The ingredient list is simple enough: flour,
fat, salt and water. It's the handling of those ingredients that can
make a pie crust tough and chewy or tender, flaky and rich with flavor.
Don't be confused by terminology here. Pie pastry, pie dough, pie crust,
and pie shell are all the same thing. Pastry refers to the uncooked pie
dough. When it is formed and baked, it is called a pie crust (or shell).
To make a nicely browned pie crust, choose
either a medium-heavy aluminum pan with sloping sides and a dull finish
or a heatproof glass pie pan. Both will absorb heat and distribute it
quickly, helping to set the crust. Avoid highly polished metal pans,
which deflect rather than absorb heat. These pans bake more slowly and
can interfere with the setting of the crust.
To roll pie pastry easily, roll the dough
between 2 lightly floured sheets of waxed paper, parchment paper, or
plastic wrap. The paper or plastic helps prevent adding too much flour,
which can make for a tough pie crust. The paper also lets you move the
dough more easily to the pie pan with less chances of tearing it. Remove
the top sheet before moving the pastry.
When transferring rolled pastry to a pie
pan, gently fold the circle into fourths. Center the 90-degree corner of
the folded pastry in the pie pan. Unfold the pastry and gently fit it
into the pan bottom to press out air bubbles without stretching the
dough. You can also loosely roll the dough around the rolling pan, then
slowly unfurl the dough over the pie pan, centering the dough as much as
possible. Lift the dough gently by one edge to encourage it to conform
to the bottom edge of the pan. Once the dough is lining the pan snugly,
press across the bottom to make sure that there are no air bubbles
trapped under the surface.
Avoid stretching or pulling the pastry as
you lay it in the pie pan to prevent shrinking during baking. Pie pastry
has a memory: if you stretch it to fit into a pan, it will shrink back
to its original size and shape during baking.
When trimming pastry overhang, trim the
perimeter of the pastry to extend no more than 1" over the edge of the
pan. Fold this overhang under to make a thick pastry rim around the edge
of the pan. If making a single-crust pie, crimp the edge before filling
or storing. If making a double-crust pie, fill and roll out the top
curst in the same way as the bottom, positioning it over the filling.
Crimp the top and bottom crusts around their edges to seal.