I’ve been intimidated by pastry for years and finally had several ‘a-ha’ moments when I lost my mind over the course of a couple of weeks this summer and made about 15 pies, basically in a row. I actually drove to an ‘open-late’ Wal-mart for more of the 9 1/2 inch Pyrex pie plates that I love to use, and thankfully, I have a large freezer and a husband who loves pie. The point being, you have to practice, you have to try it a few times and figure it out, or rather, figure out what works for you. I find butter crusts harder to make, everything has to be exactly cold enough and you have to work fast so nothing melts on you, but man, is it worth it – when in doubt though, or when in a hurry, you can’t beat Crisco.
I have several different pastry recipes that work, the difference basically being the fat that is used; butter, lard, cream cheese etc. The fat is what makes it feel different and therefore easier or more difficult to work with. This Crisco recipe has never failed and it’s easy to work with. It was originally the recipe right off of the box, but the box recipe has since been changed.
Pastry – Crisco (for 2-3 crusts)
2 to 2 1/2 c. flour – start with 2 c.
3/4 t. salt
Mix together and then using a pastry cutter (or 2 forks), cut in;
1 c. Crisco
Keep cutting until it resembles coarse crumbs with pea-sized pieces. Then add;
2 T. ice-cold water
1 T. vinegar
From this point I mix it with a heavy duty wooden spoon until it comes together and sometimes finish the mixing with my hands. Divide it into 2-3 even-sized mounds (I use my kitchen scale to get them exact), work each into a ball that has no obvious cracks, wrap individually in Saran Wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. I always make this the day before but I think it would work best if it was chilled at least a couple of hours before using.
From here the rolling out is up to you. I use a floured pastry cloth and rolling pin cover for Crisco crusts and then also use a cold piece of baking marble when I make a butter or cream cheese crust. I have my own way of figuring out the size (slightly bigger for the bottom), and after several tries have figured out how to seal a pie so that it doesn’t leak – this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a pretty pie though. Practice, practice, practice. If you like pie, even a little bit, it’s worth it!