Rich, gluten-free chestnut pastry dough

Several people from one of the Facebook historical cookery groups I’m in, who like me have issues with eating gluten, have recently requested the recipe for my chestnut flour pastry. So I have put together the recipe and provided a little background information.

First, I should say there is no medieval recipe as such for chestnut flour dough, just a reference to it in two English medieval recipe collections. The dish concerned in both collections is a pine nut or pistachio toffee tart. The original recipe, dating to about 1320-40, is written in Anglo-Norman French, and the second is an English translation thereof, written not long after.

In both we are told to use coffins, i.e. pastry cases, made of chestnut flour: ‘cofynz de fleur de chasteyns’ in Anglo-Norman; ‘coffyns of flour of chasteyns’ in Middle English (see Hieatt & Jones, pp. 867 and 878; and Hieatt & Butler, p. 47).

Pynetee. Vyn sucre boilleȝ ensemble gingebras e meel,

poudre de gyngyure, e des clous festikes, ou pynes

grant plente, e serra adresse en cofynȝ, de flur de chas-

teynȝ, colour iaune de saffran.

Pine nut (toffee filling). Wine, sugar, boiled together; gingerbread and honey, powder of ginger and of cloves; pistachios or pine nuts, a great plenty; it should be arranged in coffins of chestnut flour; colour, yellow from saffron.

London, British Library, MS Royal 12.C.xii, folio 12r, screenshot from digitised manuscript. My own simplified transcription (abbreviations in the Anglo-Norman have been expanded silently; accent marks are ignored). My own translation.

Since neither recipe specifies how to make the chestnut flour dough, I needed to develop a recipe for myself. Nothing new there!

As these tarts were clearly very indulgent – and expensive to make – with their sticky ginger toffee filling and nuts (pine nuts, you may know, are not actually nuts), there is every reason to believe that the pastry was not merely a container for this filling, but meant to be eaten. It would be totally impractical not to eat the pastry.

So this led me to using egg yolks in the dough, something that is done for the very fine pastry used for the dish ‘Pety parnant’ in Richard II’s cookery treatise, Fourme of Cury (c.1390). A rich tart deserves the finest of pastries.

I want to emphasise that the recipe below is a modern adaptation. After experimenting using just chestnut flour, I decided this led to a too-heavy pastry, and so opted instead for a 50-50 ratio of chestnut flour and gluten-free plain (multi-purpose) flour. The result is a robust pastry that holds a toffee and nut filling very well but still has sufficient finesse to satisfy a modern palate used to fancy pâtisserie.

I will be publishing a video for a pistachio toffee tart based on the Anglo-Norman recipe (preview picture, below). In fact, I’m editing the video right now. This will be part of a new YouTube series, Sweet Medieval Things, out later this year (hopefully early summer).

In the meantime, here’s one of my earliest YouTube videos showing you how to make a pine nut and gingerbread toffee tart (best viewed by clicking on ‘Watch on YouTube,’ bottom left).

Leaving aside my rather hammy delivery, there’s some useful information on there. You can see me making a version of the chestnut flour pastry and also making the tricky ‘gingebras’ or ‘gingerbread’. You may be relieved to know that I have created a simplified recipe for my pistachio version.

Recipe for chestnut flour pastry cases

Makes 12 small tartlets or 4 large tartlet cases


60g chestnut flour

60g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour,* or 60g of rice flour (must be finely ground – some brands are too coarse)

*Add ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum if your brand of gluten-free flour does not already contain it.

Pinch of salt

120g egg yolks, approximately equivalent to yolks from 6 or 7 large eggs


    • Sieve together the flours and salt (and xanthan gum, if using) into a mixing bowl. Stir everything thoroughly.

    • Beat the egg yolks and combine with the flour mix using a fork.

    • Then, using your hand, draw the dough together.

    • Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 30 seconds, just enough to form a smooth dough.

    • Flatten out the dough to about 3cm and wrap in baking paper; rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

    • Roll out the dough very thinly – to about 3 or 4mm – and cut out circles to line your tart tins. Gently prick the pastry with a fork to limit any puffing up of the tart cases.

    • You can rest the pastry in the fridge for a further 15 minutes, though this is not strictly necessary.

    • Bake in the centre of a hot oven – 180 Fan, 200C, 400F – for 10 to 12 minutes (smaller tartlet cases cook quicker).

    • Cool the pastry cases, whilst still in their tins, on a cooling rack for a few minutes. Then remove them from the tins and leave to fully cool.

    • Fill the ‘coffins’ with a filling of your choice.

If you wish to support my independent research and creative work you can buy me a virtual coffee (any amount is appreciated).

Here’s a sneaky peek at the upcoming pistachio tarts:

Cited works

Hieatt & Butler. Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler (ed.), Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth Century (Including Forme of Cury), Early English Text Society, Supplementary Series 8 (Oxford University Press, 1985).

Hieatt & Jones. Constance B. Hieatt and Robin f. Jones, ‘Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections Edited from British Library Manuscripts Additional 32085 and Royal 12.C.xii’, Speculum 61.4 (1986), pp. 859-882.

Published by Christopher Monk

Dr Christopher Monk is creating Modern Medieval Cuisine

4 thoughts on “Rich, gluten-free chestnut pastry dough

  1. Those pistachio tarts look great! The chestnut flour pastry looks good too, maybe I’ll get the chance to try it out (simplified version) with the tarts.
    I also find your simplified transcriptions very useful – the original is both cursive /and/ unfamiliar spelling /and/ the unfamiliar abbreviations, but once you reduce it to easily readable form phrases like ‘Vyn sucre boilleȝ ensemble gingebras e meel, poudre de gyngyuer’ and ‘colour iaune de saffran’ are actually quite readable and I enjoy trying to decipher it before reading your correct translation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the feedback. I’m glad you found the transcription helpful. I don’t work very much with Anglo-Norman manuscripts (usually Old and Middle English, and Latin), so frankly the edition and translation by Hieatt and Jones was a helpful guide. Once you get your eye in, so to speak, it’s great fun deciphering, abbreviations aside! 😆

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, April, chestnut pastry is relatively easy to work with. It’s a stiffer dough than your standard short-crust and doesn’t break up too easily. Also, because there’s no gluten in this, you can knead it a little to make it smoother. See what you think when the video for the pistachio tart comes out. Thanks for complementing my tarts!

      Liked by 1 person

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