The pacific northwest in autumn is my favorite place to be. All the trees are changing colors, the heirloom apple varieties are in flush with every kind of golden freckle and ruby blush, and there’s hazelnuts aplenty. There’s little to complain about here—I guess you could mope about the rain, but honestly after the long hot summer we had, the rain feels like a breath of fresh air. Plus there’s nothing that makes you feel cozier than snuggling up inside with the sound of the rain drizzling against the window pane, with a warm apple pie on your kitchen counter.
This past year has gone by so quickly and I’ve been going nonstop for most of it, so I’m really enjoying the chance to turn inwards, nest, and hibernate that the cold weather months offer. It really is the time of year to reflect on what we’re doing, what we want, and to try to take care of ourselves and those closest to us. It’s time to go back to the comfort of routines and regularity, and the friendly warmth of the familiar. After all the trips and planes and train rides this year, I’m so relieved that I get to be grounded for a few months and stay home with my family and friends (and sleep in my very own bed). And since the weather is cold and wet, I don’t feel guilty about staying cozy inside all day, either.
When I was a kid, I was still short then as I am today, and so my pants were always a little long. Since it rains all autumn, the bottom half of my pant legs would always be soaked by the time I walked from the bus top to my house, because they always dragged on the ground a little. I’d change into a fresh pair of pants, hang the wet pair by the fireplace where my mom had made a roaring fire, and grab an apple to snack on. It was my little cold-weather routine, and when Jeremy started up the first fire in our fireplace this season yesterday, it reminded me of it.
With the comfort of home in mind, I decided to make what I think is the most comforting autumn sweet of them all, a simple apple pie. I wanted to use some of the delicious local Oregon hazelnuts in it, too, so I ground some up in the blender and incorporated them into the crust for an extra-nutty kick. Fresh local ingredients make for the best food, and this apple pie was no exception. The apple filling cooked into soft, spiced perfection, and the hazelnut crust turned golden, toasty, and aromatic, and together they made the perfect cozy marriage of my favorite parts of fall, and filled my house with the best possible smell. A wonderful welcome home, indeed. So here’s to routines (the old and the new), and the comfort of home. I hope you enjoy these months of nesting as much as I do, and that this pie helps you soak up some more flavor of the season!
Hazelnut Apple Pie
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 1/2 pounds apples peeled cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup hazelnut meal
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon flake sea salt
- 7 ounces butter cold and hard
- 4 to 6 tablespoons ice water
- 1 egg whisked
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar, and maple syrup and stir to combine. Cook the apples until they release some of their juices and have softened slightly, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring every couple minutes.
Stir in the cinnamon and vanilla extract and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the corn starch, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, hazelnut meal, sugar, and salt until combined. Cut the butter into small pieces above the bowl, stopping to stir and coat the butter bits in the flour mixture every few minutes.
Pinch the mixture together with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of damp sand. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing it with a fork, until the dough just holds together when you squeeze a fistful of it in your hand.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Roll out the dough until it is 1/8-inch thick and transfer it to a 10-inch pie dish. Press the crust into the pan, trim off the excess leaving a 1-inch overhang, and reserve the excess dough. Fold the 1-inch overhang under the edge of the crust all the way around and pinch the edges.
Roll out the excess dough and use a pizza cutter to cut it into 1-inch thick long strips. Empty the cooled apple filling into the pie crust pan and arrange the strips of dough on top in a lattice pattern, pressing the edges of the lattice into the crust to seal them in place.
Whisk together the egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Lightly brush all the exposed crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with a pinch of granulated sugar.
Place the pie in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 40 minutes more, or until the crust is golden and the apples are soft all the way through. Remove and allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.