NOTE: The Big Debates.
Big Debate #1: Butter or Shortening
Some people swear by butter and American's Test Kitchen uses both butter and shortening. Sarabeth Levine swears by butter for the flavor over a flaky crust.
Many swear by shortening, including my sister-in-law Heather, who won a national pie baking contest for best crust. I have used her recipe because I know I like it. Someday I will have to venture in into the butter crust world. (I am sure my sister-in-law Heather, would frown on a no-name brand like this. She would recommend Crisco).
Big Debate #2: More or less water.
Less water means a flakier crust, but is so hard to work with that I want to poke my eyes out. Sometimes I cheat and add extra water, when I don't feel like doing the work. My sister-in-law Jessica "gave up long ago" on using small amounts of water when making pie crusts. She said it was no longer worth it to her. You get to decide.
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup chilled shortening
6 tablespoons cold water (at least 9 tablespoons if you want to do it the easy way.)
TIP: When measuring flour, do NOT just scoop. Sprinkle it from another measuring cup into the one you are using to measure (like you see McCann doing here). For years, my recipes would turn out wrong, until I met my wife and she set me straight. Now I get perfect results. OK! Let's get started.
Large mixing bowl
2 cup liquid measuring cup
Metal spatula (pancake turner)
Mix dry ingredients together.
Using a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, add 1 cup of water.
Scoop in your shortening until the water level goes up to 2 cups.
Make sure the shortening is below the water level for accurate measuring.
Drain the water.
TIP: Make your life easy by NOT using a pastry blender like this flimsy wire one.
Use a sturdy one, like this one I bought at Williams-Sonoma for only $10 bucks. Worth every penny 1000 times over. And please, you can afford $10.
Using a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the flour mixture.
It will look like this when you are done.
Now sprinkle the cold water over top. I know it's hard to see that in this photo. Just trust me and do it.
Using a fork, work the water into the mixture. Not too much though.
Now form the mixture into a ball like this, cover your bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 2o minutes. My sister-in-law Heather, would remove the ball from the bowl and wrap it directly in plastic wrap. I am not willing to take the risk. I want the cold of the fridge to make my dough ball more manageable before I touch it. Heather, my wife, Fauneil and their other sisters are much better at this than me.
When you are ready to pull the dough out of the fridge, flour your working surface like this.
Place ball of dough on top and flatten it with your hands until the dough is about one inch thick.
Sprinkle flour on top and then roll flat with a rolling pin. It will look like this.
Now this is the part that will want to make you kill people. Remember to use more water if you have urges to stab the person next to you. Using a spatula to loosen the dough from the working surface, slowly wrap the dough around the rolling pin.
Now carefully slide the pie plate under the rolling pin, like so.
It will look like this.
4 cups cherries, pitted (or frozen)
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
5 pats of butter (to dot)
Cook your cherries in a small pot, until they lose most of their juice. Drain. Throw all your filling ingredients in a bowl, like shown here.
Mix it all together.
Put in your pie shell. Top with pats of butter.
Pull pie dough over top, leaving a hole in the center, like so.
Bake at 350 for an hour to an hour and 10 minute (until crust is golden brown).