Published May 1, 2005.
These gadgets promise to help roll out an even crust—do they work?
Rolling out dough to a precise, uniform thickness can be an intimidating task. Lately, however, we've noticed some gadgets meant to make uneven crusts a thing of the past. Do they really work?
One product, a set of rubber rings, slide onto the end of a rolling pin to serve as guides; you simply roll out the dough until the rings reach the surface on which you're rolling. A nice idea, but not without problems. The rings appear to be one-size-fits-all, but many failed to fit a single roller in the test kitchen. In addition, the rings shortened the usable length on tapered, French-style rolling pins (our favorite) by almost half.
Another product we tested was a wooden pastry board with an adjustable frame, along which the straight rolling pin included in the package glides. The board lets you focus simply on rolling the dough into a round shape; the smooth surface helps to prevent sticking, and the frame keeps the mess contained. On the downside, the 14-square-inch work area is cramped for some tasks, and adjusting frame height is somewhat tedious. And, this board is expensive.
We also found a product consisting of broad lengths of plastic strips of varying thicknesses. They are placed alongside the dough, and the pin is rolled on top of them. The strips do not impede the rolling pin, but you may want to use them only as you start to approach the desired thickness (keeping them oriented correctly as you turn the dough early on can be frustrating). Novice rollers were surprised at the flawless uniformity they achieved with the help of these guides. However, we encountered the same problem using French-style pins here as with the rings.
In the end, then, we found that nothing replaces old-fashioned patience and practice. But an inexpensive set of strips (when used with an untapered pin) offers an effective set of training wheels, providing a boost of confidence for the apprehensive roller.