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The characteristics

This sweet is prepared using marroni chestnuts. It is made with puff-pastry and soft dark shiny brown filling. It is produced in autumn and winter.

Some slices of torta di marroniSome slices of torta di marroni

The history

Although chestnuts are found in a limited period of the year, man has found ways to preserve them so that they can be used in recipes all year round. Chestnuts were dried, while marroni were used fresh or treated in a variety of ways (placed in a heap, weighed, and desiccated). The fresh product, which was on hand, even if treated, for a limited period of time, was used to make special treats like the torta di marroni, for special occasions like Christmas and other autumn festivities.
The chestnut was an important part of the diet for generations of mountain folk. The area lacked wheat and corn and therefore  bread and pasta was missing in their diet and was replaced with “pattona”, a sort of sweet paste made with chestnut flour. In fact, the chestnut was more commonly known as the “bread tree”. There are numerous recipes for the torta di marroni, almost every family has its own passed down through the ages, and therefore every cake is slightly different. The original recipe, handed down by word of mouth, seems to date back to the 18th century.

The recipe

For the filling: 1 kg of mashed marroni, 1 litre of milk, 4 eggs, 400 grams of sugar, a few drops of vanilla essence, half a glass of rum, 2 spoons of alchermes liquor, a pinch of salt, and a grated lemon rind. For the puff-pastry: 200 gr of flour, a knob of butter, milk and water as required.

Slit the marroni, especially if fresh, and heat them on an open flame for 2-3 minutes using a chestnut roasting pan (or put them into the microwave). Peel them. Boil the marroni in salt water for 1 hour. Strain and mash fine. Mix the mashed marroni with sugar, vanilla, lemon rind, rum and alchermes. Beat the eggs and add to the mix. Leave to rest for 2 hours. Add milk and mix again. In the meantime mix the flour, butter, milk and water to make a smooth ball of dough. Roll out the dough (called “pasta matta”, crazy dough) and cover the bottom and sides of a baking tin. Pour no more than 4 cm of filling onto the puff-pastry. Cook in a preheated oven at 120 C° for three hours making sure that the compost does not boil. Check to see if the cake is ready by inserting a toothpick. This torta should be eaten in slices when cool, or, better yet, the day after.

A variation of this recipe has you cook the marroni in a mixed milk and water solution, or simply in milk. In almost all the ancient recipes, however, which were extremely simple, marroni were cooked in water. This preserved them whole and left them easy to digest.  Richer families, even in the past, used to cook the marroni in milk, like they do today.

Where it is produced

The torta is made in Upper Mugello, particularly in the town of Marradi. It is produced at home and in bakeries and restaurants in Marradi and Palazzuolo sul Senio. In October, the food fairs offer this delicacy along with other sweets made with marroni, for example: marroni pudding, fried tortellini, tronco (rolled pastry covered in chocolate), etc.

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