Update on pie-crust-by-hand techniques
I could start a talk series on this - this shall be #1. Made a pie this weekend and incorporated your many generous suggestions. To cut the butter and flour, I tried grating the butter, starting from a frozen solid state. Here are my observations:
1. Had a nasty run-in with the grater about 1/4 of the way into it. Not good.
2. I got halfway down the stick of butter and found that I couldn't get a good grip on it to finish the grating. It also did start to melt in my hand, even starting from frozen. Had to resort to cutting into cubes.
3. Tried to cut in the frozen solid butter cubes w/ forks, quickly gave up (because of reasons listed before: impatience, etc).
4. Using fingers to mash the butter and flour together worked very well. I ran very cold water over my hands before I did this. It's also therapeutic to feel the ingredients in between your fingers.
Alright, so maybe this will be a series of one because I tried almost all the methods in one shot. My thumb still hurts.
I was also diligent to keep everything very cold. I rested the crust for about 2 hours in the fridge, then rolled one crust between two sheets of lightly floured plastic (it stuck, a lot) and then on a floured table top (stuck much less). Filled, then brushed the top with milk. Baked at 450 for 10 min and 350 for 50 min.
The finished product: Amazing, flaky, beautifully browned pie crust filled with delicious blackberries and apples. When you looked at the pie, you could see the flakiness. Even using all three methods to cut in butter, it was still very tasty.
My conclusion: It probably doesn't matter what methods you use. For butter/flour, just use the method that is least injurious to your fingers. Keeping it cold does make a difference. And that is my series of 1 on pie crusts.