rolling out dough

March 19th, 2011

For years I avoided recipes that required rolling and cutting out dough. I found it messy and frustrating and overall not worth the effort. The dough would always stick to the rolling pin or my work surface, I’d use way too much flour (resulting in tough, dry pie crusts and cookies), and the kitchen ended up looking like a disaster.

rolled sugar cookie dough

But there are all of those wonderful recipes! Iced sugar cookies! Fruit pies! Savory tarts! So I decided to research, experiment and persist until I found some tricks to eliminate most – if not all – of the problems I was encountering. I still don’t embrace recipes that require a rolling pin but at least now I’m not nearly as anxious about the process. Here are the tips I’ve found to be the most useful:

1. It’s important to incorporate your ingredients into the flour as quickly as possible. Whether it’s butter, eggs or milk, you don’t want the gluten in the flour to become overdeveloped – which results in a tough crust. So try not to overwork your dough.

2. When mixing ingredients I prefer the dough to be slightly tacky, versus too-dry. Then,when you add your flour during the rolling/cutting stage, you’ll reduce the chances of getting a dry or tough dough.

3. Keep everything cold – typically a recipe will instruct you to refrigerate the dough for a while before you roll it out. I go a little further and chill my work surface and rolling pin too.

4. Now you’re ready to roll. Make sure your work surface is well-floured and the dough is sprinkled with a little flour too. Start rolling, and instead of turning the work surface, always turn the dough. This will ensure that the dough never sticks to the work surface, and lets you know when you need to add some more flour to the underside. Making frequent quarter-turns will almost completely eliminate  sticking.

5. When making something like sugar cookies I’ll place the entire rolled-out dough onto the baking sheet and then cut out the shapes. It’s sometimes easier to lift away the excess dough and leave the cookies right on the sheet. If the dough is getting too soft you can just pop the sheet in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up.

6. If you’re still struggling with dough that sticks to the work surface and rolling pin, try rolling the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Again, be sure to give the dough frequent quarter-turns and check the top and bottom sheets of parchment periodically to smooth out any wrinkles.

What are some of your favorite tricks for rolling out dough? Please share!

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