How to Make a Pastry Chef's Signature Recipe

Pumpkin Pie with Hazelnut Mousse
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.

Shape Dough

Before you get rolling, with floured hands, shape dough into a disk. Sprinkle with just a little flour.

Roll from the Center Outward

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.

Aim for the Right Thickness

"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.

Fold Before Transferring

Once the dough is rolled to the diameter called for in your recipe, fold it in half in preparation for moving it into the pie plate.

Ease Pastry into Pan

"Ease" is the word to keep in mind here. Gently transfer the folded dough to the pie plate.

Unfold and Center

With floured hands, unfold the pie crust into the pie plate and gently slide it (if necessary) so it is centered with an equal amount of dough hanging over all sides.

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Fit the Dough to the Pan

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.

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Trim and Fold the Edge

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.

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Shape the Edge

With your fingers, bring folded edge upright all the way around the pan. Then with the index finger of one hand, press dough against thumb and forefinger of your opposite hand.

Check Your Work

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.

Ready to Fill

After you've fluted the entire edge, your pie shell is ready to be filled.

Choose Your Filling

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."

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