An experienced cook tosses together a batch of pastry quickly and easily and invariably turns out well-shaped pies with tender, crisp and somewhat flaky crusts. Some of the tricks that may help the novice in successful pastry making follow:
Choice of Ingredients
Use all-purpose flour, not cake flour. Lard and hydrogenated vegetable shortenings are better than butter or margarine because they yield a tenderer product. Cold or ice water aids in producing flakiness.
Choice of Utensils
A food processor makes pie pastry in seconds, although purists say the crust is not as flaky as when made by hand. If doing it by hand, a pastry blender is an efficient tool for chopping in fat, but 2 knives will produce the same results. If the fingers are used, the heat from the hand softens the fat excessively and it is apt to be rubbed into the flour so thoroughly that the pastry is lacking in flakiness. Perhaps a fork is the best utensil for mixing as the water is added. Glass pie plates give a darker-colored crust than aluminum.
Amount of Water to Use
Fat particles coated with flour must be bound together with water, and for lightness there must be enough water present to form steam. The amount of water needed varies with the dryness of the flour. Use only enough water to dampen all the dough. Excess water toughens the crust and too little water makes it crumbly.
Rolling the Dough
Pat the dough all over with a rolling pin so the particles will stick together and roll without cracking. To prevent kneading and toughening the pastry, roll it from center out toward the edge. A cloth-covered and well-floured board and rolling pin prevent sticking.
Fitting the Dough in the Plate
For a well-shaped pie, fit the dough into the plate without stretching. When pressing it to the plate do so by working from the rim toward the center, lifting the pastry at the edge if necessary to give extra fullness inside the plate. To prevent bulging of pastry, press out all air spaces between dough and the plate.
To Prevent Soaking of the Bottom Crust
Brush the dough with lightly beaten egg white or with shortening before adding the filling. Bake on the lower rack of a hot oven at least 10 minutes; for the whole time if the filling permits.