When I was a little kid, my mother convinced me that I was better at making pies than she was. It’s been my job ever since. There are three things you need to do in order to make stellar pie dough. First, make sure you use cold butter and ice water. Second, lard! If you are not a vegetarian, this makes your pie dough as tender, flaky, and delicious as it can be. If you prefer not to use lard, you can use all butter. Finally, use your hands. They are the best tool for the job.
This recipe makes two crusts, a top and a bottom. If you are only making one pie with one crust, you can freeze the other half for future use.
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening (ideally 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup lard) To measure fats by volume, fill up a clear 2 cup measuring vessel with 1 cup water. Then press in spoonfuls of the fat and hold them underwater. Keep adding until the water level is at 1 cup plus your desired volume. Then drain out the water.
5 tbsp ice water (I fill a measuring cup with water and ice cubes and then dip out what I need)
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. In a smaller bowl, cut up the butter and mix with the lard so that each is dispersed evenly, but not enough to incorporate the two. Add half of the butter/lard mixture to the flour, and rub between your hands until it resembles the texture of cornmeal. Add the rest of the butter/lard and mix with your hands until the lumps of fat are about the size of peas. Then sprinkle ice water over it and form until it comes together into a ball.
Flour a flat surface liberally, and put the ball of dough there. Press and shape it into a 1/2 inch thick disk with your hands. If it crumbles, add a little more cold water. Then roll it out with a rolling pin until it is 1/8 inch thick.
Use a spatula to loosen the dough from the table, but do not lift it up. Place the rolling pin about 2/3 of the way along the dough, and the pie pan just beyond the dough’s edge. Use the spatula to flip 1/3 of the dough over the rolling pin, and then roll it a little so the dough is hanging on the pin. Slide it over the pie pan and unroll. Trim the edges of the pie and crimp the rim. You are now ready to fill it!
The dough scraps make excellent cookies. Simply cut them up into similar sized pieces and sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for five minutes. Eat them hot and get a preview of how yummy your pie crust will be!