October 10, 2011

In a Nutshell

Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnuts

The first time I made and tested this pie recipe was after Thanksgiving day a few years ago, when the pie I originally made just didn't have the spunk (or, let's be honest, taste) my family or I was looking for. I kept going between a few recipes, finally ended up using the best of two, along with reviews and comments, and it was just OK. Really, it was nothing special.

This version though, the one I made a few days later when everyone could tolerate food and pie again, got the "oohs" and "ahhs" that I had originally hoped for. My parents were willing taste-testers, but were also probably set on having only a few bites. Instead, it was forkfulls of smooth, airy pumpkin filling, spread on top of a suprising layer of creamy ground hazelnuts, housed in a crispy, pastry crust, one after another. According to both, it was, "So light! So smooth!" and "This would have been perfect on Thanksgiving!"  Yea. Thanks guys.

So, this past weekend I made this pumpkin pie again, for a whole new crowd, with positive results, even in the face of a few technical difficulties (a common theme in my life right now I guess. The appliance, machinery and tech gods are not looking down on me too fondly for some reason). Despite an oven that mysteriously began to broil my pie at 550 degrees, a smoke alarm that had me standing on a chair every two minutes with a long wooden spoon desperately trying to turn it off and hazelnuts that would just not come loose from their shells regardless of the rolling pin or hammer that came crashing down on them (at 10:30 p.m.? 11:00 p.m.? I don't know exactly, but it was too late to be destroying nuts, my cutting board or my counter, I know that), it still elicited some very pleased looks and served a few happy people several slices. This thing was in and out of a smoky burning oven maybe three or four times, too. I was so worried about the crust, about the sinking, loose, unsettling center that I finally called it quits and threw it back in the next morning, determined to fix this sad looking pie. I joked that you couldn't even call it rustic, it was that "interesting" looking. I believe the description John's mother used when she saw it was "gnarly". Well, I mean, it was.

I hope these (honest?) comments do not deter you from attempting this dessert though, because overall it has a little spicy bite to it, has such density and texture, yet is light and creamy at the same time. When sliced, the three distinct layers of the pie are quite attractive and pleasing to the eye, as is the earthy amber or caramel hue.

I do think the layer of hazelnuts at the bottom is a surprising addition (and by that I mean the nutty taste, not just the bits of renegade hazelnut shells that were found within). So, for the hazelnuts, I would recommend completely de-shelling the nuts, or search for hazelnuts already out of their shells (the freshest you can find). It was a just little embarrassing to find out there were still some hard shells in the pie. Oh, another comment was that the bottom was "very rich." If you find the brown sugar to be too much, please feel free to cut back, perhaps add more hazelnuts.

I think this pie is worth a try though. If not, only about 45 more days until Thanksgiving to experiment and send a good pie recipe my way. Give it a shot!

Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnuts
(adapted from Mireille Guiliano)

For the pie crust
*2/3 c. unsifted flour
*pinch of salt
*1 Tbsp. sugar
*6 Tbsp. chilled butter
*1 1/2 Tbsp. ice cold water

For the pie filling
*1/3 c. toasted and ground hazelnuts
*1/4c. granulated brown sugar
*2 Tbsp. softened butter
*1 c. unsweetened canned pumpkin puree (avoid canned pumpkin mix)
*2 eggs & 1 egg yolk
*1 Tbsp. flour
*2/3 c. granulated brown sugar
*1/4 tsp. cinnamon
*1/4 tsp. ground cloves
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1 c. heavy cream

Put the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Cut the butter into small, pea-size pieces and add to the bowl. Add the water and process for 15 seconds. If the dough is too dry add more water by droplets. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl and just hold together.

Remove the ball of dough from the bowl. Do not knead. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out dough to fit a 9" pie plate, 2" deep. Prick with a fork all over the bottom. Line with foil and pie weights or dried beans and bake for ten minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Turn the oven up to 450 degrees. Combine your toasted ground hazelnuts (mine went a few rounds in the food processor, pulsed just finely enough) with 1/4 c. brown sugar and the softened butter. Work into a paste and spread onto the bottom of the cooled, partially baked pie shell. Bake for ten minutes and then remove from oven.

Decrease oven to 350 degrees. Mix the eggs, egg yolk, pumpkin puree, flour, 2/3 c. brown sugar, spices, salt and heavy cream. Pour mixture into pastry shell and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes prior to serving, to enjoy at room temperature, or feel free to serve it cold. Freshly whipped cream on the side also compliments the pie well.


nicole baldino said...

best pumpkin pie i've ever had. best pumpkin ANYTHING i've ever had.

Katie said...

I've celebrated the last two Thanksgivings here in Argentina, so the only way to satisfy my craving for pumpkin pie was to make it completely from scratch (including cooking and pureeing the pumpkin!).

This year, I'm visiting the folks back home for Turkey Day, but you can bet that the next time I have to make pumpkin pie, I will be trying this recipe! I adore hazelnuts, and I don't think I've ever tried them with pumpkin. Thanks for the inspiration!