The secret to a good pie is a good crust. I firmly believe that a knockout pie crust can conceal many of the flaws of a less-than-stellar pie filling. For example, I once made a blueberry pie that was so runny it could be slurped rather than chewed. Lucky for me, the pie's crust was absolutely gorgeous. Served at Christmas dinner, this pastry actually brought tears to my father's eyes. (I am not making this up.) He was so proud that his own daughter had made what he claimed to be the best pie he had ever eaten (or slurped).
...but I digress. This recipe makes the hands-down best pie crust known to mankind. It's my grandmother's recipe, and it's perfect for these 3 reasons:
1. It's tasty! Not too salty, too greasy, too flaky or too bland. It also bakes up nicely -- it's pretty hard to burn it, unless you're totally inattentive.
2. It's a simple recipe. Easy to remember, hard to screw up.
3. It's durable!! Very useful for klutzes like me, who have to reroll the dough six or eight times to get it right. This dough, unlike so many others, never ever ever gets tough. Ahh. Pastry bliss.
And so, without further ado, I give you Grandma Geer's Definitive Pastry for a 2-Crust Pie!!
Sift the flour and salt together. If you lack a sifter, mixing well with a fork works o.k. too. In a separate container (a liquid measuring cup works well), pour the milk into the Mazola oil. DO NOT STIR IT. Pour the milk-and-oil mixture into the flour. Mix with a fork until it forms a ball. If the dough is wet and sticky, add a bit more flour. If it's dry and crumbly, add more oil.
That's it. There's your dough.
Now divide it into two parts, one (for the bottom crust) slightly bigger than the other (for the top). Roll out (I do it between two sheets of wax paper, which works well as long as you get the paper absolutely flat) 'til it's thin enough to be sort of translucent. It's not too hard to get it right, since this recipe, when rolled out to a good thickness, makes almost exactly the right amount of dough for a 9-inch, 2-crust pie. If the dough tears or wears thin while rolling, just take an extra piece of dough (you will have a little extra), slap it on top of the trouble spot, and roll smooth to repair the damage.
After you've rolled it out, peel off the top sheet of wax paper. The crust should sort of stick to the bottom sheet so that you can pick it up and invert it over the pie plate, leaving the crust perfectly positioned in the plate (or on top of the filling, if it's the top crust). An extra pair of hands is useful for this part, since it's a little tricky. I've ripped many a crust completely in half at this stage of the game and had to mush it up and start over. Which, as previously mentioned, can be done repeatedly. But it isn't much fun.
So now we get to the baking. I use this crust for fruit pies, most of which I bake for an hour at 400 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course). The crust does fine under these conditions. It's great if you take it out of the oven after a half hour, brush the top with a beaten egg, sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon, and pop it back in. It makes the crust shiny, brown, and sweet on top. Perfect.
I agree with anthropod: Yay for pie!