Pie crust dough is made by cutting shortening into lightly salted flour, adding water and forming the dough into balls. (See Back to Basics, Aug 17.) it can then be rolled out immediately or chilled up to two days before rolling.
Some cooks claim that even half an hour's chilling tenderizes the dough, making it easier to handle, and helps minimize shrinkage during baking; others believe that chilling makes little difference. In any case, dough that has been chilled for an extended period should be removed from the refrigerator about an hour before being shaped so that it reaches room temperature.
We recommend putting the dough on a smooth surface covered with a pastry cloth and rolling it out with a revolving pin in a stockinette (or stocking) cover. However, other types of rolling pins and plain surfaces, like a board or marble slab or Formica countertop may be used. Working quickly in a cool area will help keep the pastry dough tender and flaky.
Flour the work surface and the rolling pin, rubbing flour well into both. Use enough to keep the pastry from sticking, but be careful not to apply so much that it gets incorporated into the dough, or the pastry will become tough.
Try to keep the pastry round, without any ragged edges. Repair breaks in the edge by pressing the dough together with your fingertips. Lift and rotate the dough periodically to keep it from sticking to the surface.
The goal is to roll the pastry into a circle about 1/8 inch thick and 2 inches larger in diameter than the inverted pie plate it will fill. One sign that the dough has been rolled thin enough is that only a slight imprint will remain when it is touched lightly with a finger.
While gently easing the rolled pastry into the pie pan, be careful not to stretch the dough, because it will shrink during baking.
Once the pastry is in the pie plate, press it all over with your fingers to remove air pockets. Any tears in the trimmed edge may be repaired by pressing the dough together with your fingertips or patching with the trimmings.