little olive oil, a few needles of rosemary for perfume, then baked until it turns into a sort of cake, a true poor people’s dessert in this most basic version. Chestnut flour is sweet and this makes adding sugar to the batter unnecessary. For greater extravagance, you could add pinenuts, walnuts and sultanas.
In Italy, well until the second world war, chestnuts were regarded as an important, cheap but nutritious food for a large section of the population – if you were poor,  meat was an occasional luxury and  beans and chestnuts were more likely to be part of your diet.

Truth be told, the castagnaccio you see in most bakeries now can be the stuff of nightmares: stodgy, to say the least, Continue reading

Strucolo de pomi o strudel di mele (apple strudel from Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto and from Trentino Alto Adige)

Outside Italy, few know that apple strudel is actually a very Italian dessert and not just a Viennese speciality. You will find it in patisseries all over Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, all territories that, historically and culturally, have had strong links with the old Austro-Hungarian empire and (partly) share the same culinary heritage.
In Veneto and Friuli dialect it is called strucolo de pomi, whilst in Trentino Alto Adige it is called either strudel di mele or apfelstrudel, its Viennese name. In all these three Northern Eastern regions you can actually find different types of strudel/strucolo: sweet, savoury, baked or boiled. Sometimes they are based on the traditional paper-thin strudel pastry, other times on a yeasted dough or even a potato dough (like gnocchi).

Strudel di mele (apple strudel) is perhaps the most famous:  crackling extra-thin pastry enclosing a cinnamon-spiked filling of apples and raisins. Continue reading