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Basic All-American Pie Dough

For a 9-inch Pie Shell:
1 1/2 cupsall-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoonsalt
1/2 cupvegetable shortening
3 to 4 tablespoonscold water
For a 9-inch two crust pie:
3 cupsall-purpose flour
1 teaspoonsalt
1 cupvegetable shortening
7 to 8 tablespoonscold water
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Basic All-American Pie Dough - Equipment List

Pie Pans

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Basic All-American Pie Dough - Instructions

Your hands are the best tools for making it, so I urge you to plunge them right into
the flour and shortening and forge ahead. You will become familiar with the feel of
the dough right away, and be surprised how quick and easy it is. When friends taste
your pies, they will want you to show them how you did it.

Blending the Flour and Shortening
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl-large enough to hold the ingredients, with room
for your hands, and stir them together with your fingers. Drop in the shortening, then
with your fingers break it in to several pieces as you push it around the flour.

Now put both hands in the bowl with the flour and shortening, and rub the fingers of
each hand against the thumbs, lightly blending the shortening and flour together into
smaller lumps and flake-shaped pieces. Your goal is to rub the shortening into the

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flour while keeping the mixture light-textured and dry.

Work as quickly and comfortably as you can, lifting your hands often and letting the
mixture fall back into the bowl. You know when you have blended enough when you do not
see any lumps of shortening and you have a mixture of particles the size of coarse and
fine bread crumbs.

Adding the Water
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water over the dough and stir briskly with a fork. Continue
adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring after each addition and concentration
the areas of the dough that seem the driest. When the dough forms a rough, cohesive
mass, reach into the bowl and press the dough together into a roundish ball. If it
does not hold together, or if parts of it seem crumbly and dry, sprinkle on a little
more water.

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The amount of water can vary slightly from time to time, depending on your
ingredients. If you are in doubt, it is better to add a little too much than not
enough, because a dough that is too dry can be difficult to roll out.

Rolling Out the Dough
Have a handful of additional flour nearby in a small cup, for flouring your hands and
the rolling surfaces. Rub some flour on your hands and pat the dough in to a smooth
cake about 1 inch thick and 3 to 4 inches across. (If you are making a two-crust pie,
pat it into 2 cakes, one slightly larger than the other.)

Sprinkle your rolling surface lightly with flour, spreading the flour to cover an area
about 12 inches in diameter. Put the dough in the center, using the larger pieces if
it is a two-crust pie, and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Flatten the dough a little

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with your hands, then begin rolling it into a circle. Do most of the rolling from the
center out to the edges of the dough, lifting and turning slightly every 5 or 6 rolls
to help keep it round.

If it sticks on the bottom, slide a long metal spatula underneath to loosen it,
tossing some more flour under the dough as you lift it gently with the spatula. If the
top of the dough is damp and sticky, dust it with additional flour as well. Do not be
afraid to touch the dough and to use enough flour to keep it from sticking; it is
really quite durable. If it tears, simply push it back together.

Although the edges will probably look uneven, keep the shape as round as possible
without agonizing over it. When you have a circle 11 to 12 inches across and about 2
inches larger than the top of your pie pan, you have rolled enough.

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Putting the Dough in the Pie Pan
If you are confident, you can probably just pick up the whole circle of dough and set
it in the pie pan. Otherwise, try this: Roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, like a
carpet. Then put the edge of the dough at the edge of the pan and unroll it, letting
it drop into the pan. If it is not relatively centered, slide it gently so it is. If
it tears, push it back together. Pat the dough snugly into the pan, starting around
the edges and easing toward the center.

You should have 1/2 to 1 inch of overhanging dough all around the pan. In places where
there is more than an inch, cut it off with scissors or a sharp knife. In spots where
there is less, brush the edge lightly with water and press one of the scraps of
trimmed dough onto it.

If you are making a two-crust fruit pie, roll out the second piece of dough just as

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you did the first. Transfer it, either by lifting it or rolling it onto the rolling
pin, to a sheet of waxed paper, and set it aside. Then follow the instructions given
later, for a two-crust pie.

Cream, custard, and chiffon pies have only a bottom crust, called a pie shell.
Depending on the recipe, the shell is filled either unbaked or fully baked.

For an Unbaked Pie Shell
Fold the overhanging dough over itself and pinch it together to make a double-thick,
upstanding rim all around. Pinch the rim to make a scalloped edge-this is called
fluting or crimping, and the more you do it, the easier it will become and the better
you will be at it. Fill the shell and bake as directed in the recipe.

For a Fully Baked Pie Shell

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Preheat the oven to 425 F. Fold and flute the rim as directed in the instructions for
an unbaked pie shell, and then prick the dough all over the bottom and sides with a
table fork. This should be a rapid motion, and I usually prick it 100 to 120 times.
These tiny holes keep the dough from puffing up in the oven, and it is better to have
too many than too few.

So the dough will hold its shape, press a 12-inch square of heavy-duty foil (or a
double-thick square of regular foil) snugly into the pie shell, over the bottom and
sides of the dough. Bake for about 8 minutes, until the edges of the dough are
beginning to look dry but not browned. If they still look wet, bake the shell a couple
minutes longer. Remove the foil and bake for 6 to 10 minutes more.

Check a few minutes after you remove the foil, and if the dough is puffed in the
center, prick it with a fork and it will deflate. The pie shell is done when the dough

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is light brown and looks dry all over. It is fragile now but will become crisp as it
cools. It does not matter if it has shrunk a tiny bit. Set the baked pie shell aside
to cook completely, and then fill it as directed in the recipe.

For a Two-Crust Pie
Put the filling into the dough-lined pan as directed in the recipe. Using your finger,
a small brush, or a wet paper towel, brush the rim of the dough generously with water.
Transfer the rolled-out top crust from the waxed paper-either lift if gently or roll
it onto the rolling pin-and place it over the filled pie. Press firmly all around to
seal the top and bottom crusts together. Trim the edges, using a sharp knife or
scissors, so you have about half an inch of overhang.

Fold the overhang under itself to make a thick, upstanding rim. Flute the rim as
directed in the instructions for an unbaked pie shell. With the point of a sharp

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knife, cut 10 to 12 slits, or vents, in the top crust, so steam can evaporate as the
pie bakes. Be as random as you want with the vents, making about half of them around
the edge and the rest around the center.

Two-crust fruit pies are usually baked at a high temperature for the first 15 to 20
minutes, to help brown the crust and begin cooking the filling, and then the oven is
turned to a lower temperature for the remainder of the baking.

Fruit pies with juicy fillings sometimes boil over in the oven. To keep your oven
clean, and to prevent a smoky kitchen, place a large sheet of heavy-duty foil on the
rack under the pie to catch drips. It might not be needed, but if it is you will be
glad its there.

It is okay to open the oven and check your pie a few times during baking. If you see

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the edges of the crust becoming too brown, remove the pie from the oven. Gently cover
the edges with 2-inch strips of foil, bending them to fit the pie, and then return to
the oven.

John Phillip Carroll, pie pie pie (Chronicle Books, 2005).

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