I know I already posted this bread but it was ages ago and this version is a bit different: I used regular pâte fermentée (yeasted old dough) instead of dough fermented with levain and I added cocoa nibs for the crunch. It worked well: the bread carries the inimitable taste and sweetness of chestnuts and the hint of chocolate makes it appealingly festive. How I wish good chestnut flour was more readily available in this country… The only time I tried and bought some (from Whole Foods no less), it had been smoked (or the chestnuts had been smoked before they were dried and milled) and the resulting bread tasted just like I imagine soap might. This time I used organic chestnut flour a friend sent me from France as a Christmas present (merci, toi!) and it was simply perfect. If Whole Foods ever wanted to find a good source for chestnut flour, maybe it could check out this one.
Of course it’d probably be horridly expensive (not that the soapy one was cheap, mind you!). So the next question is why don’t we produce and eat chestnuts in this country? I looked it up on Wikipedia and it is a sad story: our chestnut trees (we had over three billions of them) were wiped out by a blight: the pathogen remains alive and well on other trees which it treats as hosts and doesn’t harm, waiting to jump back on chestnut trees if someone is brave enough to plant new ones. I guess I may not see American chestnut flour in my lifetime but who knows? Climate change might help eliminate the fungus. Of course, it might also bring about the complete extinction of the tree on this continent…
I debated the usefulness of posting the formula since good chestnut flour is so hard to find here but then, what the heck, some of you may live in France or travel to France or have family and friends going there who might be willing to bring some back. By the way you don’t have to make bread with it: I bet the flour does wonders in crêpes too!
The vacuum-packed chestnuts themselves were easier to find: I got them at Trader Joe’s in December. Unopened, they keep a very long time in the refrigerator and you know what? They come from France as well!
For those of you who are using BreadStorm (including the free version), please click on this link to import the formula. For more on BreadStorm, you may want to read this post.
Adapted from Crust by Richard Bertinet, p. 102
Makes four small loaves
- Mix flour, yeast and salt
- Add water and mix until incorporated
- Mix until smooth
- Let rise, covered, at room temp for 6 hours or in the fridge overnight (for up to 48 hours)
- Combine flours
- Add water
- Mix well and autolyse for 30 minutes
- Add fermented dough and yeast and mix until smooth
- Add salt and mix again. Dough should no longer be sticky
- Place dough on bench and flatten it with fingers
- Spread chestnut pieces over the top and press them down well into the dough
- Fold a few times until well incorporated
- Form dough in a ball, cover and let rest for 40 min
- Give it a fold
- Let rest another 20 min
- Divide @ 630 g and shape into elongated or round shapes
- Let rise for 1 hour and 30 min
- Snip tops with scissors or score with knife
- Bake in 500°F/250°C oven with steam
- After 5 min turn temperature down to 440°F/220°C and bake for another 20 minutes
- Cool on rack