How to make a tender, flaky piecrust?

The best piecrust results from accurate measuring, chilled ingredients, light handling of the dough, and minimal stretching when rolling it out.

For a two-crust pie, sift into a bowl 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using a pastry blender or two table knives (move the knives parallel to each other but in opposite directions), cut in 2/3 cup chilled vegetable shortening until you have coarse, uneven crumbs.

Sprinkle ¼ cup ice water evenly over the mixture. Mix the dough lightly with a fork or knife until it forms large lumps. When the flour appears damp, shape the dough into a ball with your hands and break it open; if it crumbles, add a few drops more water. Reshape into a ball.

Place the dough on a lightly floured marble slab, wooden board. or pastry cloth. Divide it into two balls. one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger ball with a lightly floured or stockinette-covered rolling pin, working from the center out, not back and forth. Rotate the dough with each roll to get a uniform circle and to prevent sticking. If it tears, pinch it together.

When the dough is 1/8 inch thick and 2 inches larger than the pan, fold it over the rolling pin and lift it into the pan. Press it in place without stretching it. Patch cracks by dampening them and pressing on bits of pastry.

Roll out the top crust 1 inch larger than the pan. Fill the bottom crust. Roll the top crust over the rolling pin and unroll it onto the top of the pie. With scissors or a knife. trim excess dough to 3/4 inch. Press the dough around the edge of the pan with a fork; trim the excess. Or roll the edge up and crimp it, as shown. Prick the top with a fork in several places, or cut vents, so that steam can escape during baking. For a glazed finish, brush the crust with milk or egg white.

Bake a filled pie in the center of the oven. Pies in glass or ceramic pans should be baked at 25°F lower than the recipe calls for. If the edge of a pie-crust is browning too quickly, cover it with a strip of foil.

Before baking an unfilled pie shell, prick it with a fork. You can also line the dough with buttered aluminum foil and weight it with a layer of pebbles or uncooked rice or beans. Bake the shell in a preheated oven at 425°F for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the weights and brush the bottom with egg white or milk; return it to the oven for 7 to 10 minutes.