Alan Carter, pastry chef at Mission Beach Cafe in San Francisco, demonstrates the never-fail method for making the perfect pie, from rolling out a pie crust to his favorite pastry recipe.
Alan works his dough gently from the center of the disk outward. By rolling in different directions with each pass, he slowly shapes the dough into a circle. If dough sticks to rolling pin or work surface, sprinkle with additional flour.
"You want a generous crust, so don't roll it too thin," Alan says. "A quarter inch is good." If the dough gets sticky or soft while you're working with it, put it back into the refrigerator or freezer for 5 to 10 minutes until it's cold and workable again.
You want to avoid stretching the dough, but it also needs to fit it to the bottom of the pie plate. Gently ease the dough down the sides of the pie plate. Use one hand to press into corners while the other supports the edge of the dough.
Trim the edge of the pie dough according to recipe directions with scissors or a sharp knife. Then fold the dough under itself all the way around the pie, pressing dough lightly together. Try to keep this edge even; it will make fluting more uniform and better looking.
This is the look you're going for; if the shape doesn't come out perfectly, flatten the dough slightly and try again. The texture and flavor won't be affected. When you're confident with the technique, continue around the circumference of the pie.
Now your pie is ready for the filling of your choice. For his Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnut Mousse, shown here, pastry chef Alan Carter offers these tips: "A little salt and a lot of spices are key ingredients in my pumpkin pie. The salt brings out the spiciness -- after all, pumpkin is a squash without much taste. Beat the spices and salt into the pumpkin for the best flavor, then add the other custard ingredients. Heat the custard mixture in a saucepan and then poor it into a cooked piecrust. Heating the custard will ensure even cooking -- and will keep the pie from cracking and splitting, as pumpkin pies are apt to do."