Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie

Are you making a pumpkin pie today? I am. This is the first time I've ever attempted one, if you can believe it. Despite a confidence-shattering failed first attempt in which the crust was really soggy before going into the oven and then turned into dust when I touched it after I pre-baked it, I think I pulled it off. Twice, actually.

Since I'm sure I am not the only one frantically running from fridge to oven to Google to run searches like "how on earth do you prebake a pie crust" and "what to do when you run out of heavy cream" today, I will keep this short.

The crust I used today is a variation on my mom's recipe, adapted to incorporate hazelnuts, and increasing the moisture content, and the filling is an amalgamation of a trillion recipes from across the internet (I've been researching this for days), and heavily influenced by this Williams Sonoma recipe. The trick to the crust is to keep it cold, cold, cold (a trick I learned from my brilliant friend Allie!) and the important detail to remember about the filling is to use condensed milk not sweetened condensed. Read the label carefully!

I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the filling turned out to be, and how relatively straightforward the entire recipe turned out to be from start to finish (false start notwithstanding), so if you're in a pinch for tomorrow, this recipe would be a great one to whip up and consider dessert taken care of; this recipe makes two pies, so there will be more than enough for everyone.

Good luck to all the home cooks in charge of dinner - and dessert! - tomorrow. And happy Thanksgiving to all!

Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie
Buttercream Fanatic (2013)
Crust adapted from my mom's recipe

For the crust:
3/4 c. whole skinned hazelnuts
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter*, cut into 1" cubes
3/4 full-fat buttermilk**

*Crust Note #1 : If all you have on hand is salted butter, that's fine. But omit the added salt in the crust. The key with this crust is to make sure the butter is completely chilled, so chop it before you toast the nuts, put it back in the fridge, and keep it there until the minute it goes into the food processor.

 **Crust Note #2: Make your own buttermilk by adding scant 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup, and fill to the 3/4 c. line with whole milk. Do this before you start the recipe and set it aside to curdle while you're working with the other ingredients.

For the filling: 
2 1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
4 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
4 oz full fat plain cream cheese
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup condensed milk (not sweetened condensed milk!)
2 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Toast the hazelnuts in a preheated pan over medium high heed, moving constantly for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. While the nuts are still warm, transfer to a food processor and process into a fine meal. Pulverizing the nuts while they're still warm puts less pressure on your food processor's motor (and creates less wear on your blades) because warming them softens them slightly. You should have 1 cup hazelnut meal when you're done. It's ok if it's a heaping cup.

Add flour and salt to the food processor and pulse 5 times to blend with hazelnut meal. Add the butter, straight from the fridge, and blend until the butter chunks are the size of small peas. Turn dough into a large mixing bowl and use your fingers to make a well in the center. Add the buttermilk, 1/4 cup at a time, working it in with a fork or your hands, until the dough comes together in a ball that is dry but adheres to itself. You don't want it so wet that it is sticking to your fingers or the bowl, so if it reaches the right consistency, you may want to leave out a Tablespoon or two of buttermilk.

Lay out a large piece of wax or parchment on the counter and flour liberally. Cut the dough in half and shape into two spheres; put one on the prepared paper and flour the top of the sphere. Fold the paper over the top of the dough and gently roll out into a circle that is approximately 11" in diameter. Carefully turn the dough into a 9" pie plate (ungreased) and arrange it to the shape of the plate. For the overhang around the edges, place your thumb on one side and your index and middle finger on either side of your thumb, on the other side of the crust, and press gently. Continue all the way around the crust to produce that fluted pattern. Repeat the entire rolling out process with the other half of the dough. Allow both crusts to rest and chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Place a large greased piece of tinfoil over each crust, greased side down, gently shaped to the crust, and fill with pie weights (or uncooked beans or rice). Bake both crusts for 20 minutes.

Update: It is not necessary to pre-bake the crust. Hooray for one fewer step! Go ahead and make the filling while the crusts are resting in the fridge.

Make the filling. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer or a whisk), beat the sugar, pumpkin puree, and cream cheese together until completely smooth and no lumps remain. Add eggs and condensed milk and mix to combine. Finally, add the cornstarch, salt and pumpkin pie spice, and beat just until combined, but no more. You don't want to mix too much air into the batter, for fear of that air making the pie filling rise too much and crack in the oven.

When your crusts are done pre-baking, remove from the oven and reset the oven tempterature to 350F. As soon as it reaches 350, pour half of the filling into each crust and bake pies, together, for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until top has set, browned slightly, and tiny cracks appear. Check once at 45 minutes; if your crust has browned enough at this point, cover it with tinfoil for the remainder of the baking time.

Cool completely before serving or storing. Store, covered in plastic wrap in the fridge, for up to 24 hours before serving. Makes two 9" pies.


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  1. Those darn pumpkin pies, always giving people a hard time! I love the hazelnut crust!

  2. No kidding, Mimi, they are pretty temperamental as it turns out! Thanks :)

  3. I love pumpkin and I love hazelnut. This sounds like the perfect combo!

  4. Cate @ Chez CateyLouDecember 1, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    This looks delicious! Hazelnuts in the pie crust is such a great idea - I bet it tastes amazing!

  5. This year I made a pumpkin roll but I wish I had this gorgeous pie in front of me too! Especially right now, yes... swooning!

  6. Thanks, Monica! I know what a fan of hazelnut you are (especially in Nutella form!). I think you'd like this crust very much!

  7. Thanks! Yep, the two flavors work very well together.

  8. Thanks, Cate! It was a big hit at Thanksgiving!

  9. It's not too late, Pamela. You should make one of these! Consider it practice for next year's dinner ;)

  10. Thanks, Reeni!

    I had a great holiday, thanks! Hope you did too!


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