Making the crust was the most intimidating part of pie-making for me in the beginning—visions of my grandmother’s perfectly scalloped crust edges haunted me to distraction. If this is the case with you, my best advice is to give yourself permission to create not-so-pretty crust. It will taste just as good as spectacular-looking crusts, and in many cases will be covered by filling anyway. Let go of your perfectionist side and dive in.
One of the joys of pie-making is not having to measure anything. Once you make a few pies, memorize the recipe and measure the ingredients with your eyes. It doesn’t have to be exact to come out well, and you may surprise yourself by improving the recipe by alteration. But until you reach that point, here is a workable recipe for a single crust (for pies with no crust on top):
1 1/3 C flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 C shortening
3 Tbsp. cold water
Mix the flour and salt. Then cut in small chunks of the shortening and work it in with your hands until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Then add the cold water, which will allow you to roll the crust into a ball (it will be a bit sticky).
Next, cover a sheet of aluminum foil or wax paper with a thin layer of flour and put your ball of crust in the center. Flatten it as much as possible with your hands, and then rub flour on your rolling pin and roll it the rest of the way. If some of the dough sticks to your rolling pin, add more flour and continue rolling. The depth and size of your pie plate will determine how thin you need to roll it.
Now for the tricky part: transferring your rolled-out dough to the pie plate. The easiest way I have found is to spread a thin layer of flour on the top of the dough, then take the edges of your aluminum foil or wax paper and use that to fold the dough in half. Then transfer the folded dough into your pie plate (good luck!) and then unfold it.
If your dough breaks or crumbles in this process, or looks a bit like it’s been through a shredder, do not pull your hair out, curse the wretched hobby of pie-making, and send nearby family members running for cover. Remember what I said about embracing less-than-perfect crusts? Simply smoosh the dough back together, pressing it evenly and firmly to the bottom of the pie plate and all the way up the sides as well.
Poke a few holes in the bottom with a fork to prevent air bubbles, and pop it in the oven at 425 degrees. Bake it until the edges turn slightly brown (you may want to cook it a bit less if you will be cooking your pie filling in it afterwards as well). Enjoy!