Salted Honey Hazelnut Apple Tarts

Fall has arrived, friends. The colors are creeping down the mountain, spreading across the valley floor in a riot of orange and golds.

Days are still warmed by sunshine but the nights have the edge of a chill that promises crisp air and sweater weather ahead. When autumn arrives, I'm always transported back to New England, where I spent much of my adolescence. I lived on the border between New Hampshire and Vermont, where the glory of the season inspires long walks in the woods and apple picking.

As the flush of fall deepens, I grow nostalgic for those orchards, heavy with fruit. For me, autumn tastes like a perfectly sweet, crisp apple freshly plucked from the tree. For this week's recipe, I tried to capture that fancy with all the warm fragrance and sweetly tart taste that apples provide. These tarts feature a fruit forward profile with plenty of honey, cradled by a nutty crust and topped by autumn leave cutouts.

A drizzle of honey apple syrup and salt take a simple tart and transform it into a complexity that is the perfect companion to a colorful season.

salt-honey-apple-tart-hazelnut-pie

Let's begin where all good pies start. The crust. This one is an adaptation of my mother's recipe, replacing a quantity of the flour with finely chopped hazelnuts. I also tinkered with the flavor profile and substituted almond extract for the traditional vanilla.

As you can see, the hazelnut meal is a bit coarse but it'll create a terrific crust for our tarts. Cut in the shortening and mix in the liquids. Roll it out and step back to admire your work.

I used some simple circles for the tart shapes and then just popped them into muffin tins. It created a curvy edge that I thought was pretty cool.

salt-honey-apple-tart-hazelnut-pie

Got some crust leftover? Don't waste it! I have these cute leaf cutouts that were the perfect size to create tops for these tarts.

Next up, we need to fill these beauties.

Of course, we're gong with apples. Duh.

But let's spice it up some with plenty of cinnamon, allspice and a touch of honey.

You'll have lots of leftover juice, so set it aside. Boil it later with a touch of cornstarch to make an apple honey syrup for drizzling.

Now back to those tarts. Give them a generous scoop of apple filling and a pat of butter. 

salt-honey-apple-tart-hazelnut-pie

Remember those leaf cut-outs? Drop them onto your tarts for some seasonal flair. And also to protect all that lovely apple filling from drying out in the heat of the oven.

salt-honey-apple-tart-hazelnut-pie

Ta-da! These tiny tarts are ready to take the heat. When they emerge from the oven, they'll look like this.

salt-honey-apple-tart-hazelnut-pie

Top them with a bit of apple honey syrup and a sprinkle of salt and you've got a taste of the fall season that'll transport you straight into the orchard.

See you next week, friends, when we'll cook up more ways to celebrate the season. 

salt-honey-apple-tart-hazelnut-pie

Salted Honey Hazelnut Apple Tarts

For the crust:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 tsp. almond extract

2-3 tsp. cold water

1 Tbsp. flour

For the filling:

1 cup chopped apples (granny smiths preferred or honeycrisp)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. all-spice

1/4 cup honey

For the syrup:

leftover juice form apple filling

1 tsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. honey

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425. Puree hazelnuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add flour to create meal, then pulse shortening just until crust begins to clump into meal the size of peas. In a separate small bowl, mix 1 Tbsp. flour with cold water and extract. Mix into meal until it follows the fork. Add more water or flour as needed. 

Roll out the dough on a floured surface into 1/4 inch thick and cut out large circles for the tarts. Save some crust for cutouts to top the tarts. Put the circles into a muffin pan, crimping the edges in slightly to create a curved edged. Set aside the cut outs.

Take chopped apples, sprinkle with spices and stir in honey. Let filling sit for several minutes before draining off excess liquid. Reserve liquid and fill tarts with scoop of apple filling. Top with leaf cutout and deposit in oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then drop temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove form oven to cool.

In a small pot on the stove at medium heat, bring remaining apple juices and spice to a boil and whisk in additional honey and cornstarch. Cook just another minute or two until thickened, then remove from heat. Drizzle onto tarts and sprinkle with salt. Best served warm. 

Delighted with this tart taste of the season? Follow A Sweet Little Life on Pinterest for more terrific recipes.