Pies should be light, flaky and tender, and the bottom crust, in particular, should be well-baked. A pie made thus is a very different thing from the leathery sodden things that go by the name in so many families.
Use only good shortening for pies, and have it as cold and firm as possible. Have the water also cold, and stand in a cold place while mixing and rolling out the pastry. As to flour, some kinds will never make good pastry, though the very best for bread. It is well to buy what is known as pastry flour. It is not only better for pies, but cheaper than other kinds.
Directions for mixing pie crust are given in each receipt. Use only enough water to make it adhere, otherwise it will be tough. Use a knife to mix with, not the fingers. In rolling out, handle as little as possible (this is one secret of success) and be quick in your motions. Roll always from the centre toward the edges, and roll as little as possible - only just enough to make it smooth and evenly thin, after the shortening is all in. Experienced pastry-makers pass the rolling-pin only once over the paste, pressing carefully and evenly as they go. It makes pastry more crisp and flaky to be left for awhile in a very cold place when ready to roll out for the pie-plates, and have it cold when put in the oven.
Tin pie-plates are better than earthen ones. The pies bake better on the bottom. When done, they can be easily removed from the tin to a clean china plate before serving. Pie-plates need not be greased. Having rolled a part of the paste thin and evenly, and as nearly circular as possible, lay it over the plate, letting it drop gradually from one side, so that no air-bubbles will be left in. Press it down evenly, and if there are air-bubbles, prick with a fork. Take the plate on the palm of the left hand, and with a knife held aslant in the right, trim the edges, but not too close, as the entire edge of the pan must be left covered. (The scraps can be collected and rolled out afterwards for a rim to put around the edge of the upper crust.)
Fill with whatever you like, but not until you are ready to bake, for if the filling is at all moist, it will make the crust soggy. Wet the entire edge of the crust. Roll out the top crust, and with a knife cut slits in the centre in a pretty pattern. Lay this over the pie, trim the edges as before, and press it with a fork all around, so as to unite it with the bottom crust. Or, cut a long strip of paste, wet one edge, and roll it over, and lay the roll around the edge of the pie, having pressed the top and bottom crusts together with the finger-tips.
While baking, keep the heat as great at the bottom as at the top, but if you have any doubt about the bottom crust being well done, set the tin on top of the stove for a minute. When done the pie will shrink from the edge of the tin, and will not stick to the bottom when taken out.
No. 1. Allow one large cupful of flour to each pie.
When you have measured out flour for as many pies as you mean to make, weigh it. Then weigh an equal quantity of butter. Have it as cold as possible. Salt the flour slightly. Chop into it half the butter. When as fine as coarse sand, add ice-cold water, only just enough to hold the dough together. Put it on a bread-board, on which you have sprinkled flour. Roll out thin, handling and rolling as little as possible, and taking care to roll from the centre towards the edges, not back and forth. Lay on thin shavings of butter (using what you have reserved) in close rows all over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with flour. Roll up, and roll out again. Do this till all the butter is gone. It should be put on thick enough to be used up in three rollings. Roll out very evenly the last time, and put it on the pie. Bake in a quick oven, to make it puff up well.
A plainer crust may be used for the bottom of the pie.
No. 2. 1 pound flour. A little salt. 1 pound butter.
1/2 cupful ice-water.
Sprinkle the salt through the flour, then chop half the butter into it. Beat the yolk of the egg, and stir it into the water. Pour this into the flour, use a knife, and stir it only just enough to make the flour adhere. Put it on a floured bread-board, roll it out thin, and proceed as with "Puff Paste" No. 1.
After baking, wash over the top while hot with the white of the egg, beaten a little, to give it a glaze.
This is the best paste to use for Pates.