Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Posts Tagged ‘flaxseed pie crust’

ALL’S WELL ON THE PLANET HAZELNUT

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on December 14, 2009

Fortunately, I did not have to travel far to reach my destination. Planet Hazelnut, in case I hadn’t explained, is where the nuts are so robust and bountiful and irresistibly rich with compelling flavor I’m driven mad with anticipation. I can hardly wait to sink my teeth into those little darlings! Planet Hazelnut is where the sweet aroma of roasting hazelnuts sends such captivating drifts of fragrance into the air I can barely contain my well-trained good manners waiting for them to cool. Oh, so sorry! I just realized I had neglected to provide the geographical location of Planet Hazelnut so you could indulge each of your sensory receptors as I have. Planet Hazelnut is actually rather close by.

It’s in my kitchen and yours, too!

Playing Favorites?
By now you’ve probably figured out I’m a doting hazelnut enthusiast, as well as a lover of all kinds of nuts. People often ask what my favorite nut is, but how can I possibly choose one. It would be like asking which of my four children is my favorite. The honest to goodness truth is I adore them all—my children and my nuts! But hazelnuts sit on a special pedestal in my heart.

Because I’m admittedly fickle, I do have temporary love encounters with one nut or other at any given time; and my heart just might flit to another nut at the mere sight of it.

Yesterday, I was enchanted with HAZELNUTS, those precious little sweethearts—so round—so sweet—and so richly endowed with flavor.

While my usual preference is raw hazelnuts with their gifted fresh, natural sweetness and pleasing chewy texture, I do adore them roasted. Roasting changes them so dramatically I think of hazelnuts as having split personalities. Roasted, they literally charm my willing taste buds like a sorcerer working his wizardry. Their crisp crunch is instantly appealing, their flavor heightened and enhanced with assertive earthen headiness.

Blanching Hazelnuts
Taking full advantage of their alluring nature, I placed a hefty quantity of hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and tucked it into the oven at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. I wanted to prepare them for a unique dessert I had in mind for an after-theater dessert party. When I checked them after 15 minutes, I noticed their skins were beginning to split apart. That was my signal to take them out of the oven. Then, I blanched them by placing them on a double layer of kitchen towels. I wrapped them completely and allowed them to sweat for 10 minutes.

Next, I rubbed them vigorously in the towels to coax their skins off. Some were more willing than others, but the few that still clung protectively to their skins were not going to pose any problem to the finished pie I was planning. Finally, I placed the roasted, blanched hazelnuts into a heavy-duty plastic bag, positioned it on a firm cutting board, and whacked them into coarse pieces with a hammer I keep handy in my kitchen for such tasks. The chopped hazelnuts were now ready to join a host of delicious fruits in a tantalizing pie with a divinely chewy nougat texture.

The novel pie, I admit with unabashed immodesty, was ragingly delicious. Those roasted, blanched hazelnuts made the pie stand out from others by adding the defining element of crunchy nuance that most pies lack.

I simply couldn’t wait to share this wonderful dessert with all who adore hazelnuts. I trust you’ll savor it to the last crunchy tidbit.

Any time you blend dried fruits with hazelnuts, you’ve introduced the basic elements of an exceptional sweet treat. By combining the merry makings of four different fruits with crunchy, roasted, chunky hazelnuts and pecans, spicing them up, binding them with a magical medley of sweeteners, and voila!—you’ve created a stunning pie for the Christmas holiday! Because the pleasantly chewy texture of the pie is reminiscent of nougat, be sure to use a firm, serrated knife to cut into servings. It’s the perfect make-ahead dessert that keeps well in the refrigerator for up to five days. This is one dessert that’s a dinner host’s dream because there’s no last minute fuss.

FRUITY HAZELNUT STICKY PIE

Yield: 8 servings

1 unbaked 9-inch Flaxseed Pie Crust (below)

1 1/2 cups raw hazelnuts
3/4 cup raw pecans

1 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup tapioca flour

1 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup chopped dates
2/3 cup diced dried Turkish apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange or lemon zest, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon maple extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast them for 15 to 18 minutes. While the hazelnuts are roasting, place one kitchen towel over the other and place the towels on the counter near the oven. Pour the roasted hazelnuts onto the kitchen towels, fold the towels over to enclose the nuts completely, and allow the nuts to sweat for about 10 minutes. Remove the dark skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing them vigorously in the towels for about 3 or 4 minutes. This process is called blanching. Place the blanched hazelnuts into a heavy-duty plastic bag, position it on a firm counter or cutting board, and use a hammer to break the nuts into coarse pieces. Transfer the nuts to a large bowl.
2. When the hazelnuts are out of the oven, raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast the pecans for about 8 minutes. Remove them to a dish to cool completely and set aside. When cool, break them into pieces and add to the roasted hazelnuts.
3. While the nuts are roasting, combine the brown rice syrup, organic sugar, and maple syrup in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the tapioca flour and stir well with a wooden spoon until the flour is completely incorporated. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the moisture. Boil for 5 minutes over medium heat, and then set aside.
4. Add the raisins, dates, apricots, cranberries, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt to the bowl with the nuts and toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
5. Add the lime juice, and maple extract to the boiled brown rice syrup mixture and mix well. Add the boiled mixture to the fruits and nuts and mix well to thoroughly coat all the ingredients. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.
6. Spoon the sticky mixture into the prepared pie crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside for 4 to 6 hours to cool. To store, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

***************************
Easy No-Fail Pie Crust
Pastry making has been such a challenge for me that for years I tended to avoid making pies at all. That is, until I came up with a few pie dough recipes I could consider friendly to the most timid of bakers. This easy pie dough is impossible to kill. Just toss the ingredients into the food processor and use your fingers to spread it into the pie pan. It’s that easy.

To pre-bake the crust for an uncooked filling, spread the dough into the pie pan and cover the dough with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Weight the foil down with a 1/2-inch thick layer of dried beans and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. The process is called blind baking. Remove the beans and allow the crust to stand about 20 minutes to cool before adding the filling. In my effort to be wisely frugal, I rely on beans I keep in the cupboard for this purpose. They can be used over and over.

FLAXSEED PIE CRUST

Yield: 1 9-inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons organic sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup organic canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1. Combine the whole-wheat pastry flour, flaxseed meal, and salt in the food processor and process to distribute the dry ingredients evenly.
2. Add the canola oil and water and pulse and process until well combined and the mixture forms (a) dough that holds together.
3. Spoon the dough into a 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to spread the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.
4. Fill the crust with the desired ingredients and bake 350 degrees until done.

Note:
For a savory pie or if you are eliminating sugar from your diet, omit the sugar completely. For a sweeter crust, add 2 to 3 additional tablespoons of organic sugar or brown sugar.

Posted in Blanching Hazelnuts, hazelnuts, Nut Desserts, Nut Recipes, Vegan Desserts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

CRANBERRIES—THE BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL MEET WALNUTS—THE OMEGA 3 CHAMPS

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 5, 2009

If you’re like many people who are starting to plan a Thanksgiving menu, the mention of cranberries brings to mind the standard cranberry sauce that clings to its traditional place on the Thanksgiving table. In many households, that’s where cranberries begin and end their existence—simply as cranberry sauce. Quite often, the convenient can of jellied cranberry sauce is the only association to cranberries people have ever had. I know, it’s easy—just open the can and plop the deep red blob into a bowl and pass it around the table at Thanksgiving—and maybe the canned cranberry sauce will even make a reappearance at Christmas, and maybe not.

But quite honestly, cranberries have a treasured place in my heart because they’re the darlings of the holiday season. In my house, they show up as Spiced Chestnut and Cranberry Nog, Tangy Cranberry Soup, Cranberry Fruit Salad, Spiced Cranberry Salsa, Cranberry Pomegranate Salad Dressing, Cranberry Spread, Hot Cranberry Punch, Cranberry Oat Muffins, and a ton of cranberry desserts like the one I’m sharing below. Putting it bluntly—they’ve got piss and vinegar! That’s verve and pizzazz to the less daring!

Cranberry Health Benefits
Healthwise, cranberries are packed with antioxidants. According to The Cranberry Institute, the antioxidant activity of flavonoids and polyphenols in cranberries works to prevent heart disease by preventing oxidation in the arteries. Those antioxidants protect the body from damaging molecules known as free radicals. Brain cells, too, receive that same protection. Aside from their beauty and versatility, cranberries add awesome health benefits during this winter season, when you want to chase away the sniffles, coughs, and flu.

Walnut Omega 3 Benefits
And when you pair the cranberries with nuts, like walnuts, which are another fabulous harvest delight, you get a double benefit. Walnuts are a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the arteries. In turn, walnuts help to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke because they lower cholesterol, especially the LDL bad cholesterol.

The Omega 3 in walnuts also helps to alleviate the pain of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Omega 3 works to boost the function of the brain, helping people to perform on a high level, maintain good concentration, and keep the memory sharp. Those who suffer from mild depression may find the Omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts a gentle way to bring relief.

This Thanksgiving, consider adding another dessert to the menu–one that will sit proudly beside the venerable Pumpkin Pie and promise to send quivers of anticipation among the awaiting diners. This exquisite pie from The Nut Gourmet cookbook is beautiful, emits a wonderful aroma, and knocks the socks off with its assertive sweet and tart full-throttle tang.

cranwalnutpie

Toss showy red cranberries, walnuts, and raisins into a pie crust and the result is a stunning dessert that features a zippy sweet-and-tart flavor. This tantalizing treat is an ideal, easy-to-prepare, make-ahead holiday dessert. Cranberries have arrived at the market and will be available throughout the holiday season. Buy several packages and enjoy combining them with walnuts and sweet or dried fruits to temper their tartness. Convenient, ready-to-eat shelled walnuts freshly harvested this fall await your tender touch.

CRANBERRY WALNUT PIE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 recipe Flaxseed Pie Crust (below)

Filling
1 cup raw walnuts, coarsely ground in a hand-crank nut mill
1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries, divided

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a 9-inch metal pie pan.
2. Put the walnuts into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
3. Sort the cranberries and discard any spoiled ones. Wash the cranberries in a strainer and drain them well.
4. Place 1 cup of the cranberries into the food processor and pulse-chop them coarsely. Transfer them to the bowl with the walnuts and add the remaining whole cranberries.
5. Add the raisins, organic sugar, brown sugar, and almond extract and toss well.
6. Combine the cornstarch, lemon juice, and water in a small bowl or cup, and stir to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the cranberry mixture and stir thoroughly.
7. Spoon the filling into the prepared pie shell and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool about 30 minutes. Serve warm, or cool completely and refrigerate until ready to serve.

****************************
The Crust of the Matter
Truthfully, pastry making is a bitch! Some people whip out a pie crust as easy as making smoothies—but not me! It has been such a challenge that for years I tended to avoid making pies at all. That is, until I came up with a few pie dough recipes I could consider friendly to the most timid of bakers. This easy pie dough is impossible to kill. Just toss the ingredients into the food processor and use your fingers to spread it into the pie pan. It’s as easy as that.

You can even use this recipe to make pre-baked pie crust when preparing a no-bake pie. Just spread it into the pie pan and cover the dough with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Weight the foil down with a thick layer of dried beans and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. The process is called blind baking.

FLAXSEED PIE CRUST

Yield: 1 9-inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons organic sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup organic canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1. Combine the whole-wheat pastry flour, flaxseed meal, and salt in the food processor and process to distribute the dry ingredients evenly.
2. Add the canola oil and water and pulse and process until well combined and the mixture forms dough that holds together.
3. Spoon the dough into a 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to spread the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.
4. Fill the crust with the desired ingredients and bake.

Note:
For a sweeter crust, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of organic sugar or brown sugar

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Celebrations, Nut Desserts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nut Uses, Nuts and Health, Vegan Desserts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: