EASY AS PIE
DEAR MELBA: I need help. My cream pies have soggy crusts and my meringue weeps. What am I doing wrong?
Judy Ray, Stillwater
Whoever originated the cliche “easy as pie,” had probably never made one. When you first start making them, pies are not easy, but practice helps and eventually you wonder why you thought they were so difficult.
For the crust, use all-purpose flour and sift it with the salt. Cut the shortening into this mixture with a pastry blender to the consistency of cornmeal.
Make a well in the center and add water. Continue mixing with a pastry bender, then press together with fingertips to achieve a firm but not sticky dough.
Chilled dough is easier to work with and produces nicer crusts, so wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes before rolling it out.
Roll dough on a lightly floured board, then arrange it in the pan, pressing it into the pan firmly. Fold edges under and crimp or flute edges. Prick crust in several places with a fork. Or, you could line the crust with foil and fill with rice or dried beans. This keeps the crust flat while it bakes. Remove beans and foil about halfway through cooking to allow crust to become crisp and brown. Save the beans. They can be reused for this purpose later, too.
You must preheat the oven because the immediate heat “sets” the pastry in its correct shape.
Here is my favorite piecrust recipe.
3/4 cup vegetable shortening