The French rolling pin is a useful tool in the kitchen for bakers, especially those who like to concoct pastries, roll out sugar cookies, or make shaped breads and rolls. The standard pin is usually 2 inches (5.08 cm) or less in diameter, and can come in varying lengths; 18 inches (45.72 cm) tends to be the most popular length. What makes it different from other rolling pins is that it has no handles, and is tapered at each end. It’s essentially a round, usually wooden, stick of a certain thickness.
Many people who bake regularly say they prefer the French rolling pin to other types because you get a “feel” for the dough better with one. The weight you place on the pin is not changed by the fact that you’re touching rollers or handles. This can correspond to greater precision in rolling out pastry or other types of dough.
Others like the easy care of the French rolling pin. Once you’ve used it, you merely give it a quick wash with a little bit of soap and water. You shouldn’t over-scrub it or apply excess soap. Instead merely give it a brief wash and allow it to dry. These rolling pins are usually wooden, and too much washing can cause the wood to decay or warp over time, which can affect how well the pin works. You should never place a wooden rolling pin in the dishwasher.
Since durability can be an issue if the rolling pin is not properly cared for, there are some plastic, silicone, and marble pins made in the French rolling pin style. These may be a little heavier, and many find them inferior to the wooden styles. Some can be quite pricey, whereas the average French wooden rolling pin is relatively inexpensive.
There are a few things you should not use the French rolling pin for. Many recipes will direct you to use rolling pins to crush nuts or seeds, either by beating them with the pin or repeatedly rolling the pin over them. This can cause the wood to become pockmarked, and make it much easier for dough to stick the pin as a result. Food processors, or old rolling pins that have been replaced by your new rolling pin, are better choices for crushing hard ingredients.
It’s unclear why this rolling pin is considered French. There’s little history on when or where the pin was designed. It is certainly the case that many French chefs prefer these pins. Cooks who like them cite not only “feel” of the dough being better, but also the relative ease with which these rolling pins can be manipulated.