There’s nothing like a tall glass of ugly apple juice on a hot day. It is just as tasty and refreshing as “beautiful” apple juice made from “pretty” apples. In fact, if you did a blind taste test, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two. From childhood, it is instilled in us that outward appearances aren’t important; that true beauty comes from within. This also applies to fresh produce, but over time we have forgotten these universal rules. We have become discriminatory toward the fruits and vegetables we buy, ignoring the imperfect ones with spots and wrinkles, which end up being thrown in the garbage even though they taste exactly the same. Every year, nearly 3 trillion pounds of food is wasted—more than enough to feed all 800 million people worldwide who suffer from hunger. That means 40% of all the food in the US is going directly into the trash. So what can we do? Sarah Phillips created an informative website called UglyProduceIsBeautiful where you can learn more about these issues, and helpful solutions to fix them. When she contacted us last month asking if we would like to contribute a recipe to her site, we felt it was important to help spread this message and thought it would be fun to create something beautiful and delicious with ugly produce. So we rescued some ugly apples from our local market and with just a few simple ingredients and a couple easy steps, turned them into delicious apple roses. Flaky and buttery, rich with caramelized brown sugar, and swirled with delicate slices of sweet apples, these elegant pastries prove that even the most homely fruit can be the start of something beautiful.
Simply made with pink lady apples, brown sugar, butter, and a splash of lemon, these miniature desserts taste like homemade apple pie! The fresh apple slices soften as they bake, melting into the sweet filling inside the flaky crust. For the first round of recipe testing, we experimented with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, but those flavors tasted more like an autumn potpourri than a classic pie. Once we simplified the ingredients and stripped everything back, it allowed the pure flavor of the apples to truly shine. This particular variety works perfectly here as these ladies are celebrated for their pleasantly tart flavor and satisfyingly sweet finish. Seasoned with melted butter and brown sugar that caramelizes between the delicate pink and white apple petals, these blushing flowers make a beautiful and tasty bouquet!
The roses are easy to prepare despite their intricate design. If you own a mandoline, you can slice the apples in seconds. If you don’t, it will take just a few extra minutes to slice them by hand. Once the apples are prepped, you place them on the puff pastry dough with some butter and brown sugar, roll it up like a sleeping bag, then bake it in the oven! In just forty minutes, these golden pink roses glowing with caramel are sizzling and ready to be dusted with a puff of powdered sugar. Since we’ve been shamelessly eating them like popcorn around here, we’ve learned that these addicting treats also make a wondrous breakfast. A Mother’s Day brunch blessed with a platter of these stunning edible roses will win everyone’s heart at the table. And of course, they make a true spectacle of a dessert as well. Basically, you can eat them all day just like we do! Look for ugly apples at farmers markets and encourage your local grocery stores to carry them. There is so much you can do with them: ugly applesauce, ugly cider, ugly apple fritters… The choices are endless, and all of them are beautiful.
Ugly Apple Roses
4 red apples (pink lady is our favorite)
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup (106g) brown sugar, divided
4 tablespoons (56g) unsalted butter, melted
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter at room temperature
powdered sugar for dusting (if desired)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a standard muffin tin, and set aside.
Cut the apples in half and core them. Using a sharp knife or a mandoline, slice the apples into 1/8-inch thick slices. Place the slices in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, add the lemon juice, and toss gently to coat the slices without breaking them. This keeps them from turning brown. Add 1/4 cup of brown sugar and the melted butter, and toss to coat the apples evenly. Place bowl in the microwave and cook for about 45 seconds, until the slices are slightly warm and bend easily.
Lightly flour a work surface, then roll one sheet of puff pastry until it is a 9×12-inch rectangle. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, slice the dough into six rectangles, each one being 9×2-inches. Repeat with the other puff pastry sheet so you have 12 strips of dough total. Lay one strip on the work surface, and line the top edge with 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter cut into tiny pieces. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of brown sugar evenly over the dough strip. Lay apple slices over the butter one at a time, overlapping them slightly, using about 10 slices per strip. The round edge of the apple slices should face away from the dough, lining up like flower petals. Fold the lower part of the dough over the bottom of the apples, and press gently to hold the dough and apples in place. Starting at one end, roll the strip up, forming a rose shape. Place the rose in a muffin tin, then repeat with the remaining strips. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the edges of the pastry are golden brown and the centers are fully cooked. Let cool for 2 minutes, then remove roses from pan and transfer to a serving plate. Serve warm, dusted with powdered sugar if desired, and enjoy!
— If you do not have a microwave, you can place the bowl over a pot with a little simmering water and stir occasionally until the apple slices are warm and bendy.
— To make this recipe vegan, simply use a vegan puff pastry and non-dairy butter.