Most bread bakers probably don’t use a rolling pin very much, so they probably don’t give it much thought. They just reach in the kitchen drawer, pull out the trusty rolling pin they inherited from great-grandma and roll away. Not that that isn’t a great rolling pin, but the traditional solid cylinder of wood with handles on each end isn’t the most efficient or useful rolling pin.
Take a look at my French rolling pin, below. It’s got no moving parts. It’s just a tapered dowel about 20 inches / 50cm long. It’s thick in the center and thin on the ends, and there’s where it’s a real surprise. The first time I tried it, I thought that it was the craziest thing I had used in a long time. After about two minutes rolling out pita dough, I realized that I had much more control and could work faster than I had ever dreamed of with a straight rolling pin.
There are two old saying here. “Less is more,” and “If someone has been doing something very well for a long time, he probably knows what he’s doing.” These fit here very well. This is certainly the minimum rolling pin. And the French have been at the top of the cooking game for a long time. Put these together and it shouldn’t be a surprise that this little gem works well.
The secret is that the bulge in the center allows you actually to flow and push dough around, not just roll it flat. If you’ve ever rolled out a piece of dough and had it form two horns, you know what I mean. With the French rolling pin, you can work the dough around so you actually fill in the area between the horns, so the pita comes out looking like a pita is supposed to look: round. The same goes for all sorts of sweet doughs that have to be formed.
And, as they say on TV, That’s Not All! Because the taper is very subtle, you actually have different amounts of taper in the pin, so you can smooth larger or smaller portions of the dough, or push large or small amounts around. All you have to do is work the dough with one end or the other of the rolling pin. With a bit of practice, you’ll find that you have an almost frightening amount of control over the dough.
Here is a picture of my two rolling pins, the French in the front and the traditional in the rear. I will post a video of me using a French rolling pin in the near future.