Everyone agrees that the foundation of a great pie is a tender, flaky crust. Although it's a task that eludes or intimidates many home cooks, you can achieve a foolproof, crowd-pleasing crust for every pie you make by following a few simple rules:

  1. Refrigerate all ingredients—even the flour—before making the dough. Butter and all liquids should be ice cold.

  2. Use a pastry blender or two knives, instead of a food processor, to cut in the butter.

  3. Once the butter is cut in, blend in liquid just until the dough begins to stick together; overworking toughens the pastry.

  4. To keep dough tender, handle it as little as possible. Try chilling dough for 30 minutes to make rolling faster and easier.

  5. To prevent a soggy crust, refrigerate the crust for 15 minutes before filling, or set the pie pan on a metal cookie sheet during baking.

L.T.