Chestnut Bread…

I had a day off last week. The children were at school, Virginie was working in the home office, so I couldn’t be noisy. No construction work or drum practice allowed. I had to go out for a walk in the woods instead. It’s hunting season over here in France which means that there are practicalities one needs to follow when out in the countryside. Shotguns are quite noisy so its easy to know which way to go when you hear them rumbling away somewhere in the forest. I usually wear a hi-visibility jacket so I don’t get mistaken for a lithe young stag.

But the woods were silent this morning. I guess the hunters around here are mostly weekend guns. The sky was patterned with thin strands of cloud and still warm with a light wind blowing up from the South West. In any case, the time has come when hats change from cotton to wool. The trees are all beginning to change colour. I hadn’t gone too far, perhaps a couple of kilometers, before I discovered a prickly carpet of chestnut casings all over the path. Some had spilled open and their bounty shone in the sun. I put my hands in my jacket pocket and found a neatly folded English supermarket bag. What luck.

Prickly Friends…

Chestnuts are extraordinarily well protected with a hedgehog’s worth of spikes. It would be like trying to peel a cactus, if you weren’t taught by my Grandma how to open them up. The trick is to imagine you are a hungry deer and use your hooves to split the casings apart, then you can simply crouch down, or forward bend to pick the nuts out and drop them in the bag. None of the chestnuts were large like the ones you see in French supermarkets, but the nuts I tried had that wonderful sweetness and they tasted fantastic outdoors in the late Autumn sun. I filled the carrier bag as far as I dared. It can be touch and go with their thin plastic handles sometimes.

Fresh Out of the Oven…

Back at the house I cleaned them up, split the shells with a small knife, then popped them in the oven for twenty minutes. When they came out they peeled easily. Amelie gave me a hand when she returned from school and by the end of the day I had a bowl full of freshly peeled chestnuts. The next morning I put them through the grinder until they had been reduced to a fine powder. I mixed some of it with bread flour, a ratio of one to three and baked a loaf of bread. I don’t do it myself. We have a machine. You probably have one too behind the ice-cream-maker and the fondue set you got for your wedding…

So anyway, that was: 350g of white flour, 100g of freshly ground-to-flour chestnuts, four tablespoons of oil, a tablespoon of agave syrup, a teaspoon of cider vinegar, another of salt and another of xantham gum, 5.5g of yeast in 175ml of water and a sprinkling of chia seeds and an egg (a nice big one), chuck it all in the bread-maker (flour and chia seeds last of all) and wait for the magic-bread-robot to do its thing…

Yum…

In Corsica, they make cakes with chestnut flour. I found some ‘artisanal chataigne’ flour for sale in my local Hyper-U too for a small fortune. My bread came out with a nice dense texture, slightly brown with a malty flavour. The children liked it. It was gluten free too, which was a bonus. I made biscuits and more bread before I ran out of my home-made chestnut flour. Looks like I need to pop out for another walk in the woods…

 

About 14thcenturypoet

Author of Mandorlinfiore, an historical fantasy based on traditional Italian folk tales...
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