Speaking professionally, the key is good flour and lard. Of course these days few people use lard, they mostly use vegetable shortening, but for flavor and texture lard can’t be beat. I use shortening at work of course. The first recipe is the one I make at work, scaled down. I work in weights, not measures, so I have included both measurings, but if you don’t get quite what you want you can adjust things. The second recipe is not my own but is from a book titled Heartland Baking-From the Jerre Anne Cafeteria, by Charla Lawhon. The Jerre Anne is in St. Joseph, Missouri. I’ve not been there but their pie recipes are the wonderful, and I heartily endorse the book.
175 grams flour(6.1 oz.)(1 cup plus 3-1/2 tablespoons)
130 grams cold vegetable shortening(4.6 oz.)(9 tablespoons)
2 grams salt(slightly over 1/4 teaspoon)
70 milliliters ice water(2.3 ounces)(1/4 cup plus two teaspoons)
Have the mixing bowl cool if you can. Mix salt and flour and add shortening. Working quickly with you fingertips rub the flour and shortening together until it resembles small flakes. There should be no big chunks of shortening. Pour ice water all at once over this mix and work the water in quickly, again with your fingers and not your whole hands(that would warm the mix, and the trick is keeping it cool). When all flour has been absorbed shape crust into a ball. Don’t overwork the crust mix. Wrap the dough and chill it while you prepare the pie ingredients. Then take slightly more than half of it and roll out on a floured surface. Place the crust into the pie tin, trim excess from edges, add pie filling, and, in the case of a two crust pie, cover it with the rest of the crust which has been rolled out. Some bakers moisten the edges of the lower crust, to make the upper crust seal better, and then trim the excess. I use a tope crust that extends just a little beyond the edges of the pie tin, then tuck the extra under the edge of the bottom crust, pinching it all around the edge to seal. Bush the top of the crust with beaten egg and, in the case of fruit pies, sprinkle it with a little sugar. Use a small knife to make 6 or 8 vents in the top crust. Bake as filling recipe directs, or until crust is a rich golden brown.
Jerre Anne crust
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons lard
1/4 cup ice water
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl and mix well. Add the shortening and lard to the dry ingredients and mix with a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingers until crumbly. The mixture should resemble fine grain.
Sprinkle the dough with the ice water and toss lightly, only until all the pieces are dampened and hold together to form a ball. Never overmix or overhandle. (At this point, the dough can be held in the refrigerator for several days: Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill. When you’re ready to make a pie, unwrap the dough and allow it to come to room temperature, about 2 hours.)
At this point the directions go on as to rolling out the crust, and those are more or less the same as mine or any other set of rolling directions.
The richness of a pie dough depends on the proportion of fat to flour, the more fat the richer it is. An all lard crust, while not doing much for your heart, is arguably the tastiest. My ancient Betty Crocker cookbook had this: 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cup lard(or 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening, 1/4 cup water). You might want to try that too.
The key is keeping the mix from getting too warm, and not overmixing the crust mix.
Save us a piece of pie!