Let’s rock and roll, folks.
The key to an evenly (and perfectly) rolled pie dough is using using the right rolling pin. Dough can be very temperamental to work with—you run the risk of overworking it, but there’s also the possibility of not working it enough. Rolling it out seems like a simple task, but it’s not as easy as it appears. The density of dough, the rolling pin selection, and your rolling technique are all contributing factors to producing a winning dough that can transform into a flaky pie crust or uniform cookie.
Choose Your Rolling Pin Wisely
When shopping for a rolling pin, you want to take into account the material that it is made with. Rolling pins that are made with wood are most common because flour clings to woodgrain materials very well. As noted above, lightly dusting your rolling pin with flour helps prevent dough from sticking to it. When the rolling pin surface is super smooth, as it tends to be with plastic or ceramic pins, it can be more difficult for flour to stick onto the pin. By the same token, it can also be more difficult for certain doughs to stick to the pin, thus reducing the need for flour to begin with. Determining which rolling pin material is right for you may very well be driven by what style of pin is right for you and your rolling needs—read on!
Most home cooks are familiar with the American-style or “baker’s” rolling pin. These rolling pins are made with a cylinder-shaped piece of wood, or other material like ceramic, that has a dowel running through the center of the pin with handles attached at each end. It fairly easy to use and it is the most common style of rolling pins that home cooks purchase. The downside to this pin is that you can easily lose sense of how thin you are rolling out the dough because your hands are clenched on the handles. Therefore, if you go with this style, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on the thickness of your dough, checking it after every few rolls.
The American rolling pin is commonly available in a variety of materials. A marble pin is likely the most common American-style pin next to wood. Though this option makes for an attractive counterpiece, the weight of the marble may not be ideal for delicate doughs because it can cause the dough to stick to it or create cracks in the surface. The benefit of using a marble rolling pin is that you can chill it in the refrigerator before using to keep doughs cold while rolling them out.
Another variation of the American rolling pin, which is not as common, are pins made of glass. However, Cooking Light digital editor, Christopher Michaels, say this is the only kind of rolling pin that he uses at home. You can find glass rolling pins in antique shops or from online stores such as Etsy. Similar to marble pins, these pins are appealing because they can be chilled. With old school glass pins, you can cool them down by filling the pin itself with ice water, or by placing it in the refrigerator until chilled.
The textured rolling pin is an American-style pin that has some sort of patterned etched into the wood or plastic to create a design in the dough. It’s basically a rolling pin stamp. These patterns can range from a few simple lines to intricate snowflakes rolled into the dough. You can also get a customized rolling pin with an inscribed monogram. You can usually find this style of rolling pins in a miniature size specifically used to roll out fondant dough in cake decorating.
The French-style rolling pin is a tapered cylinder of wood that does not have handles. Many professional bakers tend to gravitate towards this style of pin over the American. Time Inc. Food Studios recipe developer/tester, Pam Lolley says she prefers this pin when she develops recipes because, “You have a lot more control...You are doing all the work and can feel the dough a lot better.” When using the French rolling pin, you guide the pin with your open palms instead of a tightly a gripped fist, giving you a better sense of the dough’s thickness. The French rolling pin is ideal to shape dough rounds because the tapered shape provides for easy pivoting.
The straight rolling pin is a variation of the French rolling pin the without tapered ends.
This wooden dowel allows you to roll the entire surface of your dough at one time with greater consistency than the other pins. The dowel pin is great for heftier doughs like a chilled sugar cookie dough. However, it is relatively bulky, and does not create rounded dough as easily as its tapered counterpart.
Caring For Your Rolling Pin
Just like any other kitchen tool or appliance, your rolling pin can last a very long time with proper care. The best way to keep a wooden rolling pin in tip-top shape is to avoid putting it in the sink or dishwasher. After each use, gently remove any dough residue, and wipe the rolling pin with a damp towel. Dry it immediately and story in a safe place.
How to Roll Dough
Let’s talk about rolling pie dough, arguably one of the more intimidating doughs home cooks commonly roll, for a sec. (You can apply these rolling principles to any number of dough rolling endeavors.) When home cooks first use a rolling pin, most instinctually run the pin back and forth—away from their body, then back towards it—over the dough with more force than is necessary. However, when you think about your form (yeah, you really do have to think about it a little) and pressure application, you want to think about rolling the dough out not down into your countertop. Give your (somewhat flattened) disc of chilled dough a few passes, working in one direction—rolling away from your body, and applying a controlled pressure, rather than leaning into the roll with the full force of your upper body weight. Then, turn the dough 90 degrees on your surface and repeat. Continue this rolling and turning—maybe flipping your expanding dough disc over once or twice if you feel so inclined—until you’ve reached your desired thickness. You have a greater chance of achieving an evenly thick (it’s important!) dough when you start roughly from a central point and roll it out from multiple directions. And remember to flour a clean, flat surface, as well as your rolling pin, before you begin to roll in order to prevent sticking.