How to Roll a Perfect Pastry Crust

The perfect pastry crust is the key to a divine pie. It all comes down to how you roll — the dough, that is. To perfect your technique, follow these rolling tips from Shirley Corriher, author of BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes.

Techniques for Rolling

The Dough
The dough should hold together well but not be wet. Press the dough together into a 6-inch (15-cm) disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. This will allow the moisture to distribute more evenly. If you roll a crust immediately after making it, the wet spots will stick to the surface and the dry spots will tear.

Wrapping the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least 2 hours or overnight allows the moisture to distribute more evenly.

The Surface for Rolling
Roll on a lightly floured counter, a pastry cloth or plastic sheet, or between two pieces of lightly floured wax paper. Carole Walter, in Great Pies & Tarts, recommends a canvas pastry cloth and rolling pin cover made by Ateco (available in some cookware shops). Rose Levy Beranbaum in The Pie and Pastry Bible says that the ideal surface for rolling pastry is marble covered with a pastry cloth. She recommends a 16 x 20 x 3/4-inch (41 x 51 x 2-cm) piece of marble available in gourmet shops or from marble supply companies. A marble slab stays cold and helps to keep the pastry cool.

Gourmet shops sell a plastic sheet that is marked with circles for the different size pie pans. It is very helpful to have a guide when trying to roll an even circle. My early pie crusts looked like strange-shaped amoebas!

Some cooks like to roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap, or a layer of foil on the bottom and plastic wrap or wax paper on top. You may need to peel the paper or plastic off once or twice during rolling and reposition and smooth it out. Regardless of the surface — pastry cloth or countertop — you want to flour lightly to prevent the dough from sticking.

Rolling Pins
There are many different sizes and shapes of rolling pins available. Those that are straight cylinders are called straight French rolling pins and are usually 17 to 19 inches (43 to 48 cm) in length. There is one that is fat in the center and tapers narrower toward the ends — tapered French — and is about 19 inches (48 cm) long. This tapered French pin is designed to prevent the edges of the dough from getting too thin. Carole Walters feels that it is a little easier to roll evenly with the traditional ball-bearing pin with handles. These come in lengths of 12 to 15 inches (30 to 38 cm).

Your choice of the rolling pin and the rolling surface are personal preferences. Feel free to go with whatever works best for you.

Rolling in Detail
On limited counter space, rotating the dough works very well. This technique also ensures that the dough does not stick to the counter or pastry cloth. Flour the rolling pin and place it in the center of the dough disc and roll forward. Place the pin back in the center of the dough disc and roll back, taking care not to roll over the dough edges, making them too thin. Gently lift and rotate the dough 45 degrees, roll forward and back again, rotate, and so on. Keep a little bleached all-purpose flour on the counter to one side. If the dough tends to stick when rotating, drag the dough through the flour when rotating and repositioning the dough. If you enlarge the dough a little at a time, in different positions, it helps to keep the circle even.

Rotating the dough prevents sticking and aids in rolling an even circle.

Try to avoid rolling the dough thinner in one area. These thin spots will brown or burn before the rest of the crust is done. To get a very even thickness, stop when the dough is nearing the desired thickness. Place a ruler or a strip of wood (which is the thickness that you want) on one side of the dough, and another the same thickness on the other side. Rest the rolling pin on the two rulers or wood strips, and roll across the dough.

Another way to get a very even dough thickness is with rolling pin rings that are available in some gourmet cookware shops. Pairs of these elastic rings are of various thicknesses and fit on both ends of the pin. They keep the pin an exact distance from the counter so the dough is rolled to an even thickness.

Keeping the dough an even thickness prevents excessive browning or burning in the thin spots.

Shirley O. Corriher, author of BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes (Copyright © 2008 by Confident Cooking, Inc.), has a B.A. in chemistry from Vanderbilt University, where she was also a biochemist at the medical school. She has problem-solved for everyone from Julia Child to Procter & Gamble and Pillsbury. She has taught and lectured throughout the world. She has long been a writer– authoring a regular syndicated column in The Los Angeles Times Syndicate’s Great Chefs series as well as technical articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Her first book, Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking is a bestseller and won a James Beard Award for excellence. Shirley has received many awards, including the Best Cooking Teacher of the Year in Bon Appetit’s “Best of the Best” Annual Food and Entertaining Awards in 2001. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Arch.




  • Shirley Corriher talks about BakeWise and shares some baking tips

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