These gluten free chestnut brownies are made with chestnut flour, which makes them both gently nutty and wonderfully smooth, and part brown sugar which adds a slight caramelized flavor too. I know it might seem a stretch, but these are right up there as some of our favorite brownies ever - seriously good.
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Chestnut flour is not exactly one of the most widely used or available gluten free flours, but I for one find that a bit of a shame. I think part of that is because it has a bit of a distinct flavor that means you can substitute it in everything.
But if you work with the flavor, especially blended with other flours, you can get some really delicious results.
We really love my maple chestnut cookies, and chestnut crepes really let you taste the slightly sweet and nutty chestnut flavor even more. These brownies might not have the flavor come through that much, but it definitely adds a little something. And no matter what, the result is incredibly tasty.
Traditional uses for chestnut flour
While as I say it's not that common in the US (or Australia, as I found, despite fresh chestnuts being pretty widely available), chestnut flour is popular in Italy.
In fact, chestnut flour was the main flour in some of the more rural areas when wheat flour was too expensive. It is also known as "farina dolce" ie sweet flour in Italy as it has a gently sweet, nutty flavor.
One of the most traditional ways to use it is in castagnaccio, a kind of unleavened chestnut cake that is little more than the flour, water, a little oil and a handful of dried fruits and nuts. You will find a few variations in the exact ingredients from town to town in Northern Italy, where chestnuts are widely grown.
It's also used in gnocchi, pastas, bread and a traditional pancake known as "necci" (made simply with the flour and water, not also egg as in the crepes I link to above) which were the staple bread in some of the mountainous areas.
Chestnut flour in baking
As well as these traditional uses, it's lovely to experiment with both in gluten free and baking more generally. It can add a lovely flavor and is wonderfully smooth, so there's none of that grainy texture you can get with some other flours. Plus, it has some pretty good nutritional qualities.
Since it can be quite dense and earthy, it can often be good to mix it with other flours that balance it out. I have found almond flour, oats and whole wheat flour , for example, are good at adding that balance.
Also, certain flavors pair better with it than others. Chocolate, rosemary, maple and other nuts work well.
While in theory you can make your own flour from roasted chestnuts, it's a whole lot easier to buy chestnut flour. I recommend looking for Italian flour as it is typically a little sweeter and adds a nicer flavor to whatever you are making.
Tips for making these brownies
These brownies come together in much the same way as my mini skillet brownie, but there are a coupe things to note with these particular ones.
When baking with chestnut flour, you want to make sure you either sieve it or lightly whisk it with other dry ingredients before mixing with the wet ingredients. It has a tendency to clump, and in the case of these, the almond flour and cocoa powder mixed through helps reduce that.
Make sure you line the dish you are using - it makes lifting them out a whole lot easier. Not to mention washing up.
You don't have to use a blend of regular and brown sugars, but I do recommend it. I really like the slight extra chew and flavor the brown gives, but I think it works best with some white to balance things out.
The other thing is these do take a little longer to bake than some brownies, but don't worry, they get there. Just try to be patient! They may well rise more in the middle and crack, but they will fall back a bit as they cool.
Let them cool a good ten minutes or more in the dish before lifting them out. It just helps avoid them breaking. But you don't have to wait until they are completely cold - they are delicious warm.
These gluten free chestnut brownies are such a deliciously chocolatey treat. The slight nuttiness from the chestnut works so well and they have a great balance of fudginess, crisp outside and soft inside. They are pretty rich and sweet, but in the best possibly way. A favorite in our house that I hope you'll share.
Try these other gluten free treats:
- Maple chestnut cookies
- Persian walnut cookies
- Vegan sweet potato brownies
- Swiss chocolate almond cookies (Basler brunsli)
- Plus get more snack recipes, both sweet and savory, in the archives.
Gluten free chestnut brownies
- 5 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips or chunks of a block
- ¾ cup chestnut flour
- ¼ cup almond flour
- 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup soft brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Line a small baking dish with parchment (around 7x5 in/ 18x13cm).
- Place the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan and warm over a medium-low heat until both have melted. Stir now and then to ensure they don't burn and remove from heat once just melted.
- Meanwhile, sieve the almond flour, chestnut flour and cocoa powder into a bowl. Add the salt and mix all together well (either spoon or with whisk) so well combined and without clumps.
- Add the white and brown sugars to the melted butter-chocolate mixture, making sure they are well mixed in. Then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing fast and well so that they are well combined but you also don't get any bits cooking in the heat of the pan.
- Add the vanilla extract and mix in, then add the flours mixture. Stir it in so well combined, and when near being done, press on any lumps of flour to help them burst and mix in.
- Pour the mixture into the lined baking dish, spread the mixture out to the corners then flatten the top slightly. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 30 -35 minutes until a skewer tested in the middle comes out clean. It will puff up a little then fall back as it cools.
- Leave to cool in the dish for around 10 minutes or more before loosening the edges and removing the block of brownies from the dish with the parchment. Cut into pieces and enjoy warm or let them cool further.
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