I am trying to make an apple pie that will impress my mother, but I am getting overwhelmed with all the different strategies and techniques I have found for perfecting a pate brise style crust. I've read through a few different forum threads, in particular this one was helpful because I think that the original poster is in a similar situation to me. http://www.cheftalk.com/t/69872/pie-crust-shrinking
Here's a bit of a ramble about my experiences so far, hopefully this will give you an idea of just how much of a beginner I am. (I've only made three pies now.) On my first attempt my dough was way too sticky, so much so that I had to basically just pat it into the pie pan. So the next time I added less butter and was able to successfully roll it out. But then the baked pastry was too crumbly, I think I may have handled it too much and the butter mixed too much with the flour. My last attempt used a mixture of Crisco & butter, at a 2:1 ratio. I thought that I did everything right, carefully measuring each ingredient, chilling the Crisco & butter before carefully mixing it in with my hands (rubbing between thumb and fingers), then chilling the dough. But I ended up without enough dough to make two crusts! I had approximately 500 grams in total. So I am wondering if maybe when using Crisco I am supposed to roll the dough out much thinner? I never saw anything online or in forums that says that Crisco needs to be handled differently, so I don't know what's going on.
I'm sorry that this post is all over the place. I'm probably not giving the specifics that someone would need to answer my question. Heck, I'm probably not even asking good questions.
What I really want to know is, how do I get better? Where do I turn? Should I just stick with one set of ingredients and techniques and try to perfect that? If so, what would be the pastry techniques / ingredients that are easiest for a beginner to get a grasp on? Does anyone have any advice about how I can best teach myself how to improve? (It's awfully hard for me to get hold of any cookbooks as I live in Hong Kong, so online resources are much much better.)
Thanks so much for your help.