The Magpie's Advice on making great pie crust
supplemental to pukesick's fine writeup above. (blatant ass-kissing)
I use the recipe out of The Joy of Cooking. Can't vouch for its vegan creds, but it is simple: 3 c. flour, 1 tsp. salt, 2/3 c. veg shortening and 5 tbsp water.
What makes pie crust flaky is the combination of oil (margarine/butter/veg oil/veg shortening) and water. That is to say, they don't mix and the dough separates, happily on a horizontal plane.
- Use good tools
- Rolling pin
I recommend a marble rolling pin. It is heavy, which means less physical effort is expended when rolling out the dough. You want to roll the dough, not stretch it. Let the weight of the pin do the work for you. Marble also stays cool, so it doesn't transfer heat to the dough, which can cause sticking. In hot weather try keeping your marble rolling pin in the fridge.
You can also get fancy hollow rolling pins that you fill with ice water.
- Pastry cloth
A pastry cloth not only helps keep your counter tops clean, it makes a nice low-stick surface for rolling your dough. A pastry cloth holds the extra flour so it stays where you want it - under your dough.
- Avoid over handling
Only mix your dough as much as necessary to get all the flour thoroughly moistened. Over handling will make the dough tough.
- Chill the dough
After you have split your dough into two lumps, tuck it into the refrigerator while you are mixing up your pie filling. Cover the dough so it doesn't dry out. This is very helpful in hot weather.
- Layer the crust
I use butter, but you can use the grease of your choice. Roll out the crust part way, then spread a layer of butter and fold over. Repeat. This is how puff pastry is made (sort of), but for pie crust I only do it a couple times before rolling out to final size.
- Handle with care
The last thing you want is for your carefully constructed crust to tear as you lift it into the pan. Fold your crust into quarters - it's much easier to handle. Unfold it inside the pan. If your top crust is solid (as opposed to lattice), cut the steam vents when it is folded. Makes nifty little "v" shapes on the top of your pie.
- Avoid burning
Edges of crust cook faster and can get burnt. You can prevent this and produce a more evenly baked crust by covering the edges with foil. You can even buy handy little aluminium edge covers. Remove the edge covers about half way through baking.
Now enjoy your pie!