A question about a recipe: Castagnaccio (Italian Chestnut Cake)

I have a question about the ingredient "chestnut flour, sifted" on the recipe "Castagnaccio (Italian Chestnut Cake)" from Rita Banci. Is there something special about chestnut flour that imparts a chestnut-y flavor? Could I substitute something like almond flour instead? I don't know that I've ever seen chestnut flour. Is it gluten free?



Greenstuff October 19, 2012
There are a lot of great recipes on this site that call for chestnut flour: http://www.food52.com/recipe/chestnut%20flour

You won't be sorry that you bought it.
Maedl October 19, 2012
Really--chestnut flour is used in socca? I thought socca was made from chick pea flour--and that's what I've used when I made it. But chestnut flour might be interesting . . . .
pierino October 19, 2012
I stand corrected by Maedl on this one. Yes, Socca is indeed made from chick pea flour. Of course you can still make crespelle from chestnut flour.
Maedl October 19, 2012
If you are going to make castagnaccio, then make the effort of finding chestnut flour. There is no point in making a recipe with a substitute for the main ingredient. Chestnut flour produces a very distinctive texture--I would call it heavy or dense. Chestnuts were considered a food of the poor. In many parts of Italy, chestnuts provided sustenance when there was absolutely nothing else to eat. During WWII it was the main food for many people in Tuscany. After the war ended and prosperity arrived, chestnuts were looked down upon as a peasant food. Chestnut flour is back in vogue now and is not hard to find. It is definitely seasonal--and now is the season. And no, chestnuts don't contain gluten--and have one of the lowest fat contents among nuts. You might try a shop specializing in organic foods to see if you can buy chestnut flour locally.
pierino October 19, 2012
The history cited by Rita Banci and Maedl is correct. It took awhile for wheat to become readily available post WWII owing to war rationing. Chestnut flour has a strong and very distinctive flavor. It's also the basis for socca, the French crepe.
Rita B. October 18, 2012
Chestnut flour is made with chestnuts. It's traditional in Italy in this season and, unfortunately, it cannot be substituted. Actually, the word castagnaccio comes from "castagna" which is the Italian term for chestnut. No one in Italy would ever try to make castagnaccio with almond flour, because it would be a completely different thing. If I'm not mistaken, chestnut flour and almond flour have a different texture and consistency. Anyway, nothing's stopping you from trying with almond flour. Maybe it will taste delicious. Otherwise, you can either check Italian stores or buy it online as Monita and Nozlee suggested you. :)
Monita October 18, 2012
Chestnut flour does give a specific taste to the cake. It's available online (amazon.com) and in health food stores or stores like Whole Foods. Almond flour will give the cake a bit of a different taste which may be as good but not as authentic
Nozlee S. October 18, 2012
Chestnut flour is gluten free! It does have a very, very distinctive flavor, however, and while you could probably substitute it with another nut flour, you would get an entirely different end result.

You can order chestnut flour online, or look for it in Italian specialty shops.
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