This basic pie shell can be made with lard, butter, or margarine as well as with vegetable shortening. As all serious Southern cooks know, nothing produces a flakier pastry (or biscuit) than lard, and if the quality of the lard is good, it can give desserts a unique nutty flavor. Vegetable shortening also yields a flaky texture but lacks the distinctive flavor of lard. Butter and margarine are both richer in flavor than lard or shortening, but since they are only 80 percent fat, they have less shortening power than lard or vegetable shortening, and thus yield a heavier texture (especially butter, because of its milk solids). When I do use shortening, I use only Crisco.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt, then cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or two knives till the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mixing with a wooden spoon, gradually add enough of the water so that a ball of dough is formed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour (or up to 1 day). Grease a 9- or 10-inch pie plate and set aside.
Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out from the center with a lightly floured rolling pin to a ⅛-inch thickness. Carefully fold the pastry in half, lay the fold across the center of the prepared pie plate, unfold it, and press it loosely into the bottom and sides of the plate. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork, trim and crimp the edges, and place on a heavy baking sheet.
To partially bake the shell,
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