Scandure du Tecciu

 

The name “Scandure du Tecciu” is hardly translatable, but it clearly evokes the origin, both morphological and geographical, of this unmistakable biscuits. “Tecciu”, in facts, is the dialect for of the word “teccio” which designates a small construction made out of stone and comprising only one room. They were once extensively utilized as “essiccatoi” (i.e. driers) and their roof was covered with typical tiles called “scandole”. “Scandure” is the dialectal version of “scandole” and is clearly related to the shape of these tiles, elongated and tapered. The tecci were very much present and distributed in the woods that cover the valleys and the Appennines between Liguria and Piedmont, especially the area called Val Bormida.

What’s Special?

Biscuits are biscuits, you may think and say, and you may be right in that biscuits all hold the same generic name! These “Scandure du Tecciu”, though, represent a key piece of the local everyday-life history of those areas, where chestnuts represented one of the primary ingredients of daily diets and could be used to prepare salty as well as sweet products. Along with their massive production, chestnuts brought with them a long-used and families-run business in the drying operations that constellated the neighboring valleys and appennines. In Val Bormida, this ancient technique still persists, once diffused in the whole area. Within the tecci, at the height of 2-3 meters from the ground, a ceiling made of wooden grates allows the heat and the smoke to reach the chestnuts. After the harvest, the chestnuts are placed on the grates, above a low fire that is constantly fed with the pruning of the chestnut trees.
The more chestnuts are harvested, the more layers are created, with a smoking process that lasts for at least two months. Vital to the whole process is the “girata”, that is the turning of the chestnuts, letting the higher layers get closer to the fire and the lower ones closer to the surface. This guarantees that the chestnuts are uniformly smoked and dried. This process gives the chestnuts a special and unmistakable taste: they become sweet, reminding of honey and candied fruit. The chestnuts are typically harvested in the period that goes from mid-September to mid-November, but they can be consumed throughout the year. Thus dried, the chestnuts can be consumed “as-is” (exactly as if they were candies), or after being softened in water, or still as ingredients in biscuits and ice creams.

Not all Biscuits are the Same…

The “Scandure du Tecciu” are seemingly containing a “usual” list of ingredients:

•    Organic flour “00”
•    Flour made from dried chestnuts (40%)
•    Organic brown sugar
•    Butter
•    Organic egg yolk

What’s less usual is the utilization of this special flour, which is made directly out of chestnuts from Calizzano and Murialdo, that are dried as described above. As you can imagine, there are not very many of these tecci still in activity and these wonderfully dried chestnuts are not present in huge quantities, even though this artisanal process is now protected and sustained. The Scandure du Tecciu are soft and crumbling, with the butter keeping the granular flour of dried chestnuts altogether: the smokey, candied smell propagates and the taste is that of honey from chestnut tree flowers. If you ever manage to get your hands on some of these wonderful chestnuts, dried in the tecci from Calizzano and Murialdo, try and boil them for about 5 hours – soft and tender, you are going to eat them one after the others like cherries, enjoying the unmistakable and unique taste of syrup and candied fruit.