If my chestnut adventures were going according to plan, following Mondays Chestnut and mushroom pate and the chestnut soup, I should be sitting here writing about a chestnutesque main course.
Plans, schmans, I’ve never been very good at sticking to them. I’ve leapt straight to the cake.
Chocolate and chestnut cake
I do intend to leap back again and make the four chestnut recipes I’ve leapfrogged and I’m sorry I’ve messed up the logical order of it all, but I’m not sorry I cut to the cake.
Cake? It’s really a very soft, moist, heavy-mousse like gateau made of dark chocolate, butter, eggs, and milk that’s lent a whiff of cakeness by the floury, nutty texture of the 250g of roasted, peeled chestnuts which act like flour. It’s very like the Trish Deseine/Orangette gâteau au chocolat fondent di nathalie with chestnuts. It’s dense and rich and rather like eating a good dark chocolate truffle alongside a spoonful of sweet chestnut purèe (if you haven’t had a spoonful of this I highly recommend it.)
It’s a chocolate and chestnut swoon. I know, I know, that sounds really really naff, very Mills and Boon. Swoon is what the heroine Portia probably does in the historical romance ‘Tall dark and disreputable’ by Deb Marlowe on learning her brooding lover Matteo has gambled away the family fortune and slept with the maid. This is the other swoon, the ‘To be overwhelmed by joy‘ swoon, and it happened when I (we) took the first, second and seventh mouthful of this cake. After swooning – ok, it was a tiny swoon – we both stared at each other, wide-eyed and then Vincenzo blasphemed heavily in Italian as a compliment, I agreed and promptly cut myself another large slice and discovered you can have too much of a good thing.
Apart from being delicious, this cake is the most beautiful way to understand and observe how chestnuts work in flour-like-way (chestnuts are of course often dried and ground into heavy, slightly sweet flour.) Having made this cake I’m even more curious about experimenting with chestnuts and chestnut flour. This recipe also gives you a glimpse into the glorious potential that is chestnut purèe, because one of the stages is slowly and gently heating the roasted and peeled chestnuts in whole milk and then blending the two together into a smooth thick purèe/ paste. Of course you taste the paste before you add it to the rest of the ingredients and when you do, you can’t help but imagine all the other things you could do with this thick creamy, nutty chestnut purèe, the tarts, the creams, the ice creams and filled meringues…..
On a practical note it’s all very straightforward to make and I’m sure you can do it with a lot less equipment than me – I don’t know what came over me, 3 pans, 6 bowls, 4 spoons and 3 bowl scrapers it was comical and very very unnecessary – 2 pans, 3 bowls, 1 spoon and a single scraper should cover it. I did get a bit nervous about cooking times, but I always do with instructions like ‘cook until just set but still has a slight wobble‘ the just suggesting there is a crucial just moment you have to catch, like a ball. I needn’t have worried, it was pretty obvious when the top had completely set and a jiggle of the oven shelf confirmed the slight wobble. It was also after exactly 27 minutes of cooking time (the recipe says 25-30minutes) which was very reassuring. The top cracking is apparently quite normal
Served still warm this is really pudding-like. You can use a cake slice to serve it but only just, and you may well need a spoon as well as it will be very soft and very moussy. If you leave it for couple of hours, the cake cools into something more fudgy, still moist but denser, more slicable. If you don’t eat it all in one day keep it in the fridge, in which case it becomes even firmer and more compact which is also delicious.
I’m very glad this cake is as good as I’d hoped it would be because it means I’ve finally found our less traditional pudding for after the goose on Christmas Day.
Chocolate and chestnut cake
Adapted from Hugh Fearnley -Whittingstall’s recipe in The River Cottage Year
Serves 8 – 10
- 250g very good quality dark chocolate (Today it’s this, the 65% cooking chocolate which is fantastic)
- 250g unsalted butter cut into cubes
- 250g roasted and peeled chestnuts (vacumn packed are great or you can roast and peel your own)
- 250ml whole milk
- 4 medium-sized eggs
- 125g caster sugar
Grease and line a 25cm cake tin (the springform type is good) and set the oven to 170°/
Melt the cubed butter and chocolate broken into pieces in a small pan over a low flame.
In another pan warm the milk and the chestnuts until the milk is nearly boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and mash the chestnuts into a paste in the milk with a potato masher or blend with an immersion blender.
Separate the eggs yolks from the whites and beat the yolks with the sugar in a large bowl. Add and fold the melted chocolate and butter to the yolk and sugar and then the chestnut and milk puree. You will have a gloopy batter
In another bowl whisk the eggs whites until they form stiff peaks and then fold them into the rest of the ingredients.
Tip the mixture into the lined tin – carefully. Bake at 170°for 25 – 30 minutes until it is just set but still has a slight wobble.
If you want to serve the cake warm, let it cool a little and then very very gently release the tin and slide it onto a plate, carefully, it will still be very soft, delicate and moussey. If you leave it to go cold it will set firm.
Very good with a blob of heavy cream but it’s hardly necessary.
Chocolate and chestnut cake on a chestnut wood table.