Today, I want to talk about chestnuts, and specifically chestnut flour, which is such a huge tradition of this region.
The flour I am using for today’s recipe comes from a very special place: A part of Tuscany called Lunigiana, which is famous for its Chestnut flour.
Lunigiana, the area in which it is produced, is the northernmost part of Tuscany which sits in between Liguria (where chestnut flour is also widely used), the Ligurian sea and the Appennini hills of Emilia-Romagna. This land’s activities are at their peak during the fall: chestnuts, olives, mushrooms and truffles abound here (like in Le Marche!) and every week there is a fair or some sort of event to celebrate all the wonderful products of this land. Fall is definitely the time to be here!
I have not baked bread in a while, and as soon as I pulled this out of the oven I remembered why. It is so rich, nice and tasty! And when bread is this good, we all know how easy it is to overeat, and we know it’s quite calorific, and then my mom’s on a constant diet and I am always wary of bread and my dad complains he’ll get fat and all the jazz, until my brother will come around when nobody sees him and the day after everyone’s wondering whatever happened to that half loaf that was sitting around. Story of our life.
I never even made chestnut bread before, and I had to exert some serious willpower to stop eating this with homemade chocolate nut spread.
This recipe will make a dense, wonderfully flavorful loaf that will make your whole kitchen smell like fall in Tuscany, with hints of rosemary and smoky undertones. The walnuts complete this loaf perfectly. This bread may not pair with everything, but it is so wholesome and tasty that you will have no problem eating it on its own. It uses the same process I used in my basic guide to bread making, which I encourage you all to check out for better understanding of how baking bread works. Still, because this bread is made heavy by the chestnut flour, which contains no gluten, and the whole grain flours, there is no point in letting it raise too long, so it is slightly quicker to make. In fact, I find this so pleasurable to eat because of its denser consistency!
Chestnut flour is kind of sweet, and this bread has a subtle sweetness that makes it great for breakfast, too. It would also make a great addition to your Thanksgiving table, as it pairs wonderfully with most fall foods! I can picture it dipped in some gravy (vegan, maybe?) or some mushroom pasta sauce. Try it with:
– A homemade chocolate nut butter, or any chocolate sauce (rosemary pairs SO well with chocolate!)
– In a bruschetta spread with seasoned cheeses and fruit compotes or fresh fruit
– Toasted, and dipped in soup (try it with this Pumpkin creamy soup or My beloved Mushroom Soup)
– As a PB+J toast
– On its own, dipped in warm milk or plant milk!
- For the Poolish
- 150g Strong bread or Manitoba flour
- 130 to 150ml Water
- ¼ tsp Active Dry yeast, or 2 grams of fresh yeast
- For the Bread
- The Poolish
- 150g Spelt or whole wheat flour
- 100g Strong bread flour
- 100g Chestnut flour
- 130 to 150ml Water
- ¼ tsp of Active Dry Yeast
- 1 very generous tbsp Barley malt, or chestnut honey (or brown sugar)
- 1 abundant teaspoon of salt
- ½ cup to 1 cup walnuts, very roughly chopped
- A couple rosemary sprigs, needles finely chopped
- Assemble the poolish the evening before the day you want to bake your bread. Dissolve the yeast in the water and stir all the ingredients in a bowl. If 130ml of water make your poolish somewhat loose and wobbly, perfect. If it looks too much like a kneadable piece of dough, add more water. Cover well with plastic wrap, and let it sit for at least 10 hours and up to 18, in a place with a room temperature anywhere from 20C˚ to 28C˚. When ready, the poolish should look bubbly and quite sticky.
- Once you are ready o assemble the bread, combine the flours and salt in a bowl, and stir. Again, dissolve the yeast in the water, along with the sweetener of choice. Pour the liquid mixture into the poolish and stir well to combine, then pour this mixture into the bowl with the flours. Add the walnuts and rosemary and mix well - get your hands dirty! The dough does not need to be kneaded for long, but make sure all the ingredients are well combined. You should obtain a smooth ball of dough that does not feel dry but is not really sticky. The water absorption of flours change a lot, so start with less water and add more if you see that you need it. Cover the bowl with the dough with plastic wrap and let it raise for 1 hour. After this time, you will need to perform the first stretch & fold: grab one edge of the dough, stretch it, and fold it on itself. Repeat this several times, for a couple minutes. For more specific instructions, refer to my post on bread making (see above the recipe).
- Let it raise for another hour.
- Preheat the oven to 480 F / 250 C. Put some water in an ovenproof bowl and place it in the bottom of the oven when you turn it on.
- If you have a baking stone, make sure it gets nice and hot. If using a regular tray, oil it slightly to get a better bottom crust, and heat it in the oven when you turn it on.
- When the oven is hot, turn the bread carefully and very delicately on your tray or stone, and bake for 5 minutes, before turning down the oven to 450 F / 230 C. After 10 more minutes of baking, remove the bowl of water from the oven - be careful not to burn yourself!
- Let the bread bake for another 10 minutes, but check it after 7 minutes or so. The bread is ready when the crust is nice and deep brown, and, if you knock on it, it sounds slightly hollow.
- As soon as you pull it out of the oven, cover it with a clean cloth and let it cool. This way, the crust will stay crispy.
Thanks a bunch to Tuscany and to all those who got me involved in this post! Thanks, guys!