There’s no denying it: Piecrusts are one of the hardest things for a home cook to master. When it comes to rolling them out, experience counts for a lot, but good techniques are crucial, too. Here are some of our best pointers for rolling out lovely, even rounds of dough.
Start with dough at the right temperature
If it’s too warm and soft, it’ll stick like crazy to the rolling pin and the work surface, forcing you to add too much flour as you work it. Dough that’s too cold and hard resists rolling and cracks if you try to force it. Press the dough lightly to check its rolling readiness— your fingertips should leave an imprint but shouldn’t easily sink into the dough.
Roll around the clock
Start with the rolling pin in the center of your dough disk. Roll toward 12 o’clock, easing up on the pressure as you near the edge (this keeps the edge from getting too thin). Pick up the pin and return it to center. Roll toward 6 o’clock, as shown at right. Repeat this motion toward 3 and then 9 o’clock, always easing up the pressure near the edges and then picking up the pin rather than rolling it back to center. Continue to roll around the clock, aiming for different “times” (like 1, 7, 4, 10) on each round.
Turn the dough and check often for sticking. After each round of the clock, run a bench knife underneath the dough (below left), to make sure it’s not sticking, and reflour the surface if necessary. When you do this, give the dough a quarter turn—most people inevitably use uneven pressure when rolling in one direction versus another, so the occasional turn helps average it out for a more even thickness. Continue to turn and roll until the dough is the right width and thickness (below right).
Go easy on the flour
Even dough that’s at the perfect temperature needs a little extra flour to keep it from sticking, but try not to use more than you really need—the more extra flour you work into the dough as you roll it, the drier and tougher the crust will be.
Try an alternative rolling surface
Beyond the usual lightly floured countertop, other options for rolling surfaces include a pastry cloth (our current favorite, shown in the photos above, especially when paired with a cloth rolling pin cover), a silicone rolling mat (brand name Roul’Pat, available online at DemarleUSA.com), and sheets of parchment, waxed paper, or plastic wrap. Choose whichever one you like best.
Use the fewest possible passes of the rolling pin
Overworked dough equals tough crust, so the less you have to work it during rolling, the better.