Chestnut Protein Cakes … or Not Quite Castagnaccio

I am still in the midst of coming to terms with The Kitchen Cupboard Uncertainty Principle as we shift stuff around the house to reorganise our storage.  Having survived the passage through our Renovation Event Horizon, there’s literally, stuff everywhere.  I don’t even remember where some of it came from.  On the upside, I’ve discovered some fantastic baking equipment I had completely lost track of, so here’s to future possibilities!  But pretty pastries will have to wait a little while longer.

I still need my healthy treats to keep me going during all this work along with the day job and my workouts and … so here’s another protein bombilicious babe in the interim.

Look away now if you’re hoping for sugar-laden buttery goodness 🙂

With the onset of autumn, one starts to think of chestnuts, right?  I sighted a box of them yesterday and it got me thinking.  Fabulous, healthy chestnuts.  Good source of complex carbohydrates, fibre, a smidgen of protein, and practically no fat.  They also taste fantastic.  I love chestnuts with vanilla, chocolate, spices, coffee, other nuts, raspberries and orange … hey, they are even great with veggies.   For me, chestnuts always call to mind the Tuscan traditional castagnaccio, a dense cake made of chestnut flour, olive oil, and flavoured with rosemary, honey, and pine nuts.  It’s origins are ancient but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a funky chestnut version of a brownie.  That got me thinking again …

Chestnut flour does not behave like wheat flour in baking.  Once you add moisture it starts to think of itself as chestnut purée.  Almost like it was reconstituting itself back into chestnuts again.

Like the Liquid Metal Guy in Terminator II.  Well not exactly like that, but you see where I’m going with this?

This is when it gets exciting because I wanted to make little cakes that were a cross between cakey, cheesecakey, and brownie, but without being too much of any of them.   Cos, been there, done that, you know.

Check out the texture in these little beauties.  It’s got chestnutty goodness and texture.  Success!

Yes, that just happens to be some delicious homemade protein nutella oozing out the middle there.  These are great with a chocolate nut spread.  They are also fantastic with plain nut butters, chestnut jam or puree, sweetened with whatever you please, berries (especially raspberries in my kitchen lab), or a really good marmalade.  I had them for breakfast with the nutella and sliced bananas.  Awesome.

You could frost these to make them fancy.  A grand idea.  I’ve kept them plain so I can slice them up and carry them in my lunch box.  A practical idea … :-/

Obviously, I haven’t added the rosemary or pine nuts, although that would be cool.  I did, however, add some espresso coffee to the mix.  The coffee flavour is barely there.  It’s purpose is to enhance and intensify the chestnut flavour.  Which it does, brilliantly.

I did not use fruit to sweeten these cakes as I really wanted the chestnut flavour to shine through.  You could use puréed dates, apples, pears, or banana if you choose, but know that it will be lovely, but different.  You may also need to adjust the amount of moist ingredients for the batter, and it will affect the macros 😀

Check out the macros for these gluten-free, low FODMAP babies.  Insane.  A classic WIN-WIN scenario and a total fluke on my part.

But, where do I buy chestnut flour?????  Well, I get mine from my local Italian delis.  Chestnut flour is used quite a lot in Italian cooking, particularly in the north and northern-central regions of the country.  You might be able to find it in health food stores but it’s unlikely.  Continental delis are the surest bet or online.  Don’t bank on your local supermarket unless it is quite international in its fare.

Makes 5 rectangular cakes (double the recipe for a bigger batch)

110 grams egg whites OR 3 large egg whites
1 large egg
60 grams chestnut flour (I use this one)
60 grams pea protein isolate powder
2 tablespoons Natvia OR coconut sugar (or preferred sweetener, to taste)*
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure extract OR seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
75 millilitres espresso coffee, brewed strong, and cooled**
120 grams low-fat cottage cheese (1% fat) OR quark OR ricotta OR thick Greek yoghurt
2 teaspoon baking powder (gluten-free)

* You can essentially use your sweetener of choice.  Honey would be awesome.  I like coconut sugar for this but this time I gave Natvia a go, just to try it out.  Worked a treat.  It’s a granulated blend of stevia and erythritol.  I don’t use it often but was curious, and the flavour was lovely.  Much better than straight up stevia.  It’s also a low FODMAP sweetener so yay.

** You can substitute milk or almond milk for the coffee, if you prefer.  It’s not essential.

Preheat the oven to 170℃.  Have ready 5 silicon bar molds or bar tins.  You can use standard muffin or cupcake tins if you don’t have bar tins.  If not using silicon molds, spray each tin with a little oil spray and line with a strip of non-stick baking paper to run along the base and up the sides.  This will help you ease them out of the molds.  Set aside.

Blend all the ingredients together in the bowl of a mixer or in a food processor.  Yep, that’s pretty much it.

Divide the batter between the bar molds.  Bake for about 20 minutes until risen, and cooked through.  Transfer the molds to a wire rack and leave to cool slightly before turning out of the molds.  Serve slightly warmed, or at room temperature.

Store leftover cakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  They will keep for a few days.

Macronutrient Profile
All macros are based on available averages for fresh ingredients.  For the chestnut flour, I have based the macros on the brand I used.  The macros include the version with Natvia and low fat cottage cheese.

Pretty impressive, huh?  The macro profile was an added bonus.  Go chestnut cakes!

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