I wish that I could say that all my pie crusts turn out great. Say it truthfully, that is. Making great pie crusts seems to be more than measuring the ingredients exactly or mixing them properly. I really think that great pie crusts result from some magical words spoken softly as the baker is working at the counter.
My first pie crust was a disaster, but my mother gave me three rules for making good pie crusts. I think of them every time I set out to make a crust: First, cut the right amount of lard or shortening into the flour; second, don’t add too much water; and third, never add flour after adding the water.
Keep those rules in mind and you will find that making good pie crusts is pretty easy. While the recipe below may not produce prize winners every time, it will always give you flaky crusts. And once in a while you will produce a crust that will wow everyone. Just say those magic words.
2 cups all-purpose flour plus extra flour for rolling out crust
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold lard or shortening
2 T cold butter
4 to 5 T ice water
Set aside a cup with a couple of ice cubes and water in it. Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the salt. With a pastry blender or table fork, cut in about a half cup of the lard or shortening until the flour looks like coarsely ground corn meal. Cut in the remaining lard or shortening and the butter just long enough that you have clumps of flour about the size of small garden peas. If the clumps are too large, work in an extra tablespoon or two of flour.
Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water over the flour and toss it lightly with a fork for 30 seconds or so until it begins to clump together. Press the dough into a ball. Depending on the humidity and your flour, you may need to add a little more water to get the flour to clump together properly.
Too little water is better than too much, but water is needed to form the crust. Though you need to measure carefully, the exact proportion of ingredients needed seems to vary slightly according to temperature and humidity. You really need to develop a “feel” for the job, so just plan on making a few crusts until you get the hang of it. Let the dough chill in the refrigerator a few minutes before rolling it out.
On your bread board, sprinkle a sheet of wax paper with flour. Dust your rolling pin with flour. Divide the chilled dough in half and with your hands make a ball. Press the ball on the floured paper until you have an inch thick round. Turn it over, brush flour over the paper if necessary and press the dough into a thinner round. Roll the dough with the rolling pin by rolling from the middle of the round outwards, working in a circle. When the round is roughly doubled in size, turn it over and continue rolling until it is the size you need. It should be about an inch larger than the pie plate.
Put the pie plate upside down on the dough, slide your hand under the waxed paper and invert the crust over the plate. Peel off the paper and work the crust into the plate. being careful not to stretch the crust. Trim the crust with a sharp knife. If the crust tears or is not centered exactly right, you can dampen the problem area and use pieces of dough to patch it.
If you are making a single crust pie, use a fork or your fingers to make a decorative border. For a double crust pie, put in the filling and roll out the top crust on the waxed paper. Use the paper to help fold the crust in half and slip the crust on top. If you want a lattice top, cut the top crust into strips and weave it over the filling.
To make sure that the top crust seals to the bottom, dampen the edge of the bottom crust with a wet finger before you lay the top on the pie. Trim with a sharp knife and seal the edges with a fork or by pinching the edges together with your fingers.
NOTE: It is important to keep the crust cool; ice water helps. On a hot day,you can put the dough in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
Blueberries will be ripe soon, and I will post the recipe for blueberry pie in two or three weeks.