About six years ago I visited my mom one day and was craving a lemon meringue pie. The thought of making a pie from scratch seemed impossible to do on my own, so I asked my mom to make it with me. She enthusiastically agreed. I will share the full lemon meringue pie recipe in another instructable, but the first step to making any pie is making the crust. As you can see from the faded and stained recipe I *stole* from my mom's Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, I am now a professional and can teach anyone to make a perfect pie crust.
Step 1: Ingredients
For a single pie shell, one 8-inch double-crust pie, or 4-6 tart shells
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-5 tablespoons cold water
*Since several of my friends follow a gluten-free diet, I use Namaste Gluten-free flour in most all of my recipes that include all-purpose flour. The differences in the crust versus traditional flour were hardly perceptible.
Step 2: Sifting
Pour flour AND salt into sifter and sift together into mixing bowl.
Step 3: Add Shortening.
Add half of shortening (1/4 cup) to sifted flour and salt. Blend it with a pastry-blender (pictured) or fork, until the mixture looks like corn meal (first picture). Add remaining shortening and cut in until the dough is the size of small peas(ish).
Pro-tip: If you don't have a pastry blender and a fork isn't working well for you, you can use a sturdy whisk and just press the dough through the tines.
Step 4: Add Water.
Sprinkle one tablespoon of water over part of the dough. Gently toss with a fork and push to one side of bowl. Sprinkle next tablespoon water over dry part; mix lightly; push to moistened part at side. Repeat until all is moistened. Gather up with fingers; form into a ball.
Pro-tip: Add ice cubes to water to make it extra cold.
Step 5: Roll Out Crust.
On a lightly floured surface, flatten ball slightly and roll 1/8 inch thick. If edges split piece together. Always roll spoke-fashion, going from center to edge of dough. Use light strokes.
Pro-tip: Keep your dough-roller floured and wash as sparingly as possible between uses. (A little extra flour and a good dry scrubbing will usually remove all dough.
Step 6: Transfer Crust.
Roll pie dough over rolling pin; unroll pastry over pie plate, fitting loosely onto bottom and sides.
Pro-tip: This never works for me. I always end up with a crust that looks like this. If this happens to you, don't worry. Appearance generally does not affect taste. You can pinch together the broken parts and it turns out just fine. Trust me. I'm a pro.
You can trim and flute the edges to be as fancy or as plain as you prefer. I usually go for plain because all my attempts at fancy end up looking like a three year old played with the crust.
Step 7: Bake or Fill the Crust.
If a baked pie shell is needed or your recipe, prick the bottom and sides well with a fork. This prevents air pockets from puffing up. Bake in a very hot oven (450 degrees) until crust is golden, approximately 10-12 minutes. You can make cut-outs from dough to trim a filled pie. Bake on a cookie sheet at the same temperature and time.
If filling and pie crust are to be baked together do not prick the pastry. Pour in filling and bake as directed in the pie recipe.
Pro-tip: Your oven actually has to be turned on before the crust will bake. I learned this one through experience, before I was a pro. You're welcome.
Step 8: Final Tips
If you are baking an empty pie crust, you can also use a pie weight to prevent puffing. Apparently you can buy these, but I have used this method for years. I bought a bag of white beans. I line the crust with parchment paper, dump in the uncooked beans and bake. After the beans cool, I put them in a storage bag and keep them with my pie pans. I've used the same bag of beans over and over and over. I wouldn't recommend eating them, but if you bake dry beans multiple times over several years and then eat them, please let me know how that goes.
If your pie crust comes out a little less golden than you had hoped, don't fret. After you fill it with something yummy, no one is going to see most of it. And you're going to bake it some more, most likely.
Plus, any imperfections help people realize its homemade and appreciate your work more! You'd never want to go to all this trouble to have someone think you just bought it in a store!
If you haven't figured out yet, I'm far from a professional pie crust baker BUT people still eat the ones I make without complaining. This is a great place to start on your way to becoming a professional!