How to make pie crust: a tutorial
1. Make sure your shortening is refrigerated. Cold shortening works much better in pie crust than room temperature shortening. You will need 1/3 c. + 1 Tbs. for a 1 crust pie.
2. Get about a cup of cold water and put it in the freezer to make it even colder. (You don't want it to freeze, but I usually leave mine in there about 5-10 minutes.) You probably won't use the whole cup - in fact, you almost certainly won't. But it's far more annoying to have too little than too much.
3. Mix 1 c. flour and 1 tsp salt (for 1 crust pie) in a medium size bowl.
4. Cut the shortening into the flour/salt mixture. You want it to be in about pea-size chunks when you're done, like so:
Please excuse the slight blurriness (again). I was using my ancient camera.
5. Take your water out of the freezer. Pour about 2 Tbs in and toss mixture gently with a fork. You want to have a light touch or your pie crust will get tough. Add 1-2 Tbs more water and toss again. You will notice the mixture starting to form clumps.
6. This is where it gets tricky. When it is about half clumped together (maybe a bit more), it's very important that you don't add too much water. At this point, I will generally dip my fingers in the water and flick drops into the dry patches of the mixture. (If you have a spray bottle, that works well too.) I will also start tossing it and gathering it with my hands instead of the fork.
When you can gently press it into a ball and it sticks together pretty well but doesn't stick a lot to your hands, you have enough water. (If you add too much, your dough will be sticky and really hard to roll out; this causes much grief in later steps.) The amount of water you will need varies depending on the weather, humidity, and where you are located.
It's okay if you have a few crumbs left over. It's better to leave them than try to get them to stick when they don't want to at this point. This is for a 2 crust pie, hence 2 balls of dough.
7. Prepare a lightly floured surface. I use cheesecloth sprinkled liberally with flour for easier cleanup, but some people prefer a pastry mat or even just their clean counter.
8. Press your ball of dough to gently flatten it, and sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the flattened disc to prevent sticking. (Note: if making a 2 crust pie, cover the bowl with your other pie crust dough ball with a slightly damp paper towel to prevent it from drying out.)
9. Gently begin rolling out your pie crust. It works best if you use outward strokes with the rolling pin, not back and forth. In order to have the best chance at making the final product circular, I will roll out radially in 8 directions, like so:
Yep. I made that in Paint. It was that or take a picture of it drawn on a Post-It Note.
Here's what it should look like half rolled out. Use a little flour as needed to prevent sticking.
And here it is all rolled out.
11. Gently lift the edge of your pie crust. If your dough wasn't too sticky, and you floured your working surface well, this part is easy. Otherwise... good luck. Very carefully, fold your pie crust into quarters.
If it's sticky, use a bit of flour to make sure it doesn't stick to itself. And whatever you do, don't press down on it!
12. Gently (again) transfer it to your waiting pie plate. Carefully unfold it halfway, adjusting its position as needed so that all sides will have enough extra crust to form the fluted edge.
Do you see how there's a good inch or so draping over the side? That's what you want - you can always cut off the excess, but it's really hard to patch in when there's not enough.
13. Unfold it the rest of the way. Carefully lift the excess around the edges and lower a bit more crust into the pie plate so that the crust follows the contours of the pie plate.
It will probably never be exactly perfect, but this one turned out pretty close.
14. If making a 1 crust pie, cut off any excess dough that is draping more than about 1 inch off of the edge. Gently fold under the 1 inch extra dough and make a lip of sorts around the edge of the pie plate.
15. Pinch the dough with your thumb and forefinger or whatever method you prefer to make a pretty edge with the extra crust you just folded under.
16. If baking an empty pie shell, poke it all over with a fork to prevent it from puffing up in the oven. Bake at 450 F for 8-10 min or until edges begin to brown slightly. Otherwise, pour in your filling and bake according to the recipe's directions!
14. If making a 2 crust pie, cover the crust with a slightly dampened towel or paper towel to keep it from drying out while you make your pie filling and roll out the top crust.
15. When you are ready to put on the top crust (whether lattice or full), gently lay it over the top of the pie. Moisten the edges of the bottom crust to help the top crust stick to it. Fold the bottom crust up and over the top crust (you may need to trim the top crust so it is slightly smaller than the bottom's excess crust for this to work well). Crimp the resulting edge with your finger and thumb.
Aaaaand Nathan got home so we actually get a good quality picture.
See how the edges are crimped to make them look prettier? You will also want to cut holes in the top to let steam vent out if you do a full top crust.
16. Bake according to the recipe's directions. Pies with 2 crusts are more prone to overflowing (though this depends a lot on the recipe), so if you think it might then put a pan on the lower rack in the oven to catch drips.
And there you have it! Pie crust made easy. Please let me know in the comments if there's anything that doesn't make sense.