Over the years, I have tried a variety of recipes, including the one on the side of the shortening box using an egg and a bit of vinegar. I've tried vegetable shortening, lard, butter, the whole kit n' caboodle (did I even type that correctly?).
I think my pastry turned out perfectly once. Just that once it was beautiful and pliable and didn't crack and rolled out with the greatest of ease. I have no idea what I did differently. I have used knives to cut the shortening into "pea size" pieces (which I have NEVER achieved) and I have used my mother's old pastry blender. I have even tried to "use my hands" like my mother told me to. I usually have to do a bit of patching after I get the pastry into the pie pan. Sometimes I roll it out onto a floured counter top. Sometimes I roll it between or on top of waxed paper. I think I even tried parchment paper once.
But then my life changed. I bought a full sized food processor (as opposed to the ridiculous small size one I was given as a wedding present). I researched how to make pastry in a food processor. This is how I do it (I got the recipe from thebakerchick, but I suspect there are similar ones out there).
2 cups flour
2 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes (I used salted, this would be the same as 1/2 a pound of butter for us Canadians who don't buy our butter in sticks)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Pulse the flour, salt and sugar together in the food processor. Add the butter and process until it seems a little chunky, little pieces, about 10 seconds. While the processor is running, slowly pour ice water through the tube until the dough holds together. After you take the dough out of the food processor, divide the dough into two equal sections and form them into thick discs and refrigerate for about an hour (or more). I wrapped them in waxed paper.
After an hour,
I put some waxed paper on the counter top and rolled out one of my discs of dough (Note the red wine which also helps with pastry making).
Hey! Look at that! It is almost big enough!! Only a couple of patches required around the edge!
Next I use a sharp knife to cut around the edge of the pie plate (see the spot where I will use some of the cut off dough to make a repair?)
Then I use both hands to pinch the dough between my fingers to create an edge that looks pretty, but also serves to hold the contents of the pie inside so they won't ooze out over the edge.
I used the second disc of dough to show another way to transfer the pastry into the pie plate. You gently fold it in half...
then fold it in half again (quarters!! see, you do need to learn fractions).
Then when you place it in the pie plate, put the folded corner in the middle and unfold.
One pastry became this apple pie. Oh my lord, it was sooo good!
The other became pumpkin (what else?) which was also very good.
If you are already a pastry wizard, then this post won't really apply to you, but there just might still be someone out there who could use a tip or two. Or at the very least, this will serve as a tutorial for my own kids should they ever want to make pastry. Far more helpful than "there's a feel to it."