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Crostata di nocciole e caramello – Hazelnut and Caramel Crostata

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  Are you looking for something with a bit of Italian flavor?  Leave the Pumpkin Pie behind and change up dessert this year.  Buy some Italian nocciole (hazelnuts) and dazzle your guests with this crostata.

A buttery hazelnut crust holds a thick, rich caramel nut filling.  Finished with a drizzle of bittersweet chocolate and topped with a dollop of Frangelico scented whipped cream, this will be a grand finish to your Thanksgiving feast.  A sliver will satisfy the sweet tooth of everyone at your holiday table.

Hazelnuts grow widely across Italy.  The bulk of commercial cultivation is in Campania, Lazio and Sicily with some of the finest (although a much smaller percentage) coming from Piemonte.  They are ubiquitous in Italian cuisine.  A delight eaten out of hand, their unique flavor enhances everything from antipasti to dolci and all points in between.

Crostata di Nocciole e Caramello
one 9 inch crostata
For the crust
This will make enough for 2 crostate.
•6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut in 24 equal size pieces
•1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
•1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
•2 tablespoons granulated sugar
•1/4 teaspoon salt
•1/4 teaspoon lievito Rebecchi (or 1/4 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla)
•1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
For the filling
•7 ounces heavy cream
•2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
•1 cup granulated sugar
•2 tablespoons light corn syrup
•1/4 cup water
•6 ounces hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
For the whipped cream
•1 cup heavy cream
•1 tablespoon granulated sugar
•1 tablespoon Frangelico
•1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

To decorate:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Toast and skin the hazelnuts: Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place all nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast 8 to 10 minutes, until fragrant, stirring twice.  Transfer nuts to clean, lint free towel.  Gather towel around nuts and rub vigorously to remove as much of the bitter skin as possible.  Discard skins.
Make the crust: Place 1/4 cup nuts and sugar in workbowl of processor fitted with metal blade. Pulse until nuts are finely ground.  One caveat: in the food processor it is easy to overprocess nuts and wind up with nut paste.
Be sure to check the consistency of the nuts as you proceed.  Add flour, salt and lievito (or baking powder), and pulse to blend.  Distribute butter over flour mixture.  Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Lightly beat egg and egg yolk (and vanilla extract, if using), and with processor running, add egg mixture, processing just until dough begins to clump.  Remove from processor and form into 2 disks.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.  You may freeze the second disk, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 months.
Roll crust and blind bake: Place baking stone on lower rack of oven and preheat to 425 degrees.  Remove crust from refrigerator 10 minutes prior to rolling.  Roll dough to fit 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Ease dough into pan without stretching.  Trim top edge.  Return to refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Blind bake shell on stone 15 to 18 minutes until light golden.  Place on cooling rack.  Remove parchment (or foil) and weights.  Cool completely.
Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Make the filling: Melt butter and cream in small saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine granulated sugar, water and corn syrup in medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until sugar has completely dissolved, stirring occasionally with a heatproof spatula.  Increase heat to medium high and continue cooking until mixture thickens and takes on a golden tone, swirling pan occasionally.
Remove pan from heat and carefully add melted cream and butter.  Mixture will bubble up.  Stir to combine.  Add hazelnuts and continue cooking over medium-high  heat until mixture turns a light caramel color.
Pour filling into cooled shell and smooth surface.  Place on stone and bake until filling is golden and bubbling, about 18 to 20 minutes.  Remove to rack to cool.
To decorate: Melt chocolate and pour into pastry bag fitted with very small tip.  Drizzle chocolate over tart.  Allow chocolate to set.  Serve with softly whipped Frangelico cream.
Cook’s notes: Two techniques contribute to a fully baked bottom crust.  First, partially blind bake the shell – pleat a sheet of parchment paper or non-stick foil to fit over the crust and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Press the weights against the sides of the pastry, and bake at 425 degrees 15 to 18 minutes to partially bake the shell. Cut the parchment or foil long enough to allow you to use the ends as handles to remove the weights from the shell.  Second – bake crostate, tarts and pies on a preheated baking stone set on a rack on the lower third of the oven.

Questions? Email me at or visit my site at and search on “Crostata di Nocciole”

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