Hazelnut Heaven

Hazelnut Apple Sausage Quiche

San Antonio in autumn may lack the glorious, colorful leaf changes and the frosty, clear mornings of a New England autumn, and those of us who live here may have to pick our pumpkins from the selection the local Methodist church imports in for its annual pumpkin patch fundraiser, but with the help of a vast international transportation system that gets food to places they might otherwise never appear, we do have access to traditional fall produce and flavors. This past fall, while getting into the spirit of the season, I decided to work with hazelnut flour. Nut flours are interesting flours with which to work. One benefit of having to cook and eat gluten-free is that one’s creativity has a chance to soar. People who cook with wheat flour only miss the opportunity to create the depth and range of flavors in dishes they could otherwise achieve by using a blend of flours, or by using flours uncommonly used in cooking. Nut flours are good to use in cakes, muffins and breakfast breads, and they’re a wonderful alternative to wheat flour for breaded foods, such as chicken or fish.  Blended with other flours such as rice, sorghum, or millet, nut flours can be successfully used to make delicious yeast breads as well.  These flours do tend to burn easily and quickly, so one has to watch carefully when using a nut flour in a recipe.  Additionally, nut flours quickly go rancid, so they must be stored in the refrigerator.

Hazelnut is nearly impossible to find in stores; I ordered mine from my favorite online source of nut flours: nuts.com.  I have enjoyed using hazelnut flour as breading for oven-baked pork chops (which I serve with a home-made cranberry chutney), and I have enjoyed using it in cakes (in which I also used Frangelico liqueur).  My favorite use for the hazelnut flour, though, turned out to be the hazelnut crust for an apple quiche I baked one night while Texas-Ex (1982) Phillip watched our beloved Texas Longhorns lose yet another game.  I used it to make a graham cracker-like crust, which I pre-baked and then filled with apples, gouda cheese, eggs, cream, onion, and sausage. This graham-cracker type crust was a quick and easy crust to make, on a night I felt a bit rushed about getting dinner on the table.  The nutty flavor of the hazelnut flour enhanced the autumnal flavor of the apples and sausage in the filling, and the crust was so much easier to make than the usual flour crust, with which one has to cut in the butter and roll out the dough.  Grain flour crusts are lovely and delicious as well, but a super easy and flavorful nut flour really livens up the ordinary quiche.

Here is the recipe:

Gluten Free Hazelnut Apple Sausage Quiche

Crust

111 g (1 ½ cups) hazelnut flour
6 tbls cultured European style butter, melted*
½  tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg

-Mix the flour, spices, and melted butter.
-Press on the bottom and up the sides of a nine-inch pie plate.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 5 to 7 minutes.
-Check the crust often as it cooks; hazelnut flour will burn quickly.

Filling

5 eggs
1 c half and half
16 oz Jimmy Dean All Natural Pork Sausage
236 g (1/3 c) finely chopped onion
354 g (1 ½ c) shredded Gouda cheese, divided
1 medium Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

– In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until well beaten.
– Wisk the half and half, salt, and pepper into the beaten eggs.
-In a frying or sauce pan, brown and crumble the sausage.
-Remove from pan, reserving the sausage fat.
-Saute the onion in the sausage fat until the onions are translucent.
-Sprinkle one cup of the Gouda cheese on the bottom of the prepare hazelnut crust.
-Sprinkle the browned sausage and sautéed onion on top of the gouda cheese.
-Pour the egg mixture over the sausage / cheese mixture.
-Starting in the center of the quiche, place the thinly sliced apple wedges in a pinwheel pattern on top
quiche filling.

-Bake at 350 degrees F for forty minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle of the quiche comes out fairly clean.
-Sprinkle the remaining cup of Gouda cheese on top of the quiche and return to oven until the cheese is melted.

*Note: I use European unsalted butter in all of my cooking. It has a bit of a higher fat content than non-European –style butter, so any substitution for this butter may require adjustment to the crust recipe to achieve success with the crust.

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