Author Notes: ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…’, Nat King Cole sang many years ago. It’s not Christmas time yet, but it’s time for chestnuts. And judging by the sudden change in the weather in this second half of October, winter is just around the corner (only a couple of weeks ago I was extolling the beauty of our glorious Indian Summer… definitely, we don’t have the in-between seasons anymore, as we use to say in Italy).
Being so cold outside, I felt like having a warm, heartening tart to cheer up these grey rainy days. We had plenty of chestnuts at home (coming from the Appenines, a gift from a neighbor) and apples, too, so I decided to make something of them. I peeled the chestnuts (arm yourselves with patience because it’s a nerve-straining, demanding job) and boiled them together with sugar and vanilla. Then I cooked the apples with butter and honey (home-made bitterish honey from our Calabrian great-aunts – God bless them!). And finally I made the pastry using my mom’s long-tested (and long-appreciated) recipe. The result was excellent – my husband and his friend ate it up in a second (they left just a slice for me and my parents to taste it…). —Rita Banci
For the pastry
- 3 cups cups flour, sifted
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 5.3 ounces butter, at room temperature
- 1 lemon zest, grated
- pinch of salt
For the filling
- 4 cooking apples
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 ounce butter
- 7-10 ounces chestnuts
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 ounce pinenuts
- Start with making the pastry. On a smooth surface (preferably marble) pour flour, sugar, egg yolks and salt and knead with your hands until you form a dough (add flour if needed). Add lemon zest and knead again. Wrap the dough in a cooking plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour.
- In the meantime, peel the chestnuts (I peeled only the external husk because the inner pellicule it’s hard to remove in this phase). Place the chestnut in a saucepan with sugar and the vanilla pod and cover with water. Let them boil for about an hour until soft and tender (with the discarded vanilla pod, you can make vanilla sugar). Now that they are cooked, you can remove the pellicule which has already partly come off.
- Peel the apples, core them and cut them into slices. Place them in a frying pan with butter and honey and cooked them covered for about 30 minutes until they are soft.
- Now preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it with a rolling pin over a surface sprinkled with flour to form a circle a little wider than the baking dish. Place the rolled dough into the baking dish and riddle it with a fork. Fill with the apples (with a little cooking liquid), then with the chestnuts (pellicule removed and coarsly crumbled) and finally pinenuts.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Holiday Breakfast