Since the first time I read about it, in a book given to me by the hosts of a Water Colour holiday * I went on last year, called “Simple French Cuisine from Provence and Languedoc”, I’ve been wanting to use, and looking for, Chestnut Flour. The idea intrigued me. Can you make pastry with it? I found some in a bin in a bulk health food store eventually and bought a bag, even though I had no idea what to do with it.
After a bit of reading, I found that it’s a traditionally used flour in parts of Italy and France, among other places, when other flours are unavailable. And traditionally, the pastry I wanted to make was done on a counter top, like pasta pastry. You know the one: you dump all your flour onto your counter top in a nice big pile, make a well in the middle and throw the eggs into it. Well, I’ve never done this before, but I’m not one to back down from a challenge it I can help it. It was a bit of a tricky, sticky task, and after 15 mins of kneading the eggs and butter into the flour I was covered head to toe in the fine chestnut flour and my hands up to my wrists were a sticky, icky mess. Of course I’d forgotten to take off my wedding ring, so all it’s crevices are now caked in dried pastry. Eventually, in exasperation, I put the whole lot in a bowl and mixed it with a wooden spoon, adding more flour until a more manageable consistency was reached. If I hadn’t been laughing so much I would have been cursing!
Well, the end product is still delicious. Does anyone have any tips for working with Chestnut Flour? Any help is appreciated!
* The McEwans run a wonderful workshop holiday, whether you’re there for the lessons, the cuisine or the insightful personal guides to the area and local towns near Lodev. The hosts are warm and intimate, the food, cooked by Mrs McEwan, is inspiring, fresh and hearty and the skills available to you from Mr McEwan are invaluable whether you’re a watercolour hobbyist or a veteran painter.
Pear and Blackberry Tarts with Chestnut Pastry
makes 6 tarts
for the pastry:
2½ cups Chestnut Flour
2 sticks butter, soft
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Jumbo egg
for the filling:
¼ cup ground almond
⅓ cup Sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla Essence
1 just ripe pear, quartered, cored and sliced finely
1 punnet blackberries
– make the pastry:
– beat the softened butter with the sugar until creamy
– add the egg and flour and mix, using a spoon and then your hands, until a soft dough is formed. Add more flour is necessary.
– flatten into a disc, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 45 mins.
– grease and flour pie tins.
– in a small bowl, mix almond, sugar, egg, butter and vanilla until well blended. Refrigerate for about 30 mins.
– using pastry in bits (keep the unused amount in the fridge in the mean time) roll out on a floured surface and line pie tins. Refrigerate for 10 mins before filling.
– divide filling cream between shells, arrange pears and berries. I placed a piece of pastry on top of each pie for added decoration. (if doing this, brush lightly with milk so that it browns in the oven)
– bake at 325˚F for 30 – 35 mins until browned and yummy.
these are best served warmish with whipped cream