I’ve been making fruit pie since I was a teenager, but before I found success in pastry baking, I had many hard-as-pan crusts. I’d overwork the dough, add more flour than I should, then drop in tablespoons of cold water when the consistency seemed too dry, and finally I ended up cutting and pasting pieces of dough into the pie dish to make it all work.
The Greeks are credited with the first pie crust. As it was, the pie crust of old was meant to be hard. The crust was used as a replacement for a pan, and wasn’t considered edible. The site whatscookingamerica.net describes thos early pie crusts this way, “The first pies, called "coffins" or "coffyns" (the word actually meant a basket or box), were savory meat pies with the crusts or pastry being tall, straight-sided with sealed-on floors and lids.” Of course, there is no worse compliment today than someone eating the filling of your pie and leaving the crust, like a vacant shell, on the plate.
When I married into the Wilde family, my mother-in-law, Kay, gave me her recipe for no-fail delicious, airy, American pie crust. She sat me down at her kitchen table one day, put an index card and a pen in front of me and rattled off the easy recipe. I’ve been using it, and getting rave reviews, ever since. Goodbye hard crust! Hello pastry chef!
Perfect Pie Crust
Makes: a single pie crust
1 cup flour
½ cup shortening, butter flavor
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cold water
In a bowl combine the flour, shortening and salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry dough blender until the mixture resembles small peas. Add water all at once. Mix together with hands. The dough will be sticky and marbled. Roll out the dough on a pastry board or smooth countertop using plenty of flour both under and on top of the dough. Once the desired radius has been achieved, fold the dough in half and transport to the pie dish. For recipes that require an unfilled pie crust (lemon meringue pie for example) pierce the dough and bake at 425 degrees for 8-11 minutes or until light brown; otherwise follow baking directions for a filled pie.
Note: The pie dough may also be stored in the freezer in zip seal bags for future use.
— Kay Wilde