This section is from the book "The American Woman's Cook Book", by Ruth Berolzheimer. Also available from Amazon: The Domestic Arts Edition of the American Woman's Cook Book.
Mixing - Pie crust should be handled as little as possible. Sift together the flour and salt (and baking powder, if used); work in the shortening according to the directions for the different kinds of crust, and add the water gradually, always pouring it upon dry flour and working the mixture only enough to obtain a paste that will cling together in a mass and leave the sides of the bowl clean.
Amount of Water - This cannot be given definitely, because it will vary with the dryness of the flour and the amount of shortening used. If much shortening is used, less water is needed, because fat is liquid at oven temperature and so is counted as liquid. The paste should be soft enough to roll out smoothly without breaking at the edges. Use cold water, preferably ice-cold, if you wish a flaky pastry.
Chilling - If the paste is chilled before it is rolled, it will be easier to handle and lighter when baked. Allowing a short interval between mixing and rolling the paste permits a more complete absorption of water, and this too contributes to ease in handling the paste.
Thickening a Paste That is too Soft - If the paste is made too soft to roll, it can be thickened by working into it a combination of flour and shortening in the proportion of one tablespoon of shortening to four tablespoons of flour. This keeps the proportions of shortening, flour and water correct and a good result will be obtained. If flour only is added, the paste will be tough and hard.
Rolling - Sprinkle flour over the mixing board and rolling pin and rub it into the wood as much as possible. Sometimes a stiff, closely woven cloth is used as a cover for the board and rolling pin and flour is rubbed into it. The mesh of the cloth holds more flour and gives it up more slowly than the bare wood, thus making it possible to handle a softer dough upon the cloth than upon the board.
Place the paste upon the floured board and toss it quickly over and over to coat the surface with dry flour. Pat into a round, flat shape, and roll out with light, quick motions of the rolling pin. Heavy pressure makes the paste stick to the board and breaks the surface, which should be kept smooth. When the rolling pin comes to the edge of the paste, it should roll off into space, not on to the board. The edges of the paste should not be pinched, but should be of the same thickness as all other parts.
In making a pie crust, keep the paste in circular form. An expert pastry maker can roll the paste so that it will exactly fit the pie tin without need of trimming. The under crust should be thick enough to support the filling when the pie is baked; that is, between one-eighth and one-quarter inch thick.
The Lower Crust - When the paste is the right size, place the rolling pin across it, fold one-half of the paste over the pin, lift the paste over the pan and carefully shift it into position. Or, fold the paste double and lift it on to the pan with your hands. Fit it carefully down into the curve, being careful not to enclose air. If there is too much paste around the edge, trim off the excess with a knife or by pressing against the edge with your hands. If only one crust is to be used, crimp the rim with a pie crust crimper, with the ends of a fork, with the side of the thumb, or with thumb and finger. If you desire a deeper pie than the pan provides, make the edge stand upright by fluting it or make a double rim by adding another piece of paste cut to fit the rim.
To Prevent Soaking - Various methods of preventing sogginess of the under crust of juicy pies are coating the surface with egg-white, dusting with dry flour and partly baking the crust before putting in the filling.
The Upper Crust - If an upper crust is necessary, roll it as directed for the under crust, but make it thinner and smaller. Score a design on it. It is not necessary to cut the design clear through, as the lines will break sufficiently in baking to allow the steam to escape and thus prevent puffing of the upper crust. After the filling is put in, moisten the rim of the under crust with cold water and lift the upper crust into place. Press the crusts carefully together around the rim, trim off any excess, and, if you wish, mark the rim as suggested for under crusts.
To Prevent Escape of Juices - If the filling is very juicy, it is wise to bind the edge of the pie with an inch-wide strip of muslin dipped into water or vegetable tape, used as directed. A little flour paste will hold ends together. Remove the strip after the pie is baked. Or, cut the upper crust one-half inch larger in diameter than necessary, and turn the excess under the edge of the under crust, previously moistened. Press the crusts together and mark them as you wish.
Pie and Tart Shells - Crusts baked before filling are done over the bottom of an inverted pan, between pans, or filled to 1/4 their depth with dry beans or rice. When inverted the dough should be pricked to allow air bubbles to escape.