I've covered apple pies with a plain crust and a lattice, but for this pie I wanted to get more decorative. I've seen pies decorated with cutouts and the idea in Fine Cooking magazine to use overlapping leaves seemed perfect for Thanksgiving, everybody's favorite fall holiday.
The Fine Cooking recipe calls for cutting each leaf by hand, as well as making smaller leaves. I cheated a little bit: I used a leaf-shaped cookie cutter. This worked great, as each leave was the same size--about 3 1/2 inches long by 2 inches wide. I scored a line down the middle of each leaf with sharp knife (do this carefully to prevent cutting all the way through the dough).
When placing the leaves on top of the pie, they should overlap just slightly. If your leaves are cut to the same size as mine, you'll need 24 leaves to complete the top. Start with the outer ring and place 14 leaves flush against the edge of the pie plate. Then, complete the inner ring with 9 leaves. Finish with a final leaf in the center.
Since I've had such good luck with it in the past, I switched up the crust recipe and used my trusty "foolproof" double-pie crust with vodka recipe from America's Test Kitchen.
Fall-Leaf Apple Pie
Adapted from Apple with Leaves recipe in Fine Cooking and Foolproof Pie Dough recipe from America's Test Kitchen
12 1/2 oz. all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 tsp. table salt
2 tbsp. sugar
20 tbsp. cold unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup chilled vodka
1/4 cup very cold water
5 to 6 firm, tart apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
1 to 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar in a food processor, about two 1-second pulses. Scatter butter over dry mixture and process until the dough starts to collect in uneven clumps, resembling cottage cheese with no uncoated flour, about 15 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl with rubber or silicone spatula and redistribute dough evenly around the blade. Add remaining cup of flour and give 4 to 6 quick pulses until dough is evenly distributed and the mass of dough has been broken up. Empty mixture into bowl.
2. Sprinkle vodka and water over dough mixture. With the spatula, combine the liquid with the dough using a folding motion, pressing down on dough until it sticks together (use your hands a little if needed, but be careful not to overwork the dough). Divide dough into two pieces, roll into balls and flatten slightly to form thick 4-inch discs. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 45 minutes, up to 2 days.
3. To make the pie crust and decorative top: On a lightly floured surface, roll one of the dough discs into a 12-inch round 1/8 inch thick. Fold the dough over the rolling pin, ease it into a 9-inch pie pan, and unfold it so it's centered over the pie plate with edges draped over the sides. Press the dough up the sides and over the rim of the pan, and trim it to leave about an inch of dough beyond the rim of the plate. Fold the edge of the dough under itself so that the crease is flush with the top of the pie plate. Press a fork into the edge of the dough to make vertical lines--this "crimping" process seals the folded dough together. Chill the pie plate with the dough while you cut out the leaves.
4. Combine any scraps from the first disc with the second disc and roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. With a paring knife or a leaf cutter, cut out at least 24 leaves 3 1/2 x 2 inches in size. With the paring knife, score a "vein" down the center of each leaf, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough. Place the cut leaves on a floured baking sheet (don't stack them) and set them aside in a cool place.
5. Cut the apples into 1/4-inch slices--there should be about 7 cups. Put the apples in a large bowl and add the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Toss gently to coat the apples with the flour-sugar-spice mixture. Transfer the apples to the cooled pie shell, tucking in any apples to create a slight dome in the center. Dot the apples with large flecks of the remaining 1 to 2 tbsp. of butter.
6. Starting at the rim of the pie plate, place the leaves at a slight angle and slightly overlapping around the edge of the pie until the leaves go all the way around. Then make a second smaller circle of leaves closer to the middle of the pie--finishing with a final leaf in the middle. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
7. Position two racks close together in the lower third of the oven, set a foil-lined baking sheet on the lowest rack to catch any drippings from the pie. Heat the oven to 350 F.
8. Bake the pie on the second-lowest rack until the crust is a deep golden brown all over and the apples are tender when pierced with a thin knife blade, about 60 to 80 minutes (I baked my pie for 85 minutes). Let the pie cool completely before serving.