I finally got the chance to come back home for a few days. I managed to make my mum a suprise visit for her birthday (today) even though my dad had almost given away our little secret a few weeks back.
I am very close to my family and friends and the one thing I am grateful for and always will be is that, despite these five years spent apart, these ties never broke. They are my home, this is the place I was born and raised and where I can always find my true self.
I am very fond of our traditions and little by little I am learning all culinary secrets so that I can do my bit to keep them alive.
I am very lucky as I still have all my grandparents. They’re here, with a few battered hips and shoulders, but still kick-ass, especially on my dad’s side. These two never stop: they’re 85 and 87 years old, have three crouches between them, but they won’t miss a Saturday night at the dance hall. And the food they make… Those recipes are lifelong.
40 years ago they used to own a bakery. The other morning my brother and I made Chestnut Cake and Veneziane (sweet raisin bread buns) with them following recipes from those times. We did most of it under their supervision. If you head to my Instagram page you’ll find a couple of videos showing our terrible skills compared to my grandfather’s.
These hands are their only tool. With them, they worked the land, raised children, cooked for many, cared for others. Making Veneziane is such hard work without a stand mixer. My deltoid was aching so much! Anyway.. I am convinced there is no other way you can reach such a soft, unique texture.
Nope, machines won’t do.
And the Chestnut Cake? The smell was so good we couldn’t wait for it to cool down. We had to cut straight away and taste it!
It was such a wonderful experience and the perfect occasion to catch up with them.
1kg chestnut flour
200gr caster sugar
150gr sweet cocoa powder
The peel and juice of 1 orange and half a lemon
20gr Bicarbonate of soda
40gr Bakink powder
0,5 L milk
50ml Sassolino liqueur
*Butter and more flour to grease your baking tray
These ingredients are for a very big cake so feel free to half them and bake accordingly.
Start by whisking the dry ingredients together with a fork. Add the citrus peel and juice and mix well. Afterwards, slowly add the milk, mixing with your hands at first, then continuing with a wooden spoon until the batter reaches a good consistency: thick, uniform, moist. It should fall from your spoon slowly, in lumps. Finally, add the Sassolino and mix very well.
Pour the batter in a tray filled with parchment paper or greased with butter and flour.
Bake in static oven at 180°C for 40′.
All pictures are © Cristina Bertani