One of my earliest memories of being in the kitchen is when I was 3 years old with my Mom. She was making sugar cookies and had her huge ‘pie board’ on the kitchen table, her bucket of flour, her dough and her trusty rolling pin. Mom had nn American-style rolling pin. It had worn red handles with a hardwood cylinder, handles on either end and a steel shaft down the center that gave it a smooth rolling action. This thing was older than dirt and honestly I don’t know whatever came of it. More than likely she wore it out as Mom was always baking something and using it. Since I was so little but needed to be under her feet to ‘help’ she bought me my very first one. It was a child-size version of hers. This thing was better than any Barbie a girl could ever have and trust me, I LOVE my Barbie dolls.
I can remember climbing up on the kitchen chair and then on top of the kitchen table away from the flour and board though I did try everything I could to help out. Finally my Dad came into the house with my very own ‘pie board’ he had made me. Mom showed me how to flour my board, gave me a chunk of cookie dough to roll out and gave me my rolling pin. At first I was impatient as I knew what I was doing as I had been watching her for years.. (remember I was just 3 at the time!). I made a HUGE mess and tore the dough. That’s when Mom taught me how to roll out the dough evenly and when and when not to add flour. Now granted that dough got destroyed from my practicing but it was worth it. That honestly has to be one of my favorite memories with her.
As I got older and got more into baking (and made my own money … that helps btw), I realized that there were other types of rolling pins out there – marble, metal, with handles, without, wood, steel, shafts and so forth. It can be pretty daunting and rather confusing to know what type to use and or when. So I put together some info in this week’s installment of Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer as we’re talking All About Rolling Pins.
Although wood is the most classic material, barrels can be made from other materials depending on the baker’s need:
Traditional Bakers’s Rolling pins are a classic hardwood pin fitted with a rod and handles. These pins are often easier to use than a dowel or French pin. Make sure the pin is fitted with ball bearings to make for smooth strokes. In addition, I prefer using a longer rolling pin, with a barrel at least 12 inches in length; longer barrels cover more territory with each stroke, minimizing how much you need to work the dough. In addition you want a slightly heavier pin (but not marble, which can be overly heavy and hard to use if you’re not accustomed to the weight). Heavier pins take much of the work out of rolling out a dough; likewise, the thicker the barrel, the fewer strokes you’ll need to roll out the dough.
The rolling pin is used by holding the handles and rolling the cylinder across the dough. The downside is that you need to place more force on the dough and as a result, the dough is not stretched as evenly as with a rod because you’re exerting pressure in uneven ways.
Wooden rolling pins are traditional and can be made from a variety of wood types, including fragrant wood (such as the delightful huon pine from Tasmania). The larger the wooden rolling pin, the heavier it will be.
♦ Many wooden rolling pins stick to the dough. This can be a real hassle, especially if adding a lot of flour makes the pastry over-floured. However, some woods are better than others; look for an oilier wood that will not stick as much.
♦ A wooden roll cannot be chilled for pastry that needs to stay really cool.
♦ Wooden rolling pins can mark more easily than other types of rolling pins
A dowel is preferred by many bakers as they say, they can better “feel” the dough in their hands as they handle the pin. This is definitely easier on your hands and wrists. You place your palm on each end of it and roll using even pressure across the dough. On the downside, your hands touch the dough; some people enjoy this “dough feel” as a technique in itself but touching too much risks heating the dough from your hand warmth, so you need to work quickly. The rod is usually cheaper than a rolling pin and it has another benefit of not having any crevices which could attract random pieces of dough.
Some dowels are tapered at the end. These are more easily rotated as they’re rolled, making them great for rolling out pie and pastry circles.
A marble rolling pin can be chilled before using, making it easier to roll out sensitive doughs such as laminated pastry (puff pastry, danish and croissant doughs). These rolling pins are heavy but they remain cold (especially if chilled first) and therefore don’t transfer any heat to the dough. On the downside, while these rolling pins are marvelous to look at, they are very heavy and can really squash delicate pastry. If you do get one, be sure its internal axle is very solidly attached and not likely to wobble off course.
♦ Marble is prone to chipping. It is usually purchased with a wooden stand supplied; be sure to always use this stand when chilling and storing the rolling pin.
Silicone barrels help to keep dough from sticking to the pin, minimizing (or eliminating) the amount of flour needed when rolling the dough.
Glass or metal are often hollow so they can be filled with cold water or ice; these pins are also used to keep the dough chilled as it’s rolled.
These look very “chef” and hold cold well. They are always easy to clean and they are usually very well balanced. On the downside, they’re heavy and they may feel too cold to the touch.
♦ Some metallic rolling pins can be filled with water in the same manner as glass ones.
Textured pins (pins with designs or artwork) are used for marking specialized doughs, such as cookies (like springerle molds).