A rolling pin is a cylindrical food preparation utensil used to shape and flatten dough. Two styles of rolling pins are found; roller and rods. Roller types consists of a thick cylindrical roller with small handles at each end; rod type rolling pins are usually thin tapered batons. Rolling pins of different styles and materials offer advantages over another as they are used for different tasks in cooking and baking.
- Rod: Thin rods typically made of wood and around 2-3 cm in diameter but without 'handles' at the ends. They are used by rolling the rod across the dough in the middle of the baton using one's palm usually only one hand is needed). The pins may be tapered at one or both ends for more pivot control in certain tasks such as making small jiaozi skins or pie shells. Most East Asian or French style rolling pins, and also the Turkish Oklava, are rod style.
- Roller: Consists of a thicker and heavier roller made of a variety of materials around 7-10 cm in diameter and with clearly defined handles at both ends of the roller. They are used by grasping the handles, one in each hand, and pushing the pin across the dough. Many Western rolling pins are roller types. Some more up-market models have ball or needle bearings in the handles (as would be found in a bicycle wheel hub) so that only the main roller section rotates rather than the handles themselves - this prevents friction burns on the hands.
Even more posh (and dosh!!) and you get a model with dials on the ends which adjust two flanges on each end of the cylinder and these govern the height of the rolling pin above the work surface. Thus the thickness of the pastry can be automatically set and is completely uniform across the whole area.
In case of emergency
If you are ever stuck in a strange place without a rolling pin (while camping, at a friend's house, on holiday, etc), then you could use a wine, champagne or even beer bottle. It's obviously not as good as the real thing, but this technique has got me out of a hole on more than one occasion. Just remember to soak and scrape off the label first, and wash and rinse the outside very well before thoroughly drying it. Dust often with a little bit of flour to prevent the dough sticking to it.