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Richard Bertinet's Chestnut Flour Bread Recipe

A recipe from "Crust" by French Master Baker Richard Bertinet.

The epitome of Slow Food that’s so worth the wait, this bread is made over two days using a white dough ferment which is allowed to ferment in the fridge overnight and then requires three rises the following day. We've given it four stars ourselves since it's probably not one for complete beginners and it's a bit of a labour of love. A great recipe for a wet weekend as it requires a bit of patience - but so worth the effort!

chestnut-flour-bread - Samantha Livy - TortepaneIt produces quite a dense crumb which allows it to be sliced very thinly like Melba toast which, when well-toasted and served with a melted Vacherin baked in its box, or served with a fondue is absolutely stunning. A fabulously seasonal bread which is great served alongside game recipes or for Christmas.

Preparation: Ferment +45min          Resting: 1½hrs     Proving: 1½hrs     Baking: 25min

Freezing: Freezes well fully baked. Wrap in greaseproof paper.

Makes 4 small loaves.

Dough Ferment

For the fermented white dough (make the day before you start) you will need:

10g fresh yeast

500g strong white flour (We used Organic White Flour - No.4 (105 ))

10g salt

350g water

This will make around 900g dough. You only need 450g for this recipe, so you can leave the rest in the fridge for a few days and use in your next batch of baking. Alternatively, you could use it as a pizza base or to make a Flamiche.

To Make the Ferment:

1.  Rub the yeast into the flour using your fingertips, then add the salt and the water and mix well until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto your (unfloured) work surface and work the dough. (Do not be tempted to add more flour if it is sticky or it will alter the composition of the dough. Just patiently work your dough until it becomes smooth using a dough scraper to scrape the sticky bits back into the dough as you go).

2.  Return the dough to your (lightly floured) mixing bowl. Cover with a baking cloth and leave it to rest at room temperature for 6 hours, or overnight in the fridge (or for up to 48 hours) until it has doubled in volume. It is then ready for your bread recipe.


You will need:

750g strong white flour (We used Organic White Flour - No.4 (105 ))

400g chestnut flour (We used Organic Chestnut Flour)

700g water (Tip: it is much more accurate to weigh your water than to measure it)

450g  of your fermented white dough

15g fresh yeast

25g salt

200g whole, peeled vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts, crumbled into chunks

A little white flour, for dusting the loaves; plus a little semolina flour for dusting if using peels or a little butter or vegetable oil if using tins.

To prepare:

1.  Your oven will need to be pre-heated to 250°C, you will not need to do this at the start of the recipe as the proving and resting will take longer than it takes for your oven to warm up, but make sure you time it so the oven and trays are at full heat by the time you are ready to put the loaves in.

2.  Unless you’re going to bake in batches, you will need both shelves of the oven and put in two baking stones or baking trays or one of each, to get good and hot. Also, unless you are baking in tins, you will need enough peels or trays to load all the loaves before putting them into the oven.

3.  Depending on what style of loaves you want to make, either prepare 4 x 400g greased loaf tins, 4 proving baskets or bowls lined with baking cloths, or 2 trays lined with couches or baking cloths (or go for a selection of all of them).

To make:

For this recipe, Richard uses the autolyse method of mixing the flour and water first and then letting it rest for 30 minutes before adding the other ingredients.

1.  Combine the flours in a large bowl, add the water and mix well for 5 minutes. Cover with a baking cloth and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

2.  Add the fermented dough and yeast and mix together, using a dough scraper (Tip: it is easier to mix your ferment into your fresh dough mix if you tear it into small pieces as you add it). When everything begins to come together into a dough, use your scraper to help you turn it out onto your (unfloured) work surface.

3.  Work the dough for 5-8 minutes until it starts to become smooth and elastic. Sprinkle on the salt and work for a further 4-5 minutes. The dough shouldn’t be sticky and should feel elastic and alive.

4.  Very lightly flour your work surface. Place your dough on it, rough-side up, and flatten it out with your fingers. Spread the chestnut pieces over the top and press them down well into the dough. Fold a few times so that all the chestnuts are incorporated into the dough.

5.  Form the dough into a ball. Put back into your (lightly floured) mixing bowl, cover with a baking cloth and leave to rest for 40 minutes.

6.  Lightly flour your work surface again and turn the dough out with the help of your scraper. Fold the dough (tuck the edges under themselves) then put back into your bowl, cover with your baking cloth and leave to rest for another 20 minutes.

7.  Lightly flour your work surface again, turn out the dough and divide into 4 x 630g pieces. Shape into loaves (elongated or round according to preference). Roll the tops gently in some white flour and place on your couche or cloth-lined trays or in greased tins, as you like. Alternatively, form into balls and put into well-floured proving baskets or cloth-lined bowls.

8.  Leave to prove, covered with baking cloths, for 1½ hours or until just under double in volume.

9.  Sprinkle some fine semolina onto your peels or trays and then place any loaves that aren’t in tins on top.

10.  Either snip the tops with sharp scissors or slash with a lame or sharp knife – you don’t need to slash the tops of the loaves in tins.

11.  Open the oven door and quickly mist the inside of the oven with your water spray. Put your tins, and/or slide the loaves onto the hot baking stones or trays in the oven, and spray some more before quickly closing the oven door.

12.  Set your timer for 5 minutes. After this time, turn down the temperature to 220°C and bake for a further 20 minutes, until the loaves are the colour of deep brown leather and the base of each loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on wire racks.