Apple Pie with Star Anise Brown Butter
Fall may just be my favorite time of year. I grew up in Florida, where seasons blend and highs in the 80’s are not unheard of in mid-December. Now that I’ve been in NYC for so long, I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that first cool breeze, the leaf change and, of course, something I NEVER did before living up here…apple-picking! Yes, a beautiful, clear Fall day driving out to a farm, apple-picking, rooting around a pumpkin patch (and, potentially, a hayride to my husband’s dismay) is for me perfection.
Now, the reality is once you get out amongst the orchards, apple-picking turns to sport. And you can’t help but go a bit loony and bring back a quantity of apples that most normal people couldn’t consume in a year. I end up making pies, apple butter and chutneys until I can’t look at another apple for a year, and this weekend was no exception. I went in on some Red Delicious, Idareds, and Mushus, and this pie was the (necessary) result.
In fact, it was really my post from last week where I was dreaming up incorporating star anise into an apple pie that led me to create this recipe. The star anise infuses the brown butter, and that fragrant nuttiness complements the light, licorice-like flavor of the spice. In combination with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a rich vanilla bean, the pie has a complexity that still doesn’t take away from the simplicity of the apple pie itself – that traditional apple flavor and buttery, flaky crust. I love to make the crust from scratch, but feel free to use your own recipe here or go ready-made. The filling could not be more simple, and this is now my go-to apple pie…Enjoy!
Yields (1) 9-inch pie
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 sticks butter, chilled and cut into cubes
8-9 tbsps ice water
For the pie filling:
6 apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/8” thick*
a generous squeeze lemon juice
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground star anise
3 tbsps all-purpose flour
4 tbsps butter
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 star anise
heavy cream for brushing
sugar for sprinkling
First, we’re going to make and chill the crust. To the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, sugar and butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Turn mixture out into a bowl and add water, a tablespoon at a time, pressing dough using a pastry cutter or a fork until dough starts to come together. Dough will have both sandier crumbs and more clumped wet pieces. Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap forming each into flattened discs. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 425° F.
In a large bowl, mix together the sliced apples with lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, and flour.
In a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, melt butter with vanilla bean, the scraped vanilla seeds, and the star anise. Swirl pan and watch carefully as the foam subsides and the milk solids take on a golden brown color. The butter should look like the color of and smell like hazelnuts. Remove from the heat immediately, take out the vanilla bean and star anise and add to the apple mixture, stirring to incorporate thoroughly.
On a floured surface or between parchment paper, roll out the first disc to a 12” diameter circle and place carefully in the pie dish. Fill with apple mixture. Roll out the second disc and cut strips using a knife or pastry cutter to desired width. Place strips over pie and place remaining strips at a right angle, weaving if desired. Brush top crust with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes keeping the pie on the middle rack with a baking sheet on the rack just below it to catch anything that might bubble over. Reduce heat to 350° F and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes until top is golden brown.
Let cool on a rack for 2 hours before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
*I used a combination of Idareds and Mushus here.