We did a quick (and admittedly informal) survey, and found that there are about as many types of rolling pins as there are cuisines, materials and purposes. There are pins for pasta, pastry, cookie dough and dumplings; made from wood, marble, glass, metal, Lucite and silicon. They can be smooth or textured, tapered or straight, with handles or without. And every serious cook swears the one she uses is the best.
In North America, most cooks have always – and still do – used that familiar fat wooden barrel with handles, which is just fine for rolling out cookie dough; but for the finer, more finicky work of buttery pastry dough, or pâte brisée, this sleek and tapered beauty is a better option. Designed and made in Canada, this 20-inch, sugar-maple wood rolling pin is Lee Valley's take on the traditional French pin.
Francophile, foodie and author of French Kids Eat Everything and Getting to Yum, Karen Le Billon, spends part of her year in Pléneuf-Val-André, on the northwest coast of France, where she learned a thing or two about rolling the perfect pastry from her mother-in-law, Janine.
"My mother-in-law does have a treasured family rolling pin! In fact, she also has a treasured wooden family table where the rolling of the pastry happens with the pin," Le Billon said from her home in Vancouver. Since spending time under Janine's tutelage, she's become a fan of the French pin. "The traditional [tapered] pin is nice because, you have better control; as you roll the dough with it, you can 'feel' the dough much more acutely than with a rolling pin with handles," she said. "So it's easier to make the dough thinner, and more uniform. You're working more closely with the dough; it's much more sensual."