24 November 2013

Perfect Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnut Crust

Pumpkin pie is a quintessential Thanksgiving day dessert.  It never matters how much turkey you've tasted, stuffing you've stuffed or cranberries you've crammed...the meal isn't over until you've had a bit of that deep orange delight.  Fragrant, creamy and so very festive, we all request "just a sliver" to round out the meal.  Unfortunately, pumpkin pie is not a light dessert.  It is often dense and heavy, the tipping point from a little over-satisfied to painfully over-stuffed.  That was why I was so incredibly delighted to find this amazing recipe a few years ago.  This light, fluffy pie is the absolute perfect way to end a family feast without putting yourself into a food coma.

As previously posted, this pie isn't usually seen in our house until we have a turkey in the oven.  The same way that stockings are reserved for Christmas morning, pumpkin pie is reserved for Thanksgiving day.  Sure, we start a bit late, but there's something super satisfying about munching leftover pie in your sweats on Black Friday, knowing half of the world is running around frantically while you're thinking another dollop of whipped cream would be great.  But I'm making an exception this year to share this recipe with you.  This pie is so delicious, I wanted to ensure that you were able to incorporate it into your festivities as well.  Plus Thanksgiving is super late this year...so date-wise I'm good, right?

One foodie book I quite enjoy is "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano.  It's a wonderful reminder that you can eat butter, cheese and bacon with a side of reason rather than guilt.  She has many wonderful recipes dispersed throughout the text, but my favorite is her Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnuts.  I absolutely adore hazelnuts, especially with the rich flavor of pumpkin, so the thought of incorporating them into the traditional pie was incredibly appealing.  And having grown up eating the back-o-the-can recipe every year, I was interested to see what a pie would taste like made with real milk and eggs rather than the canned variety.

Holy cow.  Or holy pumpkin?  (Linus would be proud.)  The pie was amazing, with an airy, fluffy and tender texture and fresh flavor that was far better than any recipe I'd ever made before.  One bite and the hubs and I were forever converted to this delicious dessert, as well as our dinner guests.  

Now I always like to sneak a little extra nutrition into a recipe, particularly this dish that is reserved for a day of overindulgence of carbs and protein.   Therefore, I always make the pie with a whole wheat crust.  The flour has a naturally nutty flavor, which perfectly echoes the ground hazelnuts in the dish.  The crust is twice pre-baked, first on its own then again topped with a delicious hazelnut and brown sugar spread.  The pre-baking develops a wonderful toasted flavor that is fantastic with the pumpkin filling.  Guests always rave about the flavor of this pie, with no clue that they've just eaten a whole wheat crust.  Bamboozled! 

I've found that a little less sugar is nice for this pie, particularly if you're serving it with a topping of some sort.  The hubs loves his pie piled high with frothy whipped cream, but I go crazy for this with a scoop of Graeter's cinnamon ice cream (just the though....*swoon*).  Vanilla would be fine, but cinnamon......

Time for a pie break.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnut Crust (one 9-inch pie)

For the crust:
  • scant 2/3 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 1/2 - 2 tbs ice water
For the hazelnut spread:
  • 1/3 c hazelnuts
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, softened
For the pumpkin filling:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 c pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
  • 1 c whipping cream
  • 1 tbs whole wheat flour (no one will ever know but you!)
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and cold butter (if you like a sweeter crust, add a tablespoon of sugar).  Pulse together several times until the butter is in small pieces.  Add the ice water and process for 10-15 seconds, starting with 1 1/2 tablespoons of water and adding more as needed, until the dough just comes together.  You should still see little flecks of butter in the dough.  Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a flat disk.  Wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or chill for 15-20 minutes in the freezer if you're in a hurry).  

Once the dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Generously flour a rolling mat or countertop, then transfer the dough to the floured surface.  Sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour then roll into a circle 11-12 inches in diameter.  Transfer to the pie plate by carefully rolling the dough around the pin and lifting onto the plate.  Fit the crust in the plate, poking the bottom and sides several times with a fork.  Line the crust with aluminum foil, then add dried beans or pie weights to weigh down the dough (I like using dry rice...make great risotto later).  Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.  Remove the weights and discard the foil.

While the crust bakes, wipe out your food processor.  Place the hazelnuts in the wiped bowl and process until finely ground.  Add the 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of softened butter  Process until all the ingredients are well mixed and a paste has formed.  

Increase the oven temperature to 450 (or 435 if you have a monster-hot oven like my 1970's beast).  Gently spread the hazelnut paste over the bottom of the crust and cover the edges with a crust shield or aluminum foil (the whole wheat crust browns very quickly).  Bake until the hazelnuts are fragrant, about another 8-10 minutes.  Remove and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

While the crust bakes for the second time, make your filing.  Combine the eggs and egg yolk in a large bowl and whisk lightly.  Add the pumpkin puree, whipping cream, flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Whisk together until smooth.  Pour into the crust and place the pie in the oven (still with the shield or aluminum foil covering the edges).  Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean.  Place on a wire rack to cool completely before cutting.  Serve with whipped cream or (cinnamon!) ice cream.


  1. Annika! This year for Thanksgiving my sister wanted to make the side dishes from scratch herself and wanted me to make the desserts. I had never made pumpkin pie before and wanted to find a unique and different recipe outside of the "back-o-the-can recipe". Then I suddenly remembered you have a blog and ALWAYS have great recipes! So I eagerly googled your blog hoping to find a pumpkin pie recipe and boom, the search was over, "Perfect Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnut Crust". I can't wait to try it!

    1. Jose, my good man! How fabulous to see your name pop up...made my day. And I'm delighted that your "from scratch" recipe search brought you my way. I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that everything else is terrific with you. SO GREAT to hear from you!