Coffee-Hazelnut Pie Pastry

Want to up your pie game in a big way? Take advantage of the pastry and use it as a vehicle for additional flavors and textures. With the first berry pie of the season try a flaky, all-butter pie pastry enhanced with hazelnut meal and powdered coffee for a subtly refined twist on a classic.

Coffee-Hazelnut Pie Pastry

Flavor Pairings: Blackberries, blueberries.

Baker’s Note: To flavor my baked goods with coffee, my favorite method is to take instant coffee, which is essentially freeze-dried coffee, and either dissolve the granules in an equal amount of water or grind them into a fine powder and use it as a dry ingredient. For this recipe, scoop a couple tablespoons of instant coffee into a bean/spice grinder and pulse until you have a very fine powder.

Ingredients:

9 oz cake & pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
1/2 cup medium ground hazelnuts (not hazelnut flour)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
7 tablespoons very cold water (3.5 oz)

Method:

Measure the water into a cup and place it in the freezer until it is very cold, but not icy. Whisk together the flour, coffee powder, sugar and salt.

Add the cold, cubed butter to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Place the bowl in the freezer for 20 minutes to re-chill the butter.

Add the ground hazelnuts to the bowl and toss with a fork to evenly disperse. Pour the very cold water around the edges of the bowl, and quickly toss with a fork to disperse the liquid and combine the ingredients.

Gather the clumps of dough together into a rough ball and give it a few brief kneads against the side of the bowl, just until it holds together, then wrap very tightly in plastic wrap.

Note: The “dough” at this point will appear very dry or crumbly and not at all cohesive, but this is how it should feel. Gather the clumps together tightly into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap so that the ingredients come together without overworking the gluten or squishing the bits of butter. You can even carefully dump the clumps onto a sheet of plastic wrap and use it to gather the dough together, like I often do to minimize handling.

Flatten the dough slightly to form a disc. Chill for at least 2 hours to give the flour some time to absorb the moisture, and to re-solidify the butter.

Remove the dough from the fridge 20 minutes before rolling. Use as directed in your recipe of choice. Remember that freezing the pastry before baking it at a high temperature will yield the flakiest results.

The dough will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge or for up to one month in the freezer.

Coffee-Nut Shortbread Cookies

Satisfy your cookie cravings with a smooth, rich and nutty shortbread flavoured with coffee and roasted hazelnuts.

The problem with having your heart set on something is that it may take some time and a bit resourcefulness to get exactly what you want, but often what you end up with is the most delicious and effort-worthy version of your idea. This week I was firmly set on baking a nutty shortbread, but specifically one that was flavoured with a taste that I look forward to every day: coffee.

As it happened, I came across a recipe for hazelnut and brown sugar pan shortbread and suddenly remembered a stash of hazelnuts tucked away in my freezer waiting for such an occasion. There were only two obstacles between me and my cookies, how to procure finely ground nuts and instant espresso powder without food processing equipment or proximity to an Italian supermarket. Luckily both snags were easily solved with a plastic freezer bag, a wooden rolling pin, and an inexpensive spice grinder.

To achieve a rough nut meal, simply toss toasted and cooled nuts into a plastic freezer bag and take a heavy rolling pin to them. Avoid the instinct to give the nuts a good pounding, which will only tear the plastic, and apply heavy pressure as you roll the pin over a hard surface. The finished product will not be as fine or as even as machine processed nut flour, but for this recipe it will be just as yummy.

In the past I have used instant coffee (which on its own I abhor) to flavour desserts by dissolving the granules in a tablespoon or two of boiling water and then using the liquid as if it were a mild extract. However in the case of shortbread and many other cookie recipes I would hesitate to add the additional liquid, so another brilliant option is to combine fine espresso powder with the rest of the dry ingredients. To convert course instant coffee grains into a fine powder, I popped a half cup into a small electric spice/coffee grinder and gave it a few whizzes, just until the granules were reduced to a light and perfectly whisk-able dust. Do make sure to use your new ingredient in moderation, as finely grinding the coffee greatly increases the potency per tablespoon. For a large double batch of shortbread, I used only 1 tablespoon of the flavouring.

And the result was almost as satisfying as the first roast of the morning. The dark aroma of coffee heightens the richness of the shortbread and brings out the creaminess of the butter, while the presence of toasted hazelnuts and brown sugar rounds off the entire ‘latte’ experience. A drizzle of chocolate and a dollop of whipped cream wouldn’t hurt either.