This incredible layered apple pie was inspired by my love of baklava. It’s made with layers of phyllo, a mixture of crushed walnuts and pecans, and spiced apples and raisins that are assembled like classic baklava. After the pie is baked, a spiced sugar and honey syrup is poured over the top to soak through all the fruit, nuts, and pastry. This is not your traditional apple pie, but it’s one you’ll love.
Dream a Little Dream
There’s a sure-fire way for me to know when I’m really passionate about something — I’ll dream about it. Since I began writing food blog posts, I find myself thinking creatively about food more than normal. Like, all the time. Apparently, even when I’m not awake.
A few weeks ago I had a dream that I was working with phyllo. This made no sense to me. I’ve never worked with phyllo a day in my life. I’ve always been scared to death of it.
All those fussy layers, all the brushing with the melted butter, all the horror stories of it cracking and falling apart!
Phyllo has always sounded like a whole lot of crying happening in my kitchen. But that dream kept coming to mind ever since I had it. I finally accepted that this meant I was going to come up with a recipe using phyllo. I just never imagined it would be in the form of an apple pie!
Why I Never Thought I’d Make an Apple Pie
My husband hates apple pie. I mean, he haaaaates it and the thought of eating it gives him the shudders. The curious thing is that he likes raw apples and he also likes applesauce, so his aversion to apple pie is a mystery to me. He says it’s because of a certain movie (you know the one), but I suspect it’s a texture thing — that what he dislikes is the “mouthfeel” of all the cooked apples.
If I’m being totally honest, I’m not that crazy about the texture of apple pie either. There’ve been times when I’ve passed on apple pie because it just didn’t seem all that appealing. I’d much rather eat an apple empanada than a slice of apple pie. Even so, apple pie is far from being on my list of “Foods I Never Eat.”
So when I was asked if I’d like to come up with an apple pie recipe, I surprised myself by saying “Sure.” There’s something about a challenge I can’t seem to resist and making an apple pie that my husband will like is definitely a challenge.
My Big Fat Greek Treat
Disclaimer: Thanks to Google and Wikipedia, I’m aware that baklava originated in Turkey, not Greece. But I’ve only ever had baklava from Greek restaurants because I’ve never eaten at a Turkish restaurant. They’re probably great. In fact, I’m sure they are since they invented baklava! Now I have to put “Eat at a Turkish restaurant” on my bucket list.
I don’t remember when I ate my first piece of baklava, which is unusual considering life was never the same for me afterward. You’d think I would remember every detail about that event. It only took one time for baklava to earn its place on my list of Favorite Treats and twenty years later I still crave the baklava from Santorini Greek Grill in Kirkland, WA (I Googled them and am thrilled they’re still in business!).
Because I’ve had phyllo on the brain for weeks, I was watching a video on making baklava. As I was watching, it clicked that I could make an apple pie in baklava fashion — with layers of phyllo and crushed nuts throughout the apple filling for texture. That’s how this recipe came together in my head.
This could be the version of apple pie that my husband will eat and that I won’t ever be able to pass on!
About This Pie
I feel funny even calling this an apple pie. It feels like something that’s more “apple pie-like.” But since it’s made in a pie dish, I’ll go ahead and call it a pie. “Pie” doesn’t have to be just one thing. It can be a fluid term (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
For fun, when I named this recipe I referenced one of my favorite 90s British comedies (Absolutely Fabulous). If you don’t know this show (it was short-lived, but memorable), you should track it down.
Here’s how I went about selecting the ingredients for this recipe.
The Obvious Apple Choice
There was never any apple that I considered other than the Granny Smith apple. Because there will be less apple in this recipe than in a traditional apple pie recipe, I needed an apple with a bold, tart flavor. I needed an apple that could REPRESENT.
You can’t get much more bold and tart than a Granny Smith.
My Nut Dilemma
Classic baklava is made with crushed walnuts and pistachios. Because this apple pie is so heavily inspired by baklava, I seriously considered using those two nuts for this recipe.
The thing is, I wasn’t sure if apples and pistachios play nicely together (walnuts, yes). I have firsthand experience that it only takes ONE wrong ingredient to send a recipe off the rails and I didn’t feel like taking that risk. This whole recipe was already a risk.
After much back and forth debate in my head, I nixed the traditional baklava pistachio to go with a nut that has a proven track record with apples: pecans. They are basically the other BFF of apples (walnuts being the first), so I chose crushed walnuts and pecans as the nut element in my layered apple pie.
Any Excuse to Use Honey
Honey is one of my favorite things in the world and I love using it in recipes. I was delighted to learn that after baklava comes out of the oven, a syrup made with honey (and some other things) is poured over it.
So it was a given that I was going to pour a honey syrup over my baked layered apple pie for that final “baklavian” touch.
These Were a Last Minute Addition
Because I was trying something totally new, I planned to keep things pretty simple — apples, nuts, phyllo. But at the last minute I couldn’t resist adding raisins to the apples. It turned out to be a good move on my part.
I’m Sorry, Did You Say “Apples” or “Pumpkins?”
McCormick makes apple pie spice and pumpkin pie spice. Seems like it’s pretty much a given which one to use for an apple pie (or, “apple pie-like concoction”) and which one goes with pumpkin, right? Sure. Makes sense.
So what’s this doing here?
It turns out the two spice mixes are not the same thing in little jars with different names on them so McCormick can rip off bakers who are sticklers for the rules. A little Googling revealed that pumpkin pie spice has ground cloves in it, which apple pie spice does not.
If you watched that YouTube video, you’ll remember hat cloves were used in the recipe (for the syrup). So that made pumpkin pie spice the winner.
There might have also been the fact that I didn’t have any apple pie spice to use — only pumpkin.
The Main Spice Lineup
The spice roles in this production are played by honey, pumpkin pie spice, ground ginger, and lemon juice.
Vanilla is missing from the photo because it was also a last minute addition that I’m so glad I made. I feel like the Fates were smiling on me for this recipe. They ARE Greek, after all, and they probably like baklava and things that are close to baklava.
The Right Dish
A regular pie pan doesn’t cut it for most apple pie recipes. There’s simply too much fruit filling and the pie turns out too high for a regular depth pie pan to hold it. It’s even more so for this recipe because of the layers I’ll create with phyllo, nuts and apples. This apple pie requires a very deep pie baking dish.
Having said that…you may be someone who doesn’t have a deep pie dish, or any pie dish, for that matter. I’m an inclusive gal. I don’t want anyone feeling left out just because they don’t have a piece of bakeware in a certain shape. There’s more than one way to do this.
Do you have a square baking dish? A round one? Awesome! You get to play along with the rest of the class. The only requirement is that whatever you use is deep enough to account for all the layers of goodness that this apple pie will be made of.
Plan Ahead For This Pie — Like, Way Ahead
This pie acts exactly like baklava. I allowed it to firm up for an hour or so after assembly, I pre-cut the servings before baking, I baked it at the same temperature and time as a baklava (mostly), I let it rest before pouring the syrup over it, and I allowed it to cool down completely before eating it. The results were…absolutely fabulous!
So you’ll want to take all this extra waiting time into consideration if you’re going to make this for serving to guests. The nice guy in the YouTube video said to cool the baklava to room temperature before eating it. According to Google, that can take up to 6 hours (I guess it depends on how hot/cold the room is).
I ended up letting the pie I made sit overnight because stuff came up after I finished making it and it was the next morning before I was able to circle back around to it. I’ll admit I was afraid it would be soggy and ruined, but it wasn’t.
In fact, it was GOOD that I let the pie sit that long because by then, the pie had soaked up pretty much all the honey. If I had tried serving it the night before there could have been quite a lot of honey left behind in the pie dish (which I would have just spooned over the plated servings since I wasn’t about to waste that syrup).
That means this is a dessert you have to make well in advance of when you want to serve it. It will need to be finished a minimum of 6 hours before serving, which means you’ll need to start making it about 10 hours before serving. Or just make it the night before and give it 18-24 hours to sit and soak.
How To Make Apple Pie In Baklava Fashion
So now I’ll take you through the process of making an Absolutely Fabulous Apple Pie, step by step.
Make the Syrup
This has to cool before you pour it over the baked pie, so it gets made first.
Put water, sugar, honey, lemon juice, and pumpkin pie spice in a medium-size pot. The vanilla gets added later, since that’s when I decided to add it.
Put this over medium-high heat and stir until everything dissolves. Bring it to a boil.
(Sorry for the poor photo quality. The light is TERRIBLE where my cookstove is currently located!)
Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low/medium-low and allow the syrup to continue boiling for 4-5 minutes, stirring infrequently (there was a little bit of sticking on the bottom of my pot, so I made sure to scrape well when I stirred).
Right before the boiling time was up is when I decided to stir in some vanilla. I’d been tasting the syrup as it was cooking and Something told me “It needs a little vanilla.” It turns out Something was right because the vanilla turned it up to 11.
Then you turn off the heat and this is what your cooked syrup looks like. Allow it to cool while you proceed with the rest of the apple pie.
Crush the Walnuts and Pecans
I’m getting a nut chopper because I’m so over this “crushing up nuts in a plastic bag with a rolling pin” thing. I’ve been a good sport about it when I only needed small amounts of crushed nuts, but this apple pie recipe is where I had to finally draw the line.
I crushed enough walnuts and pecans in small batches to make 2 cups and I STILL didn’t get them to the fine consistency I wanted.
Prep the Apples
I used 4 Granny Smith apples, which is way less than a normal apple pie recipe calls for. At first I was going to cook them to soften them a little, but I changed my mind at the last minute on that too (I made a lot of decisions on the fly for this recipe — more than normal for me).
Core, peel, and quarter the apples. Remember, I don’t have an apple corer, so I peel, quarter, and then core them.
I chose to cut the apples up into very small pieces. First I fan cut each quarter.
Then I cut the fans into small pieces. I can’t really say I “diced” the apples, because they came out in longer pieces than dicing. Think “slightly larger than hash brown” pieces.
Prep the Raisins
As I said, the raisins were a last minute impulse. After looking them over, I decided they were too big in their natural state, so I chopped them into smaller pieces. Most I cut in half. The bigger ones I cut into thirds.
Yep, I’m the girl who chops raisins to make them smaller.
It didn’t take all that long. To do ⅓ of a cup took less time than the Blackmill song “Let It Be” — about 5 minutes at most.
After chopping, add the raisins to the apples. If you want to, add a little lemon juice and stir well.
Then add ground ginger and mix well.
Originally, I planned to add a little brown sugar to the apples and raisins. I even had the bag out of the cupboard when I started the recipe. But after tasting the syrup, there was no way I was adding any additional sweetener to this recipe. The honey syrup was more than up for the job of being the sweetener.
Time For the Phyllo — Pie Assembly
The moment of truth had arrived. It was time to work with phyllo for the first time. Ever.
Phyllo has to be thawed in the fridge overnight and then allowed to come to room temperature (about 2 hours) before you work with it. I didn’t know about the two hours, so I was working with it when it was still a little bit cold — I wanted to make sure it didn’t get too soft, like puff pastry has a tendency to. But it worked out okay, so I got away with my ignorance…this time.
I don’t have a photo of the unwrapped and unrolled phyllo because it was unimpressive looking, I couldn’t get a flattering shot of it, and I was far more concerned with not ruining it because I dilly-dallied and let it dry out.
The first bit of advice I’ll give is to melt waaaaaaay more butter than you think you’ll need — because you’ll actually end up needing all that extra. I sold myself short and was panicking to melt more butter while the pie assembly was still in progress.
Because I wasn’t paying attention at the grocery store, I had to use whipped butter for the phyllo sheets. It was totally fine — I just wanted to explain why the butter looks like that in the photo.
Brush the sides and bottom of the pie pan with butter.
Then put your first piece of phyllo in the bottom of the dish and brush it with butter.
Handling phyllo is almost like working with pastry tissue paper. It dries out wicked fast and the sheets start sticking to each other so that you don’t even realize you’ve put two sheets down instead of one.
Everyone in phyllo videos talks about “barely damp tea towels” to lay on the phyllo to keep it from drying out. I don’t have tea towels and, as luck would have it, I didn’t have any paper towels to dampen either. What I do have are tons of washcloths and I thought “I’ll just use one of those and wring it out really well.”
That didn’t work so great. Washcloths are meant to hold a lot of water and it’s basically impossible to hand-wring enough water out of it to use for things like keeping phyllo from drying out. I ruined a couple sheets because they got too mushy. Phyllo has a “Goldilocks” moisture level, so be aware of that if you’re a phyllo newbie, like me.
The sheets of phyllo hung way over the edge of the pie dish. You don’t see it in the previous photo because I used my kitchen shears to trim it off. I didn’t let those scraps go to waste, however, and used them to add layering.
I layered, I brushed with butter, I trimmed, I used the scraps, more butter, more phyllo, and so on. When I had about 5 or 6 sheets (plus scraps) layered and buttered, I sprinkled the first nut layer so that it just covered up the phyllo.
Then I added a thin layer of the spiced apples and raisins.
I didn’t overdo the apples and raisin layer because I wanted to try to make three layers of nuts and fruit in this apple pie. I was still able to see the nuts showing through the fruit. This small amount of apples in each layer is why I needed the super tartness of the Granny Smith.
Next phyllo layer. I didn’t make this as thick as the bottom one — only about 4 sheets of phyllo, buttering every other one. Again, I was going for a triple layer pie.
After this phyllo layer was done, I actually PRESSED DOWN on the pie to try to compress it! I wanted to create as much room in the dish as I could.
Again, the scraps didn’t go to waste and added extra texture for the inner phyllo layer.
By now I realized that the phyllo was coming off in two sheets stuck together. I could have panicked at that point. I’m amazingly good at coming unglued over food stuff (I shared something about that in my Caramel Apple Crumble recipe post).
But then I remembered what the guy in the baklava video said: we’re not machines and if it doesn’t look totally perfect, we’re creating layers and no one will know anyway. Besides, he’d said he only butters every other phyllo layer, so it was like the phyllo was going along with that idea too.
Sadly, I didn’t hit my goal of a triple layer apple pie. This dish wasn’t deep enough for that, even with all my pressing and squishing I did. When I saw that I couldn’t add a third layer of nuts and fruits, I finished the top “crust” with another 5, 6, 7 (8?) layers of phyllo. Honestly, I lost count.
Instead of seeing this situation as a Food Fail, I decided to take it in stride. Was this going exactly the way I’d envisioned in my head? No, not quite. Was it still turning out as something I’d be okay with putting on the website? Yeah, it was. I figured the real proof would be in how the finished pie tasted anyway.
Give the Pie a Time Out
Now the apple pie needs time to allow the butter to firm up in between the layers of phyllo — ideally you’ll put it in the fridge for this. I gave the pie a little over an hour and then I got impatient and didn’t want to wait anymore.
This is the weirdest part of this recipe — cutting an apple pie into servings before it’s baked. But as the guy in the video pointed out, if you don’t do this now and you wait until after it’s baked and “syruped,” you’ll make a mess out of the top. You don’t want that.
So decide how many servings you want this pie to be and then cut all the way through, as if you were going to serve it now. I decided to do 8 servings because it’s easy to make those cuts. 12 would be okay too, but I feel like those would be really small pieces that are hard to get out of the pie dish and onto a plate without falling apart.
I did have to hold down the phyllo as I made my cuts. I didn’t want the knife to pull and possibly tear them.
Bake the Pie
Finally, this apple pie is ready for the oven.
I did make one small adjustment to the bake temperature. I baked it at 350 degrees for the first 35 minutes and then turned the oven down to 325 degrees for the remaining 25 minutes. The video talked about getting the top phyllo “one shade past golden brown,” to know when baklava is done so that’s what I was going for.
While the pie was baking, I kept a close eye on it to see how it was coming along. I worried that my oven was browning the top layers of phyllo too fast, which is why I lowered it from 350 degrees to 325 degrees. Just keep an eye on how brown yours is getting to see if you need to lower the oven temperature as well.
I was rewarded for all my hovering with this strange, but wonderful smelling apple pie concoction.
A Brief Rest and Then the Syrup
I let the pie rest for about 5 minutes or so and got the syrup in place (with a ladle ready to go).
Then I poured on the syrup, little by little. You know what’s hard to do? Take photos of yourself pouring something onto something else. Don’t believe me? Try it sometime.
In fact, it’s so hard that none of the ones I attempted turned out, so I have no photos to share of me doing that.
But here’s the pie with all the syrup poured over it.
You can’t see it in the photo, but there is a lot of syrup in between and all around the pieces. I thought I’d possibly used too much syrup because I ladeled all of it over the pie. But as I mentioned earlier, while the pie was cooling down to room temperature, it was also soaking up the honey syrup.
I finished this apple pie around 4:30 pm and by the next morning (when I took my final photos and then ate the piece I plated) it was perfect.
I don’t recommend anything to serve with this because I think it’s amazing all by itself, just like regular baklava (which I’ve never seen dressed up when I’ve had it). I’m not even sure a topping of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream would work for this dessert. It might just end up being weird.
The only thing that comes to mind as a possibility is a scoop of butter pecan ice cream on the side. But I’m not entirely sold on that idea, either.
For now, I’m going with a less-is-more philosophy and declaring “no garnishes” unless someone can convince me otherwise.
Storing and Freezing
Since this is THE first time I’ve ever made this apple pie, I have no experience about storing or freezing it. But I did some research on how baklava is stored and frozen.
Baklava will keep at room temperature or in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Why anyone would still have baklava sitting around after two DAYS is beyond me! I would NOT recommend that length of time for this pie because there are apples in it and those wouldn’t keep for long.
More Googling revealed that the rule of thumb for regular apple pie is two days on the counter and then two more days in the fridge. That’s a fair — and safe — timeline to follow for this apple pie version.
Baklava will keep in the freezer for up to four months. I feel like that’s applicable to this recipe too. The recommendation is to wrap the pieces tightly in at least four layers of plastic wrap and then store them in a freezer bag.
I would suggest unwrapping the pie wedges before thawing to keep them from sticking to the plastic.
Just Because I Felt Like It
For fun, I decided to share these “after” photos — the ones we hardly ever get to see.
The apple pie, minus the piece I used for my plated shots.
What’s left after I pause my face-stuffing long enough to take a few shots. I feel like the caption should read “Annihilation of the previously gorgeously plated food.”
And this one would be “Best breakfast EVER.”
Guess who’s not afraid of phyllo anymore? This girl!
- For the Syrup
- ¾ cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup honey (squeeze in a little extra, if you like)
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the Filling
- 1 cup finely crushed walnuts
- 1 cup finely crushed pecans
- ⅓ cup raisins, chopped
- 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- For the Crusts
- 1 16-ounce box frozen phyllo pastry sheets
- 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
Thaw the phyllo according to the instructions on the box and allow it to come to room temperature before handling.
Make the Syrup
- Add the water, sugar, honey, lemon, and pumpkin pie spice to a medium-size pot.
- Put the pot over medium-high heat and stir until everything dissolves.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to continue boiling for another 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Just before the boiling time is up, stir in the vanilla.
- Turn off the heat and allow the syrup to cool.
Prep the Pie Filling
- Finely crush the walnuts and pecans.
- Mix well in a bowl and set aside.
- Chop the raisins into smaller pieces (about half their original size).
- Peel, core, and finely chop the apples.
- Combine the apples and raisins in a bowl.
- Add the ground ginge to the fruit and stir well.
To Assemble the Pie:
- Melt the butter.
- Unwrap and unroll the first package of phyllo.
- Cover with a barely damp towel while working with your current sheet of phyllo.
- Brush the bottom and sides of a deep pie dish with the melted butter.
- Uncover the phyllo and lift up the first sheet.
- Immediately cover the phyllo with the damp towel.
- Lay the sheet of phyllo in the pie pan and gently press it down to adhere to the buttered surface(the sheet will hang over the sides),
- Brush the sheet of phyllo with the melted butter, but do not butter the area of the phyllo that extends beyond the edge of the pie dish..
- Get a second sheet of phyllo and place that one at a 90 degree angle to the first sheet (this is to create a crust against the sides of the pan).
- Brush this sheet with butter.
- Get another sheet of phyllo and place it at a 45 degree angle to the previous sheet (again to create a crust for the sides).
- Repeat the buttering process.
- Continue until there are 5 or 6 full sheets of phyllo in the pie dish.
- Use kitchen shears to trim off the excess phyllo and use the scraps to create additional layers against the sides and bottom of the phyllo already in the pie dish.
- Butter these scrap layers to secure them.
- Sprinkle a shallow layer of the nuts onto the phyllo.
- Spread a thin layer of the spiced apples and raisins.
- Create another layer of phyllo, about 4 sheets thick in the same way that the bottom layer was made, also using the trimmed scraps.
- Press the pie layer to compress the nut and fruit layers.
- Add a second nut layer.
- Spread a second layer of apples and raisins.
- If your dish is deep enough, create another “inner layer” of phyllo about 4 sheets thick and a third layer of nuts and fruit.
- If a third layer isn’t possible, then create the top crust using 5-6 sheets of phyllo the same way that the other layers have been made.
- Brush the top well with butter.
- Press down to compress the nuts and fruit.
- Place the pie in the refrigerator and allow the butter to firm up, about an hour.
- Remove the pie from the refrigerator and use a knife to cut the pie into servings.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 25 minutes.
- Let the pie rest for 5 minutes.
- Use a ladle to pour the syrup over the pie.
- Let the pie cool to room temperature for about 6 hours, or leave the pie to sit overnight to ensure that the syrup is soaked up by the layers.
- Use a pie server to remove the wedges to plates and serve.