Toasted cashews would be a really nice, buttery, soft substitute for the pecans.
Spiced Maple Pecan Pie with Star Anise
Melissa Clark recently contributed to our newsletter on Pizza by teaching us how to make it at home like a true pro. She is the most thorough cook we know—providing helpful tips and tricks along each step of the way. The cookbook is arranged by month with seasonal and foolproof recipes for each. Her intros are especially entertaining—personal accounts of how she shops at the farmer’s market, feeds her family, how she arrives at her recipes, including changes and tweaks, etc. See below for just two examples of what we mean when we say “thorough.”
For the piecrust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 5 tablespoons ice water
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
For the filling:
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup Demerara or raw sugar
8 whole star anise
2 cups pecan halves
3 large eggs
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons dark aged rum
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Whipped Crème Fraîche, for serving.
1. To make the crust, in a food processor, briefly pulse together the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms lima bean–size pieces (three to five 1-second pulses). Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the mixture is just moist enough to hold together. Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic, and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling out and baking (or up to a week, or freeze for up to 4 months).
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the piecrust to a 12-inch circle. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold over any excess dough, then crimp as decoratively as you can manage.
3. Prick the crust all over with a fork. Freeze the crust for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover the pie with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights (you can use pennies, rice, or dried beans for this; I use pennies). Bake for 20 minutes; remove the foil and weights and bake until pale golden, about 5 minutes more. Cool on a rack until needed.
4. To make the filling, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the maple syrup, sugar, and star anise to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture is very thick, all the sugar has dissolved, and the syrup measures 1 cup, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 1 hour for the anise to infuse.
5. While the syrup is infusing, toast the nuts. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until they start to smell nutty, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
6. Remove the star anise from the syrup. Warm the syrup if necessary to make it pourable but not hot (you can pop it in the microwave for a few seconds if you’ve moved it to a measuring cup). In a medium bowl, whisk together the syrup, eggs, melted butter, rum, and salt. Fold in the pecan halves. Pour the filling into the crust and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the pie is firm to the touch but jiggles slightly when moved, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before serving with whipped crème fraîche.
If you can get Grade B maple syrup, which has a fuller, richer flavor than the usual Grade A stuff, your pie will be even more maple-y. That’s what I use.
If you want to skip the star anise, go right ahead. You’ll be left with a stellar, simpler, and more traditional pie with an excellent, deep maple flavor.
Sometimes I like to drizzle melted extra-bitter (72 percent) chocolate all over the top of the pie. It helps cut the sweetness and adds chocolate, which never hurts anything.