On the last In My Kitchen post, I promised to come back to talk about a bread made with chestnut flour brought all the way from France. The Bread Baking Queen Farine was the one who got me into this bread adventure, and advised me to search for this exotic flour in Paris. When I sent her a photo of the bag I bought she was super excited because it turns out chestnut flour from Corsica is considered the best in the world!  Amazing that it was exactly the type available near our hotel. Pure luck. With the stars so beautifully aligned, I was sure this would turn out as a wonderful baking project!  Was I right?  Well, let’s say that troubles were brewing faster than the wild yeast in my sourdough starter.


(from Farine’s blog)

(makes 4 small loaves)

For the pre-fermented dough
175 g mature white starter
494 g unbleached all-purpose flour
258 g water
26 g raw wheat germ (I used toasted)
12 g salt

For the final dough
750 g unbleached all-purpose flour
400 g chestnut flour
700 g water
450 g fermented white dough
5 g instant dry yeast
25 g salt
200 g whole, peeled cooked chestnuts, crumbled into chunks

For the fermented dough
Mix flour, water and white starter until the flour is well hydrated, cover with a cloth and let rest 20 minutes. Add salt and mix until you get a gluten window (when you stretch some of the dough really thin, you see strands of gluten and almost-see through spots). Put in an oiled bowl and cover tightly.

Let rise at room temperature for about two hours, then put in the fridge for up to 48 hours

Remove from the fridge at least two hours before using

For the final dough
Combine the flours in the bowl of the mixer, add the water and mix well. Cover with a cloth and let rest for 30 minutes

Add the fermented dough and yeast and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic. Sprinkle the salt over it and mix some more.

Very lightly flour your work surface. Place your dough on it, rough-side up, and flatten it out with your fingers. Spread the chestnut pieces over the top and press them well into the dough. Fold a few times so that all the chestnuts are incorporated into the dough. Form the dough into a ball, put it into an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest for 40 minutes.

Lightly flour your work surface again, and turn the dough out on it. Fold the dough (on all four sides), then put back into your bowl, cover with baking cloth and let it rest for another 20 minutes. Lightly flour your work surface again, turn out the dough and divide it into 4 equal pieces.  Shape as desired.

Place on a semolina dusted parchment paper over a sheet pan. Let rise, covered with baking cloths, for 1 ½ hour or until just doubled in volume.

Meanwhile turn on the oven to 500ºF/250ºC with a baking stone in it and an empty cast iron (or metal) pan on the bottom shelf. When ready to bake, score the breads the way you like, pour 1 cup of water in the cast iron (or metal) pan and slide the breads (still on their parchment paper) onto the baking stone, spray some water into the oven and close the door quickly.

After 5 minutes, turn the oven down to 440ºF/220ºC and bake for another 20 minutes. Check to see if the loaves need to be turned around or if they need to switch places, then bake for another 10 minutes as needed

Let cool on a rack.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: When you buy 500g of chestnut flour several thousand miles away from home, you become very protective of it  A recipe that calls for 400g (in other words, 80% of my treasure) prompted me to launch a quick email to Farine, asking her thoughts on halving the recipe.  She is far more experienced in sourdough baking than me, so when she speaks, I listen. Once she gave me the ok to go for it, I felt empowered, on top of the world. Yes, I will be able to bake this bread and have a lot of chestnut flour leftover to play with. How cool is that?  So, being the super smart person I like to think I am, I made a nice table in which all amounts were cut in half, and went to work.

The catastrophic event was completely neglecting to look back at the table when mixing starter with the other components of the dough. I would have noticed that only HALF of the fermented dough should be added. So, that beautiful photo you see above, with a stretched out dough and the chestnuts waiting to be incorporated, was taken right before the piercing cry, the calling myself names, and the scared dogs running after Phil as he dashed out of the kitchen.  It is shocking and appalling to realize how little sympathy I get from those who live with me.

It is not easy to think rationally under duress, but I figured that the only way out of my self-inflicted misery was to discard half of that dough (ouch, it hurt!)  and add more of all other components to the other half, except (obviously) the starter.  Two problems with this strategy: I would not have time to let the flours go through autolyse before mixing, and I would have to use more of my precious chestnut flour.  With a heavy heart, that’s what I did.


I was absolutely sure the abused bread would turn out to be a complete failure, but the Gods of Bread are a lot kinder than the Gods of Golf, so all had a miraculous happy ending.  Maybe the crumb turned out a little too tight, but I can tell you this bread tastes amazing!  If you can find chestnut flour where you live, or if you can order it online, try this bread. And, I echo Farine with one piece of advice she gave me: it is ok to scale down the recipe, but do not substitute walnuts or other nuts. Chestnuts are essential…

MC, thanks for the constant inspiration, and sorry I messed up the recipe. There’s always next time, as long as I find a good source for chestnut flour here in the US. to the rescue?  😉


I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Kinpira Gobo and Japanese Home Cooking

TWO YEARS AGO: Walnut Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

FOUR YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto




Two of my favorite bread baking sites are Wild Yeast and The Fresh Loaf.  Every Friday, I look forward to Susan’s Yeastspotting event,  that showcases  breads baked during the previous week by folks all over the world.  And The Fresh Loaf is a discussion forum with help and advice for beginners as well as experienced bakers.  Through my visits to both sites over several years,  I got to know – virtually, at least  –  some amazing bread bakers like MC, who runs the blog with the cute name “Farine.”   Not too long ago she raved about a bread from Orchard Hill Breadworks, a bakery in New Hampshire owned by Noah Elbers.  During her visit to the bakery, she learned how to make one of their signature breads, with two flavors I am quite fond of:  oatmeal and maple syrup.

I won’t lie to you, the preparation is a bit involved: the day before you’ll need to bake the oatmeal, refresh your sourdough starter, and make a poolish with commercial yeast. But your hard work will pay off, big time…   😉

(reprinted from Farine‘s blog, with permission from Noah Elbers)

447 g all-purpose unbleached flour
151 g whole-wheat flour
151 g steel-cut oatmeal, baked
328 g water
151 g liquid starter
151 g poolish
121 g pure maple syrup
16 g salt
The day before baking the bread:
1. Refresh your sourdough starter, to make sure it is bubbly and active when you make the dough next morning. I do that about 12 hours before mixing the dough, by mixing 2 tsp of mature starter with 150g water and 150g flour.  Next morning remove the amount you need and keep the rest in the fridge.

2. Make the poolish by mixing 100g flour + pinch of instant yeast + 100 g/ml water recipe: Leave to ferment overnight. You will not use it all, weigh what you need for the recipe.

3. Bake the oatmeal.  Boil water, then mix it with the oatmeal in a baking dish (200g oatmeal + 200g/ml boiling water).  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 400F oven for 40 minutes.  The mixture will turn into a brick.  Once it cools, break the bits of oatmeal with your fingers, and weigh the amount needed for the dough.

On baking day:
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl (except the salt),  kneading briefly to form a shaggy mass.  Let the mixture resting for 30 minutes.    Add the salt and incorporate by gentle kneading.

Let the dough rest for 40 minutes.  Knead by folding the dough in itself 4-6 times.  Let the dough rest for 40 minutes more.  Knead it again by folding.
Let the dough rise for 40 minutes, do one final cycle of kneading, then allow it to sit undisturbed for a full hour  (total bulk fermentation will be about 3 hours).

Shape the dough as a large batard, or divide in two and shape as a small round (that’s what I did).  Let the shaped bread rise for 1 hour at room temperature, then retard it in the fridge for 12-15 hours.

Bring the bread to room temperature for 2 hours before baking in a 450F oven for 45 minutes (25 minutes under steam, covered, 20 minutes uncovered).  Cool the bread for at least one hour before indulging in it.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Even though this bread takes oatmeal and maple syrup, it is not sweet.  I think its sourdough nature creates a nice counterpart to the sweetness, so that the bread is quite versatile:  you can enjoy it with peanut butter and jelly (like my husband did), or go for a bit of Brie or Camembert (my favorite take).

I highly recommend that you visit Farine website, and click on the video made in the bakery during the preparation of this bread.  It is amazing to see how those talented bakers handle a huge amount of dough, from mixing to shaping.   And while you are net-surfing, make sure to stop by the bakery website and read about how it all started, a fascinating story told by Noah himself.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Black Trumpet-Coffee Crusted Pork Tenderloin (one of my personal favorites!)

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