The Pie Notes

A celebration of life with a touch of sweetness

Tag: chocolate

Something for Your Sunday – Chocolate Hazelnut Pie

Chocolate. Hazelnuts. Pie.

Chocolate Hazelnut Pie full

 

Good combination, right?

I thought so, since Nutella is my absolute favorite food in the world.

If you don’t like luscious gooey chocolatey nutty goodness, it may be best that you exit this post at this time.

The thing is, I ate all the Nutella a while back and haven’t gotten around to restocking the pantry with more.

But we did have hazelnuts and chocolate chips! It’s all about making do with what you have.

This recipe is an incredibly easy “one-bowl filling”.

I made my favorite Pate Brisee pie dough as the sturdy, buttery, and flaky foundation.

Pate Brisee unbaked

And the best part is that the recipe makes two 9-inch dough rounds, so I just froze the other one for a rainy day.

The original recipe for this pie calls for bittersweet or dark chocolate chips, but I used semisweet and didn’t think it was overly sweet; however, milk chocolate would probably bring way too much sweetness to the table. Just go with whatever you have stashed away in your pantry and I’m sure it will be a success!

Chocolate Hazelnut Pie half

The best way I can describe this pie is like pecan pie’s sophisticated cousin. The chocolate chips melt with the corn syrup (the main ingredient in pecan pie) and the hazelnuts impart a nutty, earthy, almost exotic flavor. Make sure they’re still a little chunky when you add them to the filling. You want that crunchy texture.

I like this recipe because I prefer to save pecan pie for the fall, namely Thanksgiving. Well folks, as much as I would love for a cool breeze in this Southern heat, it is not happening any time soon. Although, I have been hearing Christmas music on the radio for the past couple days which blows my mind. I used to think that playing those songs before Thanksgiving was odd. They are taking “Christmas in July” to a whole new level.

Anyways, here is an all-year-round pie for you! You can listen to Michael Bublé Christmas while you’re eating a slice – you know you want to.

 

Chocolate Hazelnut Pie 1

Chocolate Hazelnut Pie 2

This one is going straight in my recipe box.

 

I’ll leave you on that note. Pie awaits me…

Chocolate Hazelnut Pie close up

Chocolate Hazelnut Pie

A Nibble of “cioccolata”

This afternoon at the university, I attended a guided tasting tour of Italian chocolate by Francine Segan, a noted food historian, public speaker, and author.

She has been featured on Food Network, Today, and in multiple magazines around the world, among many other things!

I don’t know what was more fascinating–the history of the decadent treat we all know and love, or Ms. Segan herself.

Her vibrant personality and extensive knowledge of all things culinary captivated us all. I have to be honest…sometimes my mind drifts during ‘lectures’ even if it is on a topic in which I am interested, but not this time!

I have never heard much in the past on Italian chocolate in particular. I always figured Belgian or Swiss chocolate was supreme. Ms. Segan informed us of the significant footprint that early Italian chocolatiers had on the chocolate we enjoy today (every single day if you’re anything like me!).

They were the first to take the cacao bean from other European countries (who mostly enjoyed it with sugar) and transform it into an ingredient that could be used in savory dishes, and even pair it with other complimentary flavors such as orange and hazelnut.

In fact, Italy has an additional classification of chocolate. The typical white, milk, and dark chocolates are joined with another type–Gianduiotto. 

 

Its upside-down boat-like shape is made up of a mixture of cocoa powder, sugar, and hazelnuts. I knew I liked Italians. We didn’t taste this little beauty, but something tells me it could rival Nutella!

Fortunately, we did taste a variety of authentic Italian chocolates, from white to extra dark to stone ground Sicilian chocolate with a lovely hint of orange. The latter was my favorite–nothing like anything I have ever tasted before. Unlike the others that melted on my tongue rather quickly, this one required a bit of ever-so-slight chewing. The amazing thing was that after, literally, two chews, it instantly melted, coated my mouth, and left behind a few tiny chunks of the chocolate. It reminded me of the reason we add nuts to our desserts, because we want texture, right? Here, the chocolate itself added the texture, all because of the delicate and quite laborious way it was processed. Go Sicily!

And a fun fact: In Hershey’s early days, when they were still trying to figure out how to stabilize milk, they began selling chocolate with slightly rancid milk. Think about the last time you ate a Hershey’s kiss–it had a twinge of sourness, yes? Once they implemented the new way of stabilizing, the customers didn’t like it! So, a tiny bit rancid (but completely safe) milk it was.

Overall, it was a very pleasurable experience. I was delighted to meet Francine Segan and hear about her journey, as well as converse with other food lovers in attendance.

Chocolate really is a wonderful thing. Appreciating good chocolate and savoring its flavors makes quite a difference in your experience of eating it. I am so grateful to have opportunities like this to learn more about ingredients, others, and even myself!

***Update: Last night, I threw in a square of leftover Italian dark chocolate from the event (how it lasted that long I have no earthly idea) into my spaghetti sauce, and I have to say that it was the absolute BEST sauce I have ever made. I usually add a dash of sugar to cut some of the acidity, but I just added the chocolate this time. It offers such a depth of flavor that you can’t get from granulated sugar. Perfection. Please try it.

Bark: A Bite of Delight!

It was a chocolate kind of day.

I felt I deserved to reward myself after a long, hard week. And (hopefully) passing a long, hard test this morning.

So, I decided to experiment with bark.

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My goodness, this stuff is delicious.

Basically all you do is melt chocolate, spread over a baking sheet covered with parchment, and sprinkle wonderful things over the top…or mix it in the chocolate, too. Then refrigerate it for a while to let it harden.

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This is white chocolate with crushed candy canes mixed in, then sprinkled with more. This is probably the most traditional version, and for good reason! It’s so refreshing and peppermint-y.

And a wonderful little sneak peek of the holiday season!

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This is where I had fun. Actually, I just dug through the pantry and found toppings.

Turns out they were all a success!

Now we break into pieces:

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Can you tell where I taste tested?

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Mmmm, chocolate.

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This is milk chocolate with peppermint and a white chocolate drizzle.

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Some with a peanut butter swirl, some with a Nutella peanut butter swirl, some topped with just granola.

I, of course, liked the Nutella with PB. Sarah liked the peanut butter with granola.

But we’ll save the inevitable Nutella discussion for another day.

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And then we have s’mores. I chopped up some mini marshmallows and graham crackers and there you have it! S’mores on a chocolate vehicle. Hmm, like an inside-out s’more.

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Tower o’ Bark.

The best kind of tower, in my humble opinion.

As you can see, I have a lot of this stuff.

Someone take it from me.

But if you want to make your own, here’s the incredibly easy recipe!

Basic Bark

Ingredients:

1 pound of chocolate (any kind you prefer)

Cooking spray

Toppings (whatever your heart desires)

Directions:

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on ends.

In a double boiler (a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water), melt the chocolate slowly, stirring frequently. Once completely melted, pour chocolate onto parchment lined baking sheet. Spread in an even layer. (You can also microwave the chocolate–heat for 1 minute, then in 15 second intervals, stirring each time.)

Immediately sprinkle over toppings. Lightly press down to ensure they will stick. Refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until hardened. Break bark into pieces. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

May I Say…

I’m glad to be here.

And I’m so very glad you’re reading this.

This crisp autumn day in Auburn has inspired me, bringing peace, focus, and contentment in my life. So what do we do when those three things are dwelling within us?

We make pie!

The no-bake version to be exact. “It just has to be pumpkin,” I told myself. But then my little chocolate conscience convinced me otherwise. I honestly felt like I was cheating on chocolate. That simply cannot happen.

So, I compromised with that naughty conscience.

Chocolate pumpkin pie.

But then, as I eagerly opened the door to go grocery shopping, I was caught by that wonderful breeze flowing through the house, softly picking up the ends of my hair (which would usually anger me–wind and my c-c-c-curly hair do not mix). I felt as if I was letting down the season as a whole. Chocolate pumpkin pie was simply not “fall-y” enough.

Chocolate pumpkin pie with a gingersnap crust.

Voilà. You’re welcome, November.

My soul was finally at peace again.

Here’s the recipe. Now would be a good time to mention I name all my pies. Some funny, some heartfelt, some downright ridiculous.

No-Bake Chocolate Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

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This pie shall be named The Pumpkins and Puns Pie.

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 ¾ cups gingersnap crumbs

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Whipped topping, for serving

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.

Seal several gingersnaps inside a large Ziploc bag. Grab a rolling pin. Think about anything negative in your life. It could be paying taxes, telemarketers, drivers who fail to use blinkers, etc. For me, it’s analytic trigonometry at 8 A.M. every morning. Think of your chosen frustration, and whack those crunchy cookies like there’s no tomorrow. And when you think you’re done, don’t stop. Fine crumbs are the goal.

Take several deep sighs of relief. Besides, taxes aren’t until next spring. In a medium bowl, whisk together the crumbs and dry ingredients. Now add that melted butter and stir. If the mixture isn’t holding together when you squeeze it, add a tiny bit of water at a time until you reach the right consistency.

Pour the crumbs into a 9 inch pie plate, pressing evenly to cover the bottom and sides. Don’t worry about perfection. Stick it in the freezer for around 10 minutes to let it relax. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until your house smells like gingersnap goodness. Let it cool completely on a wire rack.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. This is incredibly easy.

Add all the ingredients into a blender or food processor (I used a Ninja blender). Blend until smooth. Done. (Unless you prefer some more sugar after tasting it.) Just don’t forget about that whipped cream you’ll be topping it with.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust, and pop it in the fridge for 3 hours. Overnight would be good, too.

Before serving, top with the whipped cream and maybe a few gingersnap crumbles. Enjoy, and happy fall!

Filling adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

Gingersnap crust adapted from Martha Stewart

Word Document:

No Bake Chocolate Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

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