Chestnut and Herb Canistrelli Recipe

Cooking inspiration is not the least of the pleasures I draw from a vacation, especially when I’m able to bring back a few local ingredients. It’s not always a sensible maneuver, though: I’m sure we all have old packages of dusty exotic spices we haven’t once cooked with, but can’t quite bring ourselves to toss.

I’ve done this often enough over the years that I am now a lot more prudent about my vacation ingredient purchases. My strategy is twofold: one, I try hard to assess whether this string of chilli peppers or that guava jam really will look as appealing once my tan (though barely visible to the naked eye) has receded; and two, whatever it is I opt to bring back, I vow to put to use within a few weeks of my return.

I had a mind to make bite-size savory canistrelli to emulate the ones we’d bought from a shop in Sagone on our last day on the island.

These savory chestnut canistrelli are living proof that I’ve been successful this time, as they’ve allowed me to put the first dent into a bag of roasted chestnut flour from Corsica, and a sachet of herbes du maquis, a dried herb mix made up of thyme, rosemary, myrtle, and bay leaf from the local scrubland.

What are canistrelli, you ask? They’re the typical Corsican cookie (singular form: canistrellu), a rustic, crisp little cookie that is much more than it looks, and which I first discovered at U Spuntinu, a Corsican épicerie on rue des Mathurins, not far from the Paris Opera.

I adore the original, not-too-sweet version, and in fact included a recipe for them in my Paris book, but this time I had a mind to make bite-size savory canistrelli to emulate the ones we’d bought from a shop in Sagone on our last day on the island. We were expecting friends for the apéritif, and I thought they would go well with the white wine chilling in the fridge.

I took out my sweet canistrelli recipe to build on that, and all went smoothly; it is a very easy dough to work with. The crunchy little diamonds (which happen to be vegan) turned out to be so flavorful I prepared a second batch on the spot, thinking any extras would get nibbled on during the week. A wise move, as it turns out; very little was left that night.

If you’ve never had anything made with chesnut flour, it’s worth seeking it out. It’s a gluten-free flour with an assertive flavor that doesn’t taste like actual chestnuts, but is earthy and sweet in its own way. The one I got is a Corsican flour dried over a wood fire, which makes it subtly smoky. Chestnut flour is not cheap (mine was 10€/kg, or $6/lb), but a little goes a long way as it is generally used in combination with other, milder flours.

I now intend to use more of that flour to make chesnut flour crêpes and also sweet chestnut canistrelli such as the ones I bought in the village of Evisa, and which proved quite the extraordinary snack, eaten in alternating bites with a square of dark chocolate.

Any other ideas on how to use chestnut flour?

The dough is cut into squares or diamonds with a dough cutter or sharp knife.

The dough is cut into squares or diamonds with a dough cutter or sharp knife.

Chestnut and Herb Canistrelli Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Makes 50 to 60 bite-size canistrelli

Chestnut and Herb Canistrelli Recipe

Ingredients

  • 160 grams (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour (see note)
  • 90 grams (2/3 cups) chestnut flour (substitute whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbs (such as herbes de Provence; my Corsican mix contains thyme, rosemary, myrtle and bay leaf)
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup, 60 grams) olive oil
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine (substitute water)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking powder, and herbs. Form a well in the center and pour in the olive oil and wine. Stir the liquids into the solids, working gently with a fork, until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a clean work surface, and knead gently until the dough comes together into a smooth ball, without overworking it. Add a little more flour or water as necessary to adjust the consistency.
  3. Lightly flour the work surface underneath the dough, and use the palm of your hands to pat it into a disk, about 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) in thickness. Slice the dough into 2.5-cm (1-inch) squares or diamonds with a dough cutter or sharp knife.
  4. Transfer the pieces to the prepared baking sheet, leaving just a little space between them.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 160°C (325°F) and bake for another 15 minutes, until the canistrelli are golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving. The canistrelli will keep for about a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

Notes

If you keep a sourdough starter, you can use the excess here: use 160 grams of your 100%-hydration starter, lower the all-purpose flour to 80 grams, and omit the white wine.

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  • http://www.gamereviewwiki.com/bikinibirthday Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    Could you use almond flour instead of chestnut (or whole wheat)?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      As I noted in the recipe, I recommend substituting whole wheat flour if chestnut is unavailable. Almond flour (as in, finely ground almonds) might work, but it contains a fair amount of fat so the dough will probably handle differently.

  • klee

    I LOVE using chestnut flour-making chestnut gnocchi, chestnut cake and now, these cookies.

  • http://lemontarteinparis.blogspot.com Lemon

    Oh, I like you bring a Corsican recipe to your readers. I never had canistrelli, when looking on your photo I feel like I definitely should try out. Though, I am a BIG fan of everything with chestnut, one of my favourites in cuisine. One more reason to try out…

  • http://www.joeinvegas.blogspot.com/ joeinvegas

    I’m still looking for almond flour, not very many fancy supply places in Vegas. Now I’ll have to add chestnut flour to my list as well. OK, off to internet shopping.

  • http://iadorefood.com/ Karl

    These are the cuttest little appetizers! Definitely making these for my guests!

  • http://culinaryimpressions.blogspot.com/ Daria & Jarek

    we’re not a fans of sweets at all but I can’t resist chestnuts… ah, so yummi…

  • http://www.diningwithastud.com Nic@diningwithastud

    Oooh you could whip up some chestnut bread or mix it in with a banana bread?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Two lovely suggestions, thank you. I’ve had chestnut bread and it is very good, but it is also somewhat dense because there is no gluten in chestnut flour.

  • Elizabeth

    I am an American living in Paris, and I love your blog, especially for the idiomatic expressions. Thank you!!! Would you please explain the difference between the various wheat flours I find here in the grocery store?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Basically, the kind of flour is indicated by the mention T45, T55, T65, etc. The lower the figure, the more refined the flour. So T45 is cake flour, and T150 is whole wheat flour. Hope that helps!

  • http://passionbio.over-blog.com poucinette

    trop trop bon !!!!!!!!!!

  • Chris

    Chestnut flour goes wonderfully in your Grandmother’s Pear Cake recipe – it gives a subtle smokiness that complements the fruit. I usually replace the flour and almonds with the same weight of a half-and-half mix of chestnut and brown-rice flour. (The rice is just to make the chestnut go further, and to keep the cake gluten-free – you can use all chestnut if you like).

    For information: in the UK, Shipton Mill (www.shipton-mill.com) has organic chestnut flour from the Ardeche for £3 per 500g (plus shipping).

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’m happy to hear that, Chris, thanks for sharing that variation, and the chestnut flour source as well.

  • http://www.bigapplelittlekitchen.com Kat @ Big Apple Little Kitchen

    My traveling souvenirs are always food products…my favorite part of traveling!!

  • Kudra

    Clotilde,
    Bursa,Türkiye is famous for its chestnuts.And it’s my homeland,too.There’s a very old and famous chestnut shop there named ,Kafkas.It sells boiled chestnuts,sweetened chestnut puree(it’s heaven)in glass jars,marron glace,chestnut flour,little marron snacks,karyokas(chestnut paste covered with chocolate),everything about chestnut.I just love the place.I once bought chestnut flour from there and made chestnut cookies.I take 3 cups flour and add in 2 eggs,1/3 cupicing sugar,baking powder,1/4 cup olive oil and ¼ cup butter.Also you can add 2 tbs sweetened ch.puree or honey.They both turn out lovely.

  • http://www.berryhaute.com Paolita@BerryHaute

    First thing that comes to mind for Chestnut Flour would be a Tart Crust, doesn’t that sound delicious?
    Maybe with a thin layer of pistachio frangipane and some fresh fruit on top, like some apricots. Now I’m wishing I had some Chestnut Flour to play with.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the ideas, and hope you lay your hands on some chestnut flour soon!

  • http://delight-blog.com/ cassandra

    Pain de chataigne !

  • Leonie

    I look forward to trying these. Has anyone had any success with castagnaccio?
    I loved this when I lived in Italy but havent had the same success in Australia. Perhaps there’s a difference in the chestnut flour?

  • Clau

    I also brought chestnut flour from my vacation (in the northwest of Spain)!!
    And I didn´t know what to do with it,will try your Canistrelli with a chinese spice mix for a chinese theme dinner this weekend, and I´ll report back.

    • Clau

      Made them for the party and they where a great hit. Thanks for the inspiration.

      • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

        Great to hear, thanks for reporting back!

  • Elaine

    When I was in Tuscany last autumn, the locals were fond of a torta made from chestnut flour, rosemary, pine nuts and raisins. The one we tasted was baked in their pizza oven. Flat, slightly smikey flavoured, a fascinating and very Italian mix of tastes. Later in the local grocery we saw a bag with all the ingredients, a kit for the home baker. Was tempted but like you say in your post, I already had a cupboard full of exotic ingredients brought home from trips. And they never seem to taste quite the same. Sometimes called Castagnaccio it’s very flat, and made with olive oil. Haven’t quite found a recipe that replicates what we had. I don’t think there was sugar in it as it was only subtly sweet, perhaps a touch of honey, and the raisins and chestunt flour added the rest.

    • http://firefliesofhope.com Gwendolyn

      Elaine, ASTAGNACCIO
 (Chestnut Cake) sounds like what you describe:

      1 1/2 C chestnut flour
      1 1/8 C water
      1/8 C pinenuts
      zest of 1 orange
      rosemary
      raisins
      oil
      salt

      Make a dough with flour, water and salt. Knead it well. Knead in raisins (soak first if too dry). Place the dough layer (1/2″ thick) on an oiled baking tin. Moisten surface with some oil. Cover with pinenuts, pieces of rosemary and the orange zest. Bake in oven at 375o F for 40 minutes.

      • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

        That sounds lovely, thank you.

    • http://firefliesofhope.com Gwendolyn

      Good thing you evaluate these comments before posting. I’m creating a mess here. Regarding the Castagnaccio recipe. I’ve been making it wrong. I just checked youtube and seeing what the end result is like, realized it should be a runnier batter. Not a kneadable dough.

  • http://naturally-delicious.blogspot.com/ renee

    Amazon has several chestnut flours available. I hope to make these soon. I will have to make my own spice mixture though. Thanks,as usual, for inspiration.

  • http://www.myviewfromparis.wordpress.com Mei@myviewfromparis

    These look and sound delicious. I love chesnuts but have never tried using the flour. I just returned to Paris from 10 days in Warsaw where the parks were filled with people, young and old, picking up fallen chesnuts, which literally covered the ground in some places. Maybe I should have participated…

  • http://www.katherinemartinelli.com Katherine Martinelli

    Oh man I have totally brought back guava jam and all kinds of other culinary treasures. This recipe looks great!

  • http://www.sweetbeetnutrition.com/blog Amy

    YUM! A friend of mine from Sicily is coming to visit me next month. I asked her to track down some farina di castagne for me. I will definitely try making a gluten-free version of these!

  • Madonna

    I use chesnut flour to make pasta “rags.” They’re easy to make and very delicious with a sauce that includes cream and mushrooms.

  • Charles

    Oh wow that looks like some seriously good stuff have to try that on a brunch run, I had a emferda onc enot sure if that’s how you spell it. My gemini c group friend like it too.

  • http://aladyinfrance.com Lady Jennie

    I substitute chestnut flour a lot for my gluten-free recipes since it’s so readily available in France. It is somewhat sweet so it tastes good used for the crust for sweet tartes. (It tastes a little funny with tarte à la moutarde though). ;-)

  • http://www.divinedinnerparty.com/ Karen | Divine Dinner Party

    I have bought a 32 oz box of chestnut flour from my recent grocery haul without any idea what to make of it. You just gave me an inspiration. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Happy to be of service! :)

  • Vicky

    Made these tonight…and enjoyed them hugely. They actually taste a little, well, spicy – go figure, since I made the recipe as written (using 100% dried thyme rather than the Corsican version of herbes de provence). At any rate, anything made with chestnut flour tastes better!!!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Delighted to hear it, Vicky, thank you for reporting back!

  • justine

    Biba Caggiano has recipes for making pasta with part wheat part chestnut flour. It took me a couple of years to find a shop that sold it locally. It’s a very very rich and subtly flavoured pasta. Worth trying!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Very tempting, thanks for the suggestion.

  • http://www.thelegaltart.wordpress.com Thelegaltart

    Never seen this flour before. But anything that goes with dark chocolate had to be good!

  • http://firefliesofhope.com Gwendolyn

    My favorite souvenirs from traveling are food items. The funniest incident involved twelve jars of fleur de sel in my backpack, and getting pulled over by airport security in three airports to inspect the “white powder”.
    Chestnut flour?
    I’ve been meaning to try this recipe for Migliaccio.

    As well as some of these.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the recipe ideas! (And did that inspector let you through with the white powder?)

  • http://theholidaybakerman.blogspot.com Holiday Baker Man

    Can’t wait to try these!

  • http://www.blueberryporridge.blogspot.com Anna

    What a great website!

  • Fifivixen

    Hi Clothilde,

    I made your recipe tonight rather excited by the fact that I could use the chestnut flour that I had. I am not sure if it was roasted or not – it didn’t say. I was a bit puzzled by the measurements though. Were you converting ounces to grams? 90 and 160 grams seemed a tad strange. Also, I only got half the quantity you seem to have got. I wasn’t sure of what to expect and the results are quite tasty – a little sweet which I wasn’t expecting and a little bitter but that could be due to my dried thyme. Anyway, not bad but I wonder if you would clarify the measurements. Also, I might bake them a little longer next time to get them brown. Thanks for the recipe. I do love your website and openness to try all kinds of food and love your style of writing. I eat a plant based diet and am thrilled to find lots of meat and dairy free recipes a la canistrelli here.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      No, I wasn’t converting anything, just adapting my usual canistrelli recipe that calls for a total of 250 g of flour in the recipe, and making it so that there would be about 1/3 chestnut flour and 2/3 wheat flour. Hope that clears things up!

  • Ruth Bell

    Have found good chestnut flour, all i need now is the recipe I am trying to replicate. It has all the flavours of Castagnaccia but with a more cake crumb. It possibly has some butter, raising agent & or egg. It has a lovely slightly crunchy layer on the bottom when freshly baked.It may be the torte style. If anyone has an old recipe with more ingredients than the traditional cake I would love to give it a go
    Fingers crossed!

  • Frauke Mantica

    I’ve just been on a trip to Italy and brought back a package of chestnut flour. I wanted to make castagnaccio, but the smoky flavour and almost burnt bitterness in the aftertaste of the batter were so overpowering that I couldn’t bring myself to bake it. You call the taste of chestnut flour ‘assertive’. Does that mean bitter and more than subtly smoky? Are there different qualities of flour? What are your experiences? I love chestnuts and would like to experiment with the flour again, but before I buy some I need to do some more research…

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I think the assertiveness can vary from pleasant to overpowering depending on the source and the producer. The one I got does not taste bitter or burnt, but if yours is that strong, then you should probably use it in smaller proportions, blended with a milder flour.

  • Channon Doughty

    The Chinese treasure chestnuts, so perhaps there is a mildly sweet or savory option from that culture. Have you heard of anything? I think the flour would work well in Moon Cakes, though they are quite complex to make. Perhaps this flour would also work if mixed into the tapioca flour used in making bao.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      I haven’t heard of Chinese chestnut flour, but it’s worth investigating, thanks for the suggestions!

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