Making sweet chestnut flour is worthwhile, especially if you have an intolerance to wheat as this sweet tasting flour is gluten free. Chestnut is a good source of carbohydrate and low in fat, and has long been referred to as ‘the grain that grows on trees’. Unlike other nuts, the texture is floury, making it good for turning into a speciality flour.
Because sweet chestnut flour has no gluten, it does not rise. The benefit of this is that you can make a delicious variety of flat-breads with a chestnut flour base. Other uses for chestnut flour include pancakes, crepes, biscuits and pasta.
You can also substitute half regular flour with chestnut flour for an interesting flavour in lots of other baked recipes.
Making Sweet Chestnut Flour
Begin with the raw chestnuts that you have foraged or bought. Sweet Chestnuts are abundant in autumn in the UK, so they are a good way to supply food for the table over winter. See more about foraging for sweet chestnuts here.
The basics of making flour from sweet chestnuts is simple: Roast, Peel, Dry, Blend.
Roast – On the flat side of the nut, score an X with a sharp knife. This stops steam from building up inside the shell, preventing the chestnuts from exploding! Place on a baking tray or a sheet of grease proof paper, and roast in an oven for about 30 minutes or until the shells begin to curl up at the slits you made.
Peel – The heat will make the shells soft and easy to peel, so do it while the chestnuts are still warm.
Dry – Now the nuts need to be dried out further, so they grind into a mealy powder rather than a moist mash. You can leave them for a day or two in a warm place, or by putting them in a very low oven for a few hours. There are food dehydrators available to buy, and this is probably the best option if you want to dry lots of different foods to store, as they are convenient and easy to use. Plus, you don’t have to keep an eye on an oven for hours.
You can tell when chestnuts are dry when they harden, so that you can’t break with them with your fingers.
Blend – Use a food processor, spice grinder or blender to grind the dried chestnuts to the desired consistency. If you can feel any moisture in the flour, spread it out and allow to fully dry. It might take a few goes in a blender to get it to a fine consistency, but if you are using it for cookies and biscuits, a few coarse crunchy bits add texture.
Storing Chestnut Flour
To keep chestnut flour fresh, it should be stored in the fridge. It can also be frozen and used within six months.
Chestnut flour is brings a sweet and nutty flavour to baked goods, and used to create lots of gourmet treats.