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All-American Double Crust

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

To my mind, an all-American crust should include butter, for great flavor; vegetable shortening, for tenderness and flakiness; and white flour, not whole wheat. The recipe also must be generous enough to make a top and bottom crust, because a big double-crust pie is what I believe most people envision when they think of the classic all-American apple pie. This recipe meets all of those criteria. You can make this pastry by hand (directions follow), but I nearly always make mine in a food processor. This is about as large a pastry recipe as I would recommend preparing in a food processor, for the simple reason that an overcrowded processor will not mix the pastry evenly, likely resulting in a tough crust. To prevent this from happening, whenever I stop the machine, I “fluff” the ingredients with a fork to loosen anything that may have begun to compact under the blade.

NotesIf you’ve made other pastry with vegetable shortening, you may have noticed that it doesn’t firm up quite like a butter pastry does; it remains softer, which can make the pastry slightly more difficult to roll, especially in warmer weather. To counter this tendency, I like to put the fully refrigerated pastry in the freezer for about 10 minutes before I roll it. It makes a difference.

CostInexpensive

Easy

Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Equipmentfood processor

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Taste and Texturebuttery, crisp, rich

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup cold vegetable shortening (see Notes), cut into pieces 
  • ½ cup cold water

Instructions

  1. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor; pulse several times to mix. Remove the lid and scatter the butter pieces over the dry ingredients. Pulse the machine 5 or 6 times to cut in the butter

  2. Remove the lid and fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom of the bowl. Scatter the shortening pieces over the flour and pulse the machine 6 or 7 times. Remove the lid and fluff the mixture again.

  3. Drizzle half of the water over the flour mixture and pulse the machine 5 or 6 times. Remove the lid, fluff the pastry, and sprinkle on the rest of the water. Pulse the machine 5 or 6 times more, until the pastry starts to form clumps. Overall, it will look like coarse crumbs. Dump the contents of the processor bowl into a large mixing bowl.

  4. Test the pastry by squeezing some of it between your fingertips. If it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a teaspoon or so of cold water over the pastry and work it in with your fingertips. Using your hands, pack the pastry into 2 balls, as you would pack a snowball. Make one ball slightly larger than the other; this will be your bottom crust. Knead each ball once or twice, then flatten the balls into ¾-inch-thick disks on a floured work surface. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling. About 10 minutes before rolling, transfer the pastry to the freezer to make it even firmer.

  5. To mix by hand: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Toss well, by hand, to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients; toss. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour until it is broken into pieces the size of split peas. Add the shortening and continue to cut until all of the fat is cut into small pieces. Sprinkle half of the water over the dry mixture; toss well with a fork to dampen the mixture. Add the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to toss and mix, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl on the upstroke and gently pressing down on the downstroke. Pastry made by hand often needs a bit more water, so add it 1 to 2 teaspoons at a time-if it seems necessary-until the pastry can be packed. Form the pastry into balls, as instructed above, then shape and refrigerate as directed.

  6. Rosemary Semolina Double Crust:

  7. I love this pastry in mixed pear and apple pies. The rosemary gives the crust a wonderful aroma and savory lift and the semolina adds a bit of crunchy texture and relaxes the pastry, which bakes up very tender. Follow the directions above, substituting 1/3 cup fine semolina or fine yellow or white cornmeal for 1/3 cup of the flour. Add ½ teaspoon finely crushed dried rosemary to the dry ingredients and proceed as usual. Note that the pastry may require 1 to 2 tablespoons less water than the basic recipe.

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