Brown Butter Apple Pie Cookies

September 20, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by Melina Hammer
  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 12 cookies
Author Notes

For me, cooler temperatures fuel a desire to turn on the oven and make something beautiful to kick off the fall season. These adorable pie cookies are the perfect thing. In this recipe, I’ve added warming spices (nutmeg and ginger for coziness, plus cayenne for kick), as well as spelt flour and angostura bitters for extra oomph. If you don’t have or can’t find spelt, you can swap in whole-wheat or rye flour. I always sauté apples before turning them into pie, to cook off some of their water content and achieve a richer result. Since butter is a natural choice for baking projects, why not take it a step further? Cooking the apple slices in brown butter yields a wonderfully nutty, earthy effect. You might be tempted to skip this step, but don’t: In the time it takes to peel, core, and slice your apples, you can brown the butter. For best results, use apples small enough that the slices don’t exceed the 3-inch pastry circles, and keep the dough well chilled as you work. If the dough ever gets too warm, just transfer it to the refrigerator to firm up. Unlike a traditional pie, these cookies are ideal for easy dropping off for friends and neighbors—but once they are baked and you sample that first flaky, spiced morsel, you may be tempted to keep them all for yourself.
Melina Hammer

What You'll Need
  • Pastry
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (99 grams) spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 cup (8 ounces/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed, frozen for 15 minutes
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • Filling
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 small crisp, tart apples (such as Braeburn, Stayman Winesap, or Granny Smith)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons tightly packed brown sugar
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Buttermilk (or milk or cream), for brushing
  • 1/4 cup Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Make the dough: In a food processor, pulse the flours, sugar, salt, and cayenne to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the pieces are pea-sized. Combine the vinegar and ice water. Slowly drizzle in half while pulsing the food processor until a shaggy dough forms. Pause and test by squeezing a clump between your fingers—if it holds, the dough is ready. If it is still crumbly, drizzle a little more of the liquid while pulsing, then test again. Evenly divide the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap. Use the wrap to shape one portion into a rectangle and tightly seal. Pat the second one into a disk and save for another use. Refrigerate the dough for at least 20 minutes or up to 3 days (you may freeze the second disk, up to 3 months).
  2. Onto the filling: Melt the butter in a heavy, 9-inch skillet over medium heat. Once foaming subsides, cook until the butter is honey-colored and smells nutty, about 5 minutes, occasionally swirling the pan to prevent burning.
  3. While the butter is browning, peel, halve, and core apples, then cut into ¼-inch-thick slices.
  4. Add the apple slices to the brown butter, toss to coat, and cook for 2 minutes, until they take on some of the browned bits. Add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt and stir to coat. Now add the brown sugar and stir again. Add the lemon zest, followed by the juice, bitters, and cornstarch and stir. Gently press the apples into an even layer and cook for about 5 more minutes, until the apples are soft but still intact. Remove the pan from the heat. Taste an apple slice and adjust the seasoning if needed. Allow them to cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. This step can be done 1 day in advance.
  5. Roll out the dough: Roll the dough rectangle to ⅛ inch thick, about 18x11 inches. (I like to do this by flouring a piece of parchment, unwrapping the dough, flouring it, placing it on the parchment, then placing a piece of plastic on top.) If the dough becomes smeary or flabby at any point, chill in the refrigerator for 10 to 20 minutes.
  6. Use a 3-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter and make 12 cutouts in the dough. Arrange them on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Reroll scraps into a 9x6-inch rectangle (or similar), then cut into ¼-inch-wide strips along the long edge. Arrange these on a parchment-lined plate or small tray and refrigerate.
  7. Evenly divide the apple slices between the 12 circles.
  8. Cut the long strips into 3-inch lengths. Lay 4 lengths per cookie in a square frame. Dab the ends where they overlap with a little water to affix. Holding a cookie in your hand, roll the bottom pastry edge all the way around, making a tidy border and sealing in the lattice edges. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
  9. Lightly paint each pastry surface with buttermilk, then sprinkle Demerara sugar onto each (½ teaspoon or so per cookie).
  10. Freeze the cookies for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  11. When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 400°F. Line a second sheet pan with parchment. Divide the cookies between the two sheets, spacing them far apart from one another. Bake for 25 minutes, until the crust is golden. After 15 minutes, rotate the pans and check the pastry—you can cover any especially dark pastry with foil strips as needed.
  12. Cool the cookies on a wire rack to room temperature. Store any leftover cookies at room temperature, wrapped in foil, for up to 2 days.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Melina Hammer
    Melina Hammer
  • Jennifer Warren
    Jennifer Warren
  • St.Brando
Melina is the author of 'A Year at Catbird Cottage' with Ten Speed Press. She grows an heirloom and pollinator garden and forages wild foods at her namesake Hudson Valley getaway, Catbird Cottage. Melina loves serving curated menus for guests from near and far seeking community amidst the hummingbirds, grosbeaks, finches, and the robust flavors of the seasons.

3 Reviews

Jennifer W. September 28, 2023
These definitely took longer than a pie to make but were delicious. I would omit or 1/2 the cayenne though if you're looking for a more traditional flavor.
St.Brando October 5, 2021
I spent 3 hours making these cookies and only ended up with 9 cause I had to sleep.

I wish the dough was a little sweeter and the apples weren’t as tart.
Melina H. October 6, 2021
Oh dear! It’s true they are labor intensive (it’s like making 12 tiny pies!). If you want sweet apples, use Cameo, Fuji, golden delicious, or another sweeter varietal. I personally do not like very sweet desserts! I’d rather experience the buttery, flaky pastry, and the foil of tart apples and spices. Add another tablespoon of sugar when making the pastry if that is your preference.