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Chestnut and ricotta cake, sugar-free and gluten-free!

>> Monday, March 23, 2009

Although I'm a cookbook-holic I don't know if I own 101 cookbooks like this girl (excellent blog on vegetarian cuisine though I'm not a vegetarian) because I've never counted them, but I must be getting close. It's a long time since I have this book of desserts and sweets by an Italian author, but I believe this is actually the first time that I cook one of her recipes. This cake or pie or whatever you want to call it caught my eye, I found the ingredient combination quite unusual. Besides it's got chestnuts in it, which I love, and very little sugar, another advantageTo make things more difficult and get off the beaten track, I've substituted fructose for the sugar to make it tolerable for diabetics (at least some types) and good for anyone who wishes to stay away from a curved profile ;-). And last but not least, is gluten-free so that gluten-intolerant persons can it eat. I already have some celiacs among my friends so this is something I often keep in mind.

Here's the recipe:

Chestnut and ricotta cake

Adapted from a dessert book by Annalisa Strada


  • 220g (7.8oz) chestnut flour (I actually used dried chestnuts, because I've never been able to find this kind of flour in Spain)
  • 300ml (1,2 cups) milk
  • 400g (14oz) ricotta cheese
  • 60g (2.1oz) fructose (for those who prefer sugar anyway: 90g, 3.2oz)
  • 2 tablespoons sweet wine (any muscat wine type will do)
  • 100g (3.5oz) dried apricots (the original recipe includes candied fruit, but I prefer dried fruit, any of your choice)
  • Lemon peel
The directions in the recipe tell you to mix the chestnut flour with the milk and let it soak. I believe you can make your own flour by milling the dried chestnuts in a powerful mixer, as directed by Spanish chef Abraham García. In my case I just didn't dare to do it, it gave me the creeps to put them inside my beautiful and beloved mixer, dried chestnuts are very hard. Therefore what I did was leave my plump chestnuts from Orense to soak in water overnight. I could have soaked them in milk but I had a lazy day... The day after I boiled them in milk, like half an hour, not to soften them completely and I finally put them in my blender where I boiled them and grinded them a little further (I have a special kind of blender which can heat up too) up till a potato mash consistency. In the end I think I overdid it and got it a little bit too thick. Never mind. Leave it to cool.

Mix the cheese lightly with the fructose (or sugar) just to blend, nothing special. Add lemon peel to your taste, the sweet wine and the diced dried apricots. I used the apricots because I love them, but also to try to get rid of the apricot "consignment" I store in my pantry ever since Christmas, beside dates, currants and other dried fruits to be used up in all kinds of sweets, breads and other dishes. I freaked out estimating my quantities.

Then you start laying your cake in a buttered dish, it doesn't need to be very deep. As a guide I used a rectangular oven dish of about 30 x 25 cm (12" x 10" approx.). First spread the chestnut cream. As I said before I had a rather thick chestnut cream, so I was forced to compact it with my fingers because it would nicely get stuck on all my scrapers. Spread the cheese mixture on top of the chestnuts, this is a lot easier to do. And then put it 50 minutes in the oven heated to 170 ºC (170ºF) (if your oven is not air-convection type, increase the temperature slightly).

After finishing I connected the grill for a while to get the surface to brown more homogeneously, because after 50 minutes the edges were quite crisply toasted but not the center. I guess fructose has something to do with this, maybe it doesn't caramelize as completely as sugar. Take it out of the oven and let it cool in the baking dish. For presentation the cheese side must be up, sprinkle some powdered fructose or sugar on top to your liking. The consistency of this pie is not completely hard, I had to unmold it putting 2 palettes underneath and carefully elevating it. It got some cracks here and there, but nothing important.

I tried a little bite after sprinkling it with sugar and I really liked it, only I don't know if I am to be trusted, because I love anything with chestnuts in it. Things I have to correct next time:
  • Maybe I put a bit too much lemon, it was quite "lemony", although the combination of the chestnut cream with the dried apricots and the cheese was excellent.
  • I would increase the amount of sweet wine, it can hardly be noticed.
  • The chestnut cream should be more a little more fluid, I suspected from the beginning it was a bit too dry. The final result was good, but being so solid made it more difficult to smooth it and fill the gaps properly. When it is more fluid it should be easier to smooth it and make a homogeneous base.
  • For the recipe quantities the baking dish should be smaller than mine, so that both layers of cheese and chestnut are thicker and more visible. This would allow you to have thicker bite-size servings.
I hope my guests tomorrow like this cake as much as me... I'll ask my partner to hide it till then :-).

(Note: any good milk whey cheese can be susbtituted for ricotta because it seems the making process is quite the same, check here. So don't go over the top searching for ricotta if you don't have it at hand. Ricotta sounds more fashionable but...)

2 comentarios:

art and lemons June 29, 2009 at 8:42 PM  

Chestnut flour, ricotta, apricots, and lemon peel, this cake sounds creamy and delicious!

Miriam July 16, 2009 at 11:45 AM  

Hi, I apologize because your comment was awaiting moderation and I was not aware... bother! Thanks for your kindness!


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