Homemade Pie Dough
When one thinks of the old-fashioned American farmhouse pies, we usually envision one of those Norman Rockwell, golden, dome-shaped delights. This lovely, puffed, golden crust is achieved by blending the right amount of butter and vegetable shortening (you can use lard rather than shortening, but it's harder to find). The following recipe uses all-vegetable shortening, such as Crisco. You may want to experiment by substituting some butter for the shortening and see the difference. Some cooks prefer a blend of shortening and butter 70 to 30 percent or even 50-50 - butter adds flavor to the crust.
To make a really great pie crust, you need to understand what this blend of simple ingredients is all about. Pie doughs have different densities and different elasticities. Making pie dough may sound daunting, but the good news is that you can tackle this topic one dough at a time and enjoy some terrific homemade pies along the way.
American-style pie dough is nothing more than flour, fat (butter or lard), water, and salt - some cooks add an egg, but it isn't necessary. The main difference between American pie doughs is the type and amount of fat in them. When making dough, you cut butter or lard into little pieces and partially mix it with flour - you want to have tiny nuggets of butter or lard throughout the dough. These nuggets melt while baking and give the crust its wonderful flaky quality.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes (plus 2 hours refrigeration)
Baking Time: None
3. Remove dough from the bowl and place it on a flat surface that is dusted with flour. With your hands, pat down the dough into a rough rectangle about 1 inch thick. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. (The shortening needs to chill and solidify, which makes the dough easier to roll out and work with.)
Rolling out the dough and laying it in the pie pan
1. Using your fingers, spread the butter back and forth over the pie plate until well covered.
2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured flat surface. Cut the dough in half and place half into the refrigerator. Using a rolling pin, roll out half of the dough into a circle that's a little bigger than the circumference of the pie plate - that is, roughly an 11-inch circle for a 9-inch pie plate. Dust the dough and the counter frequently to prevent sticking - but use very little flour each time.
4. To lay the dough over a buttered pie plate, gently place the rolling pin over one edge of the plate and unroll the dough over the entire plate. Then lift the edges of the dough so that gravity lowers it into the bottom of the plate. With your fingers, press the dough into the corners of the plate. The dough should cover the sides, leaving about an inch or two of overlap on the edge.