Fall may just be my favorite time of year. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that first cool breeze, the leaf change and, of course... apple picking! Yes, a beautiful, clear fall day driving out to a farm to pick apples is perfection for me.
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 was no exception. I went in on some Red Delicious, Idareds, and Mushus, and this pie was the (necessary) result.
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!
*Note: I used a combination of Idareds and Mushus here.
Add the flour, salt, sugar, and butter to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Turn the mixture out into a bowl and add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pressing the dough using a pastry cutter or a fork until it starts to come together. The dough will have both sandier crumbs and more clumped wet pieces. Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap, forming each into flattened discs. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together the apples with the lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground star anise, and flour.
In a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the vanilla bean, the scraped vanilla seeds, and the whole star anise. Swirl the pan and watch carefully as the foam subsides and the milk solids take on a golden brown color. The butter should be the color of and smell like hazelnuts. Remove from 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 dough disc to a 12-inch-diameter circle and place carefully in a pie dish. Fill with the apple mixture. Roll out the second disc and cut strips using a knife or pastry cutter to desired width. Place strips over the pie and place the remaining strips at a right angle, weaving if desired. Brush the top crust with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes 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 degrees and bake for another 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 2 hours before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.