Best Ever Pie Crust.

Flaky, crispy, easy?  Yes easy!  The secret is COLD ingredients, and minimal manipulation of the dough.  This crust uses a food processor, so it goes together lickety-split, and with a few special modifications, it is truly one of the best crusts I have ever had.  The trick here, is work as quick as possible, keep it all as cold as possible, and try not to manipulate the dough more than needed.  Following is instructions to make fresh pumpkin pie filling.  

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2 10 inch crusts (probably a little more, I like my crust thicker.)

3 c flour (chilled in freezer for an hour before if possible)
2 Tablespoons Sugar (white)
3/4 cup butter, cubed and frozen.  
1/2 c lard, or shortening,
1/2 tea of baking powder
1 tea salt (IF you use unsalted butter)
1/2 - 1 cup ice cold 7 up, club soda or other clear soda chilled. (Squirt works particularly nice too)
(Hint : you may also exclude the butter, and just use 1 1/4 cup lard, with excellent results.  You can also use 1 1/4c shortening, but the flavor will be sacrificed, I really prefer plain old lard, and it isn't  any worse for you than plain shortening.

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For the Food Processor:
Put your flour, sugar, and baking powder in the food processor.  Pulse the processor five or six times to mix well.  Now add the rest of the stuff, except the soda.  Pulse again, cutting the fat in until it has the texture of crumbs, some of which are still bigger, like the size of peas.  This can be hard with the food processor, don't worry if the crumbs are all smaller.

By Hand:
When I am not in a rush, I prefer to make my crust by hand, begin by sifting all the dry ingredients twice into a bowl.  Now add the cubed lard/butter and cut it in by hand using a pastry cutter, or two knives held together in a pinch.  Stop when the biggest pieces are pea sized, and the whole mixture resembles dry crumbs.

Now divide your mixture into two bowls.  For two crust pie, put a little more in one for the bottom crust, for one crust pies, divide them equally.  You can also just place some on some plastic wrap.

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Pour some soda on ice, and using a 1/4 c ,measuring cup, drizzle it over the mixture, while "fluffing" it with a fork.  No kidding.  Fluff it.  Do not stir, squish or in any way manipulate the mixture, just keep fluffing and drizzling until it makes a dough like balls and clumps. 

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If you squish a ball, the thin sheet should bend without cracking.  This shows you that you have enough liquid added.  Set this out on a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper.  Now you will see a bunch of dry crumbs in the bottom of the bowl, drizzle and fluff them, then add that to the other ball on the plastic wrap.  Wrap this ball, flattening it into a disk that is round or rectangular depending on the shape of your pastry you want to make. Make some indentations on the surface, and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, and fix the other ball in the same way.

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Now, after chilling for 30 min or more, they are ready to roll it out.  Put some flour down, sprinkled liberally, I like to roll out on my cutting board, it is a large one, of the white plastic variety, and is wonderfully non sticky.

Try and use uniform passes as you roll, and change the direction to keep your pastry round.  So, go north-south, then east-west, then north-east.south-west and so forth.  Be sure and stop and kind of repair the edges with your fingers as cracks form, and you will have a nice looking crust in the end.  

Now to move your crust to the pan, take your rolling pin, and beginning on one end, roll the crust around the pin, then unroll it onto the pan.  Easy!  Shape it to the pan, then I like to trim one crust pies, about 1/2 an inch from the upper edge of the pan, so that it hangs down just a bit.  I then fold this back UNDER the edge so that the crease is next to the pan, then press it all down a bit, and flute the edge.  It just makes a very neat and tidy edge, and it also makes it a bit thicker which helps keep it from crumbling later.  You can stick these into the fridge if you want until the filling is ready.

For two crust pies, I trim level with the outside edge of the rim, after you add the filling, and top crust.  Then you press the two crusts together, trim the excess and flute the edge.

For any kind of pie, it is beneficial to mix one egg white, and 2 tablespoons water together, and brush the bottom crust well.  This will keep it crisp and nice, avoiding soggyness.  All fruit pies, pumpkin pie and even cream pies will benefit from this.  I do this to all my crusts...

Take all the trimmings, and lay them out on a cookie sheet.  Brush them with milk, or your eggwhite mix and sprinkle with white sugar and cinnamon.  Bake these (about 10 - 12 minutes @ 350) to munch on while waiting for the pie!  These are family favorites, and are much fought over.  Be sure and don't reshape or play with them much, as this will make the final product tough and less flaky.

Fresh Pumpkin Pie Filling.
(2 deep dish pies worth.)  Folks it really makes a BIG difference...
Two small to medium pumpkins, look for pie pumpkins, these are small, usually only 8 - 10 inches in diameter.  They tend to have a darker orange skin, and a sweeter, smoother flesh.  Wash the outside, and clean the pumpkins, by halving and scooping out all the seeds and gooky stuff.  Cut the rest into slices several inches thick, such as how one cuts cantaloupe.  

Place these slices in a big pan of boiling water/ or on a steamer insert.  You can also use a vegatable steamer.  Put a small amount of water in a second pan, and set it nearby. If you have a very large pan, you can just halve the pumpkins, and steam them that way.  Then you can scrape the goodies out with a large spoon or ice cream scoop.

When your pumpkin slices begin to look translucent next to the skin, take them out and give them a nice cool bath.  Once they cool a bit, you can just peel the skin off with a knife.  Now chop the flesh and put it into the second pot.  I find that one batch cooks, while one cools, while one gets cleaned and so on.  This process will take about an hour to an hour and a half, but the results are worth the effort I think.  Plus if you grow pumpkins or buy several, you can freeze the extra pumpkin puree for later.

If you steam them whole, then wait for them to cook completely, cool with cold water, then scoop out the insides and puree.

Once all your pumpkin has been steamed and it is all nice and squishy, drain off most of the water and puree enough to make 4 cups of pumpkin puree.  It can also be mashed up well with a potato masher, then beaten with a mixer.  Any pumpkin cubes left, can be enjoyed topped with butter, and a little salt...mmmm it's so good.  It's also good with butter and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

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Now we combine, in a bowl,
4 cups pumpkin puree,
2 cans evaporated milk, or 24 ounces of cream or best of all fresh goats milk.
6 eggs
1 cup brown sugar, don't use white, it isn't nearly as good!
1 Tablespoon of molasses.
1 1/4 tea cloves
1 1/2tea cinnamon
2  tea ginger
1  tea allspice

Finally I know you may boo me, but I 6 drops of yellow food color, and three red, because the stuff looks like barf as it is.  As an aside, the kids got all up in arms, because I was using "wool dye" in our food, ahem.

Mix all this well with the mixer, and pour into prepared shells.  Bake at 425 for 15 min then reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 55 to  nnn  70 minutes( or even more) or until a knife inserted comes out clean.  It is pretty hard to over cook the pie, but an undercooked one will have excess liquid, so be sure to give it plenty of time to bake.