A few months back I eavesdropped on a Twitter conversation. This is unusual for me as I’m not normally prone to eavesdropping. Unlike in real life, where I am shy and retiring (cough), on Twitter I have no qualms about twanging a conversation thread with an unasked-for opinion or observation. Most people are pretty polite, as long as you don’t insult them. But in this case I wanted to know more. And I didn’t want to look foolish about my lack of experience.
Before you jump to all kinds of inappropriate conclusions, I was in fact eavesdropping on a conversation about chestnut flour. I know, how exciting is that? Other folk are meeting friends for drinks, or trading bonds and whatnot and I’m lurking on Twitter following a convo about flour.
I had never heard of chestnut flour before and, being a mildly curious person, was intrigued when one of the tweeters posted a photo of some amazing looking chestnut tagliatelle. Two whacking great trays, dotted with mounds of bouncy, dusky, just-cut pasta. It looked so much heartier and more interesting than the ordinary white, or even wholewheat. The tweeter of this gorgeous photo was, of course, Italian. So I was not surprised to find that Italians – before the introduction of corn – dried and stone-ground the nut of the native chestnut tree to make polenta. I’m not quite sure why it is not more widely used because it is really a delicious flour. And it is very nutritious too, having a nutrient profile that puts most grains to shame: high protein and fibre, low fat, and with good amounts of Vitamin E, the B vitamin group, iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Nutritional therapist Tamara Duker has an excellent post about chestnut flour, and how well it compares with other gluten-free grains.
I have yet to make pasta with chestnut flour, but if you fancy a go, this and this look pretty straight-forward. A slow-cooked red wine and boar ragu, ladled onto chestnut pasta, sounds just the business on this still-bitter day here in Scotland. Not very Spring-y, I know.
But today I have put it to a sweeter use: pancakes. Fluffy, squashy, syrup-sponging pancakes. And because I like you, and I am feeling a bit naughty, you can have them with salted caramel sauce. Yes, I have joined the salted caramel sauce brigade. Loads of recipes on the Internet - which almost blew up when I did the obligatory Google search – but this is the way I do it: single cream instead of double, no butter. I have done a few versions over the years, possibly before I had even heard of salted caramel (or as I like to call it, ‘balancing’ it), but I consulted Dan Lepard and David Lebovitz today for the proper method and wisdom to pass on to you. They both refer to the whole gamut of caramels, not necessarily sauce. But the discussion and method lead us to sauce. A might fine sauce. You may want to make double. Or triple. For presents, of course. I know you aren’t greedy or anything *wink*. But if all of that sugar doesn’t float your boat, these are so moist and naturally sweet that you will be happy scoffing them au naturel.
(Btw, the pancake images are with maple syrup as I had just ruined my ‘healthier’ batch, using coconut sugar. They have a similar colour but very different taste and thickness. Dessert territory rather than breakfast, methinks. Probably.)
So, despite the injection of my Twitter-found chestnut flour, no health food for you today. Eat it. Enjoy it. Have a salad for dinner. Does that sound like a plan?
Have a Happy Easter and see you next week with something healthier, but just as tasty
Popping this over to Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ With Luv for their Made With Love Mondays feature. All homemade and made, um, with love!
Miss R’s Extra Track of the Week: Sail By The River, by Yellow Moon. This sweet song is from a singer/songwriter friend of my daughter. It is hard to believer she is only 16! Have a listen.
Featuring the flour wunderkind, chestnut flour. You will love the subtle, pleasantly-nutty taste, – it goes oh so well with the warm spices. It is a little bit nubbly and textured, but I really rate it. Use apple or pear, or even something like persimmon, to add extra taste and moistness. Or keep it plain and let the chestnuts and spices shine. This is easily veganised.
1 apple or ripe pear, grated (save any juice from grating to add to the caramel sauce)
To a jug add the milk, lemon juice, egg yolk and melted butter. Whisk thoroughly. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until they just combined. Now fold in the apple or pear. Leave the batter to ‘settle’ for about 20 minutes, or you can just carry on if you have impatient family pulling at your pinny.
In a separate, scrupulously clean bowl, whisk the egg white until just stiff. I sometimes kid myself that I am getting some badly needed exercise by hand-whisking. Fold this carefully into the rested batter, taking care not to knock too much air out. Gluten-free cooking relies on these little extras to give lift.
Heat a flat griddle pan or frying pan with a little rapeseed oil or coconut butter until hot. Fleck a bit of water into the pan. If it immediately sizzles and evaporates quickly, it is ready for the batter. Add a ladle of batter, tilting and gently swirling the pan to get even coverage. Or dollop smaller spoonfuls of batter – about three to a pan. I made so-called dollar pancakes (okay 2-dollar pancakes) so we could feel extra piggy despite eating a normal portion size. The pancake will be ready to flip when it is slightly puffed and peppered with air bubbles. Have a peak at the underside before flipping – the underside should be deep golden, much more so than lighter coloured all-flour pancakes. Keep warm in a low oven while you use the remaining batter.
Serve with pure maple syrup, or the following salted caramel sauce.
This is nicer than shop-bought and will keep for up to a week in the fridge. Perfect for dipping fruit pieces into, or drizzling over yogurt, ice cream or even plain cake. Just warm it gently, adding a little extra cream to loosen, if needs be.
I initially made the caramel sauce with less of the indicated ingredients, but I didn’t feel as able to control the process of caramelisation and it quickly burned. If you have a small, steep-sided pan, feel free to half the amount, but mind that it doesn’t spill over. And use a sugar thermometer if you have one – remove from the heat when it reaches 230F (easier to read than Celsius). Anything over and it goes to soft ball stage, which is fine, just quite firm as it cools – recoverable with more cream. Otherwise just look for it to start changing colour – don’t let it actually go brown. Just the golden side of amber is perfect. Some caramel advisers tell us to go to smoking point but I think that probably is not good for us and would certainly be too strong in taste for the average imbiber.
¾ tsp sea salt
Place the water and sugar into a medium-sized, heavy pan over a medium flame. Do not stir. Bring to a simmer, occasionally swirling but not stirring the syrup.
Once the sugar has dissolved completely turn up the heat and allow the syrup to gently boil for about five minutes. You are aiming for a golden amber colour.
When the caramel is a golden amber take off the heat and gradually add in the cream. Be careful as the syrup will boil like crazy. Cautious people/ninnies like me wear long oven gloves . Swirl carefully to distribute, then add in the salt. Stir the sauce and let cool to a reasonable temperature before using or storing in a clean jar. It will thicken as it cools; just gently heat to loosen and pour.