I have always liked freckles. Like, a lot. Ie, I used to draw them onto the ridge of my nose with brown eyeliner every day. No big deal. Maybe that's why I think this hazelnut crust is so pretty. Look at it...it's kind of freckly, right? A flaky, buttery crust speckled with golden toasted hazelnuts. What a thing of beauty.
This crust is delicious topped with things both savory and sweet. I have two ideas for you below, but let's be real: the possibilities are endless.
Hazelnut Pastry Crust
From Martha Stewart
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground toasted, skinned hazelnuts (made from about 2/3 cup whole hazelnuts)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice cold water
Combine the flour, hazelnuts and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.
Add the butter and pulse for about 10 seconds, until the mixture is crumbly and the pieces of butter are no bigger than pine nuts.
Add 1/4 cup of the water and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. If necessary, add more of the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms. It should not be wet or sticky.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to gently knead it into one piece. Cut it in half, and shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or until it can be rolled without cracking).
Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out into a rough rectangle or oval shape that is about 1/4 inch thick.
Fold the dough in half and gently unfold it onto a baking sheet lined with a big piece of parchment paper.
Loosely roll the edge and fold it, being careful not to press too much, to form a rimmed crust. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, until the crust is light golden brown. (The edge will still be somewhat raw at this point).
Remove the crust from the oven and add the filling. Bake until the filling is cooked and the crust is golden brown and set.
Winter Vegetable Filling:
Thinly slice your favorite winter vegetables (I used cauliflower, red and yukon gold potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and red onion) and toss with olive oil, a little minced garlic, salt and pepper. Layer the vegetables on the partially baked pie crust and top with whole sprigs of thyme. You can also add pieces of fresh mozzarella or scoops of ricotta cheese, or sprinkle with parmigiano reggiano. Bake until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Rustic Chocolate Pie Filling
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
6 ounces semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
whipped cream, ground hazelnuts and coarse sugar (optional), for serving
Heat the chocolate in a double boiler (or a pan set over a pan of boiling water) until melted and smooth.
Combine the egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and salt and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
Pour melted chocolate over whites and gently fold with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is fully incorporated.
Pour filling over partially baked crust and spread into an even layer.
Turn the oven temperature down to 350 F and bake the pie until the surface looks dry and crackly and the inside is fudgy (about 10 minutes).
Serve warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground hazelnuts and coarse sugar.