Step 1Place the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and blend with your fingertips. Cut the butter into thin 1/2-inch chips and add to the bowl. Toss the mixture with your hands until each chip is coated with flour.
Step 2Turn onto a broad work surface. Roll out until the butter chips have turned into long flakes; use a flexible scraper to gently remove pieces that stick to the pin or board and coat them with flour.
Step 3Return the mixture to the bowl. Sprinkle it with water and blend with a large rubber spatula or kitchen spoon until the water has been absorbed, about 15 strokes. Dust the top lightly with flour, then press the mixture down into the bowl--4 or 5 gentle pushes will press everything together.
Step 4Sprinkle the work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Dust the rolling pin generously with flour. Dust the dough with flour and roll it into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. The dough will be loose, but fold the long edges over to meet in the center. Give the package a turn so the long way runs side to side. Roll out, fold and turn as before until the dough begins to hold together, usually 2 more times.
Step 5Fold over the corners and press into a 6-inch round. The dough can be rolled out at once or wrapped and refrigerated. If chilled, let it rest at room temperature until soft enough to roll.
Step 6Place the round on your lightly floured work surface and dust the top with flour. Roll out into a 13-inch circle. Brush off any flour and roll the circle up loosely on the pin a little more than halfway, brushing off flour underneath. Slide the pie dish underneath it and unroll the pin over it, centering the circle.
Step 7Gently push the dough down into the corners at the bottom of the dish, then firmly up against the sides without stretching the dough (this is important).
Step 8Make the border fairly even all around (it doesn't have to be perfect) by trimming any excess with scissors and using these scraps to patch any skimpy places (drops of cold water will seal the seams). Tuck the border under itself to make the edge even with the rim.
Step 9Finish the border by fluting (poke the tip of a finger into the dough on one side and pinch it on the other side, making a V; repeat right next to the V and so forth around the border) or impressing an edging with the tines of a fork.
Step 10Chill for 20 to 30 minutes.
Step 11For crisp pastry under custard pies, the shell must be fully baked before filling. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Step 12To keep the dough from shrinking and puffing as it bakes, it must be held in place for the first 2/3 of baking. Cut 2 sheets of foil or parchment paper about 15 inches long. Lay them in the dish at right angles. Fill the shell to the rim with metal pie weights, dried beans, rice or a combination--you'll need at least 5 cups (7 is ideal). As you pour in the weights, press them firmly down into the corners at the bottom of the dish and up against the sides; also fill every V of fluting. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, then carefully lift out the foil or paper and weights (save them for next time). Continue baking, checking after 3 to 4 minutes to make sure the pastry isn't puffing up. If it is, prick the bubbles with a fork. Continue baking, checking again a few minutes later for puffing, until the pastry is golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes in all. Cool if not filling at once.