apple pie + english pastry vs. american pate brisee

so i know there's a big universal debate over ingredients and method for perfect pie crust. butter vs. shortening, secret ingredients such as vodka, vinegar, etc. etc. below i'm sharing two crust recipes, one for a thinner [english] crust and another for a thicker [american] crust. one uses butter, and the other uses shortening, both are pretty amazing depending on your preference.

english pastry [makes a single pie crust]

a couple years ago my aunt's mother flew in from england and spent a day teaching my aunt, mom and i the basics of "making pastry" as she called it. her crust was always consistently great and deliciously flaky, but as with most things british, it is also delicate. this works well for pies with more liquid/thinner fillings such as lemon, pumpkin, chocolate, etc.

| ingredients |
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup crisco
5-6 tablespoons ice water
pinch of salt

| method |

pour flour into a medium sized mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. cut in crisco with a knife, fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. add tablespoons of ice water, one at a time, mixing with a fork after each addition until desired dough consistency is reached. pat the dough into a ball, wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for approximately a half hour before rolling out. 

american pate brisee [makes two pie crusts]

now of all the recipes i've tested, the one i continually circle back to is martha stewart's pate brisee recipe. having always lived in extremely warm, humid climates, i feel the butter holds up far better than vegetable shortening when rolling out the dough. my preferred method used to be to use a food processor but [2015 edit} i have reverted back to the pastry blender method. i cut the butter and freeze it for a few minutes so it's extra cold, then hand cut it into the flour mixture. it's old school, it's harder, sometimes it'll hurt your hands, but what is pie crust if not a labor of love? cut the butter into the flour, add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and just enough ice water so that the dough holds together well enough to form a ball. 

the biggest thing that has sold me on this recipe is how substantial the dough is. call me classic american, but i like my pies built on a chunky-monkey crust. the thicker crust lends itself well to pies that have heavier fillings- cherry, apple, pecan, blueberry, raspberry, peach, etc. this is the version i use.

american pate brisee | ingredients |

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
6+ tablespoons ice water

| method |

this recipe makes 2 pie crusts, so i work on one at a time, dividing the measurements for all of the ingredients above in half. the butter should be as cold as possible, so keep the stick you are not currently cutting in the fridge until you are ready to use or, as mentioned previously you can cut both sticks and freeze for a few minutes. 

combine 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. add your cold butter (1 stick for 1 crust) to the flour mixture and cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal (little chunks of butter will be visible among the flour.)

gradually add the teaspoon of acv first, followed by 1-2 tablespoons of ice water and work the water into the dough using a wooden spoon or spatula until it just holds together without feeling wet or sticky. you'll want to stop as soon as your dough can be formed into a ball without the dough crumbling, this may or may not take all of the water you have set aside, and in some cases you may need a little more. 

form the dough into a ball, and flatten the ball into a disk, then wrap in plastic wrap. repeat for the second ball of dough. you will want to chill your disks for approximately 1 hour before rolling them out.

apple pie 

| ingredients |

pate brisee (or english pastry)
10-12 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks (the number of apples needed will depend on the size of your apples and depth of your pie plate. i use about 8-10, and like to use a variety of pink lady, granny smith and macintosh)
3/4 cup sugar, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of cloves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg, beaten + 1 teaspoon of water
2 tablespoons flour

| method |

preheat oven to 375 degrees. roll out one of your flattened disks of pie dough on a clean, lightly floured surface until approximately 1/8" thick, and large enough to cover your pie plate. lightly grease your pie dish and transfer your dough into the pie plate, trimming the edges as needed. return your dish + dough to the fridge to firm up while you prepare the pie filling.

in a large bowl combine your apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and flour. toss together so that all of the apples are well coated.

2015 edit: i was experiencing some issues with my apple pies coming out watery. (ew.) looking into this issue, there are a couple possible causes but i've found a solution! skip recipes with lemon juice (it encourages the maceration process, which draws out the juice in the apples), prepare your filling and set it in a colander over a large bowl, and let the apples sit for 30 minutes. the juices and spices will collect in the bowl below your colander. when the 30 minutes is up, pour this into a small saucepan and heat on medium heat until reduced by half and thickened (i also added a couple tablespoons of caramel to make a variation: caramel apple pie.) 

once you have your syrup, remove your pie dish with the dough from the fridge and transfer your apple filling into the dish. pour the boiled syrup over top. also note that the apples will condense a little while cooking, so don't worry if it looks like a ton of filling initially. dot the filling with your 2 tablespoons of butter, then roll out your remaining pastry circle and cover your filling with it. crimp the edges to seal and cut a couple small vents in the top of the dough. (you may also use the leftover dough to create decorations. i punched out a couple leaves using leaf shaped cookie stamps.)

brush the crust evenly with your egg wash (beaten egg + water). this is necessary for your crust to get that delicious golden brown look. think of it as tanning lotion for your pie, purely aesthetic. then sprinkle with granulated sugar, turbinado sugar or clear sprinkles and bake for approximately 1 hour, until your crust is golden-brown and the juices of the pie are bubbling. if your crust begins to brown too much, you may cover it in foil.

let the pie cool on a wire rack prior to serving. if you prefer cold pie, you can also refrigerate overnight after the pie has cooled to room temperature. it's a little easier to slice this way once it's had a chance to firm up!

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