There is that old saying, “Easy as pie” but from my experience, most people don’t think pie is easy at all–and of course it is the crust that is the stickler. My Mom and Grandma made the best pie in the county–even winning ribbons at the fair–and they taught me at a very young age how to make a great piecrust. There are a couple of tricks to the filling, too, but most people don’t have trouble with that.
Start with the right ingredients, of course–and they are easy, since there are only 4 ingredients in my recipe for piecrust: flour, shortening, salt and water. For a 9″ double crust pie, 2 cups of flour, 2/3 cup + 2 Tbsp. shortening, 1 tsp. salt and 6-7 Tbsp. ice water.
Measure the flour using the dip and sweep method (no need to sift) and salt into a large bowl. Measure Crisco brand shortening (do not use butter, part butter, or any other brand of shortening) using the water replacement method: fill a two cup liquid measure with 1-1/3 cusps of water; spoon shortening in until water reaches two cup mark, holding shortening under the water with a fork. Add two more tablespoons of shortening and dump water out, holding shortening back. Put the shortening into the mixing bowl with the flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in shortening until mixture looks like small peas. Next is the most important part which will make or break your crust: Add ice water, one tablespoon at a time in a sprinkling fashion over flour mixture and with an ordinary dinner fork, toss the water into the mixture after every addition of water. When mixture clings together and starts to form a ball-QUIT!!! Too much mixing and handling is the downfall of the tender, flaky piecrust. Take two sandwich-size baggies and, one at a time, put your hand in the baggie and gather half the mixture into the bag. Turn the baggie inside out and close it.
Now, flatten and press the dough into a disk in the baggie. Do the same for the other half of the dough. Place in the refrigerator for at least half an hour, or more. Dough can be refrigerated for two days or frozen for several months.
Prepare pie pan: I like to use a stoneware or glass pan, but a metal one will do. Spray pan VERY light with vegetable spray and, using a pastry brush, brush it very evenly.
Do not use very much spray or your crust will shrink away from the pan when it’s baked but a little makes it much easier to get out of the pan.
Ready to roll, fill and bake! Flour a board quite generously and roll your dough disk with a cloth-covered rolling pin.
Unless you are very experienced, this tool thing is very important. Many a crust has been ruined by a too-light rolling pin or one without ball bearings. And a cloth sleeve can be purchased to pull over your pin–buy some and use them. Flour the top of the disk as well and then roll from the center to the edges into a circle about an inch and a half larger than your pie pan.
Place the prepared pan directly on the circle, centering it, and with a sharp small knife, cut around the pan about an inch from the edge.
Now lift the pan off the dough and, placing your rolling pin along the top of the circle, roll dough around pin toward yourself, very lightly.
Pick it up and unroll it directly over pan. Fit it into the pan gently with extra dough overhanging the pan about 1/2 inch. Put your filling into crust.
Dot 2 Tbsp. butter all over filling.
Repeat rolling with second crust. Lay carefully over pie and trim the edges to be even with the bottom crust edges with a scissors. Now, fold top edges over bottom edges and flute, which will seal the pie.
Cut vents in top crust with a sharp knife; either in a design or just randomly.
You can get fancy and brush the crust with milk or egg white and sprinkle sugar on it before baking or just bake as is. Put it on Baking sheet that is covered in foil and make foil strips for covering the edges.
Place in a pre-heated 425 degree oven. Bake for 30 minutes and remove foil edging. Bake for 15 minutes more or until filling is bubbling at the edges. Let it cool until filling is set–about 2 hours for most pies.
I have a wonderful rhubarb patch behind the garage near our alley. It yields a lot of rhubarb and I use every bit of it. I make pies, jam, crisps, cakes, muffins, give it to friends and–if I have any left– I freeze it for the long, cold winter. Of course, rhubarb was known as pie plant in the olden days and there’s a reason–it makes the best pies ever! This recipe is from an old Betty Crocker cookbook and it’s just right.
Pastry for 9-inch two-crust pie
1-2/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
4 cups cut-up fresh rhubarb (1/2 inch pieces)
2 Tbsp. butter
Heat oven to 425. Prepare pastry. Stir together sugar and flour. Turn half the rhubarb into pastry-lined pie pan; sprinkle with half the sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining rhubarb and sugar; dot with butter. Cover with top crust which has slits cut in it; seal and flute. Sprinkle with sugar (see above) Cover edge with 2-3-inch strip of foil to prevent excessive browning; remove for last 15 minutes of baking. Bake for 30 minutes more or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust.
Delicious when warm and served with vanilla ice cream.