Preparation / Directions:
Another way to be creative with your top crust, either solid or latticed, is to use some of the dough scraps to decorate it. Cut them into leaves, flowers, or something that is symbolic of what is in the pie or the occasion the pie is for. Stick these on with a bit of water, or egg beaten with a bit of water. You can always bake a pie as is, but in some instances a wash or glaze makes it more attractive Plain milk or cream will make a browner, shiny crust. An egg, white or yolk or both, beaten with 1 or 2 teaspoons of water will intensify the color and create a gloss; the egg white wash will be clear, the whole egg or egg yolk was will be bronze. If you have added pastry scrap decorations, an extra coating of wash will make them darker and more visible. A sprinkle of sugar over an egg wash adds texture and makes the crust browner. If, while a pie is baking you find that the edge of the crust is browning too much and too fast, make a shield for it out of tin foil or turn down the heat. A "Blind" Crust: This crust is used for fillings that are not baked, or are baked for only a short time. Fit a piece of aluminum foil on the inside surface of a single crust shell and fill it with something that will mimic a filling. This helps the crust keep it's shape while baking. You can use anything from dried beans to small stones (washed free of grit) or special aluminum pellets that are specially made for this purpose. (Keep this "blind" filling in a jar to use again.) Fifteen minutes before you want to bake the crust, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. If the bottom begins to bubble up, give it a jab with a fork to make it go back where it belongs. Let it cool thoroughly before filling. Single and Double Crusts for Filled Pies: You will find baking directions for these with recipes. Freezing Pie Crusts: Pie shells can be frozen both unbaked and baked. If you freeze your pie shells unbaked, freeze them right in a pie plate. After they are solid, remove, stack and seal them in an airtight plastic bag. If you are going to bake a frozen crust blind (unfilled), bake it in a preheated 425 degree F oven right after it comes out of the freezer for about 15 minutes. If you're going to fill it, allow the shell to thaw first. Baked crusts can also be frozen the same way unbaked crusts are, in the pan, and then removed to an airtight plastic bag. Frozen pie crusts are great to have on hand, lots of hour of frozen labor.
*When you blend shortening into flour to make pie dough, you want to break it into lots of medium-sized pieces which become coated with flour in the process. By doing this in two steps, incorporationg half the shortening at a time, you will create a dough with multiple pieces or pockets of shortening. When you roll this mixture out with a rolling pin, you flatten out all those little pieces of shortening which will bake into layers, or "flakes" hence the name of the crust.
*All of this may sound simple enough, but it's at this point you may wonder why what you're doing just doesn't look the way the directions say it should. Just come as close as you can without overdoing it and don't expect a miracle on your first try. You've heard it before and it really is true; something miraculous really does take lots of practice. And you really will get better and better.
*The simplest way to roll out your dough is on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin. (Give your rolling pin an occasional rubdown with a good-quality vegetable oil. It is not only good for the wood, but it will help prevent it from sticking to the dough.) Or roll your dough between two sheets of floured waxed paper, which gives you a bit more control and makes it easier to get the crust into a pie plate. If you want to get a bit more "high-tech," you can buy a pastry cloth and sleeve for your rolling pin at most hardware stores. They are not critical to making a good pie crust, but they eliminate sticking and make it easier to get the dough into a pie plate.
*A pastry brush does a fairly good job of painting on a wash but if you can get a hold of one, a goose feather brush, available at many kitchen supply stores, does the best job. It spreads the wash evenly, doesn't exert any pressure on the dough and can be easily rinsed out and used many times. It's also reassuring to use something so primitive and know that modern technology can't improve on it.
*Freezing expands and contracts the water in a pie crust, breaking down it's structure. Those which freeze most successfully are made with a larger amount of fat which remains mo