Designer Apple Pie

Happy National Pie Day!

This recipe comes from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Thin apple slices are arranged inside of pie crust to form the petals of a rose and the border of the pie is made up of pastry leaves. This is not a quick dessert to make and probably should not be attempted by a novice baker or someone who doesn’t truly enjoy cooking. However, if you take the time to make this, the results will wow your guests and you may even impress yourself!

My favorite apples for this pie are pippins, but any cooking apple will work. You can use store-bought pie crust, but the results will be even better if you take a little time to make your own from scratch.

Designer Apple Pie
Recipe type: Dessert
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
Beautiful open face apple pie laid out like a rose.
  • Pie Crust for a 9-inch, 2-crust or lattice pie
  • ½ (1 tablespoon) egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2½ lbs. baking apples; (about 6 medium), peeled, cored, and sliced ⅛-inch thick to make 8 cups
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ to 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup apricot preserves (optional)
  1. Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator. If necessary, allow it to sit for about 10 minutes until it is soft enough to roll.
  2. Between 2 sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap, roll pastry ⅛ inch thick or less and about 12 inches across. Transfer it to the pie plate. Trim the edge if necessary so that it extends ¼ inch past edge of pie plate. Cover the pastry lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for minimum of 1 hour and maximum of 24 hours.
  3. Roll out the second piece of dough ⅛ inch thick and cut about twenty-six 2½-inch leaves, using cutter or small sharp knife. Use small sharp knife to make veins. Cover and refrigerate.
  4. Preheat oven to 425F for at least 20 minutes before baking.
  5. Line the pastry with parchment or foil, pleating it as necessary so it fits into the pan and completely covers the crust. Fill the crust with dried beans or peas to weight down the paper. Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully lift out the beans and the parchment. With a fork, prick the bottom and sides and bake 5-10 minutes more or until crust is pale golden. Check after 3 minutes and prick any bubbles that may have formed.
  6. Cool the crust on a rack 3 minutes, so it is no longer piping hot, then brush the bottom and sides with lightly beaten egg white. Turn off the oven at this point as you will not be baking the pie for a while.
  7. In large bowl, combine the sliced apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; toss to mix. Allow the apples to macerate for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours at room temperature.
  8. Transfer the apples and their juices to colander suspended over a bowl to capture the liquid. The mixture will release at least ½ cup of liquid.
  9. In small saucepan (preferably lined with a nonstick surface) over medium-high heat, boil down this liquid, with butter, to ⅓ cup (a little more if more than ½ cup of liquid), or until syrupy and lightly caramelized. Swirl the liquid but do not stir it. Meanwhile, transfer the apples to a bowl and toss them with the cornstarch until all traces of it have disappeared.
  10. Pour the hot syrup over the apples, tossing gently. (If liquid hardens on contact with apples, allow them to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes or until moisture from apples dissolves it.)
  11. Arrange the apples, overlapping the slices in concentric circles in the pie shell, starting from the outside edge. Keep adding more apples, using the tip of a knife to help insert them in between the other slices, until you have used all the slices. Pour any remaining apple juices evenly over the apples.
  12. Brush the baked pie crust rim with egg. Brush the bottom of each leaf with egg and place the leaves on the border, tilting them and overlapping them slightly. Brush the top of the leaves with egg. Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before baking to chill the pastry . This will maintain flakiness.
  13. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F for at least 20 minutes before baking. Set an oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating. Place a large piece of greased foil on top to catch any juices.
  14. Set the pie directly on the foil-topped baking stone or sheet and bake 15 minutes. Cut a round of foil to fit over the apples and the edge of the crust and crimp it in 3 or 4 places to create dome. Cover pie with the foil and cut 3 steam vents in the foil, about 3 inches long. Continue baking for 45 to 50 minutes or until the juices bubble and apples feel tender but not mushy when pierced with a cake tester or small sharp knife. Remove the foil and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more or until the top of apples is golden brown. Remove pie to a rack.
  15. To make the pie look even prettier, you may want to glaze the apples. In small saucepan or microwave oven, heat the apricot preserves until melted and bubbling. Strain them into a small cup. Brush them over the top of the apples.

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Designer Apple Pie — 6 Comments

  1. I love your work and thank you for making such a simple step by step process!! But i have a quick question…instead of using dried beans or peas to weigh it down, would a little bit of water make the crust stick and have the same effect?

    • Matt,

      Unfortunately, you really do need to use weight on the pie crust when blind baking it, otherwise it will puff up in the oven. Water would probably make it worse as it will form steam when you put the pan in the oven and make the crust puff up more. You can also use dry rice if you have that on hand instead of the beans. Since you can’t eat the beans or rice after you’ve used them for weighting a crust in the oven, I recommend getting a bag of dry beans or rice to use over and over again just for pie baking. It’s fairly affordable as most bags of beans are only a dollar or two. One small bag (about 2 cups) should be plenty.

  2. When you slice the apples 1/8″ thick, are you slicing them when the apple is whole but cored so that they come out in rounds, or should the apples be halved or quartered before slicing them? That’s what other recipes I’ve used for tarts have called for so I’m just wondering…

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