First, the mise, simple enough:
4 cups AP flour
2 tsp salt
3/4 cup Crisco, frozen at least overnight
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, frozen
1/2 cup ice water
Equipment: Metal bowl, placed in freezer or fridge before use. Food processor or box grater, spatula, clean kitchen-safe spray bottle, stiff whisk, and our secret weapon for reducing the mess: a Zipper Pie Crust Form.
The trick to a flaky piecrust is to keep the fat as solid as possible until it hits the oven. We accomplish this in two ways: everything is kept as cold as possible, and the fats are grated so we get uniform distribution of fat to flour quickly. Piecrust, though it has many of the same ingredients as bread, showcases the starches in flour: a good piecrust has as little gluten development as possible.
So, first, put the shredding disc in your food processor. Grate your frozen butter and Crisco (we use sticks, they fit in the chute fine if cut in half) by turns, butter following Crisco since it's harder.
When it seems like the dough holds together loosely if you squish it into a ball, put the remaining water in a spray bottle; you can use this to lightly hydrate areas that need it without mixing your dough too much.
Place one quarter of the dough in the center of your well-floured pie form.
Zip up your pie form, and roll the ball out from the center, pushing hard so it fills the form all the way to the zipper.
Repeat with other 4 quarters. At this point, you can wrap each piecrust well in plastic wrap, fold it gently in quarters, and freeze until you need it. Be sure to thaw before you open it up, or it will crack.
Read more in Part II.