CHOCOLATE-CARAMEL HAZELNUT PIE

Chocolate-Caramel Hazelnut Pie

`This rich, nutty pie travels well. Serve it in thin slices. Some people may prefer to use almonds, but the distinct taste of hazelnuts is particularly sumptuous with the caramel and chocolate.

`To remove the brown papery skin of hazelnuts, first toast them in a 400 degree F. oven for 5 to 6 minutes, let them cool and rub them in a tea towel.'

1 prebaked 9-inch pie shell

Filling:

1-1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 cups (6 ounces) hazelnuts, skinned and coarsely chopped

Decoration:

8 whole hazelnuts, skinned (optional)

24 slices almonds (optional)

First, prepare pie shell. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat. Let the sugar come to a boil and continue to cook until it caramelizes. Do not stir the sugar as it cooks. If it caramelizes unevenly, you can move it around by swirling it in the pan. When the sugar is a rich golden brown, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter and evaporated milk gradually, mixing well with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool for 5 minutes and stir in the chocolate. Beat with a whisk until very smooth.

Set the filling aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then stir in the nuts.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake for 10 minutes, until the edge is very brown and the center is bubbling. Once the pie has cooled to room temperature, about 1 hour, decorate it, if desired, by making small flowers with the whole hazelnuts and sliced almonds.

Makes one 9-inch single-crust pie.

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