How To Roll Out Pastry
A few simple techniques will make it easier to roll out anything from puff pastry to pizza crust, and get it into the oven in one piece.
Choose a very clean kitchen countertop or tabletop to work on. You will be putting the pastry directly on this surface.
Choose a flour for rolling that will work with the dough you are using. For most standard recipes (pate brisee, puff pastry, cookie dough, pizza crust, etc.), you will use all-purpose white flour. If you are using all whole-wheat in your recipe, you may want to roll the dough with whole wheat flour instead. If you are using a gluten-free flour in the recipe, you will want to roll the pastry with the same gluten-free flour. The recipe will tell you what type of flour to use.
Use your clean fingers to lightly sprinkle flour all over your work surface, and lay the pastry on top of the flour.
Sprinkle more flour over the top of the pastry. Use your finger tips to very lightly spread any flour clumps around so that the whole top is covered evenly with a light dusting of flour. Do not press down! Your fingers should just glide over the top of the dough.
Carefully flip the dough over and glide your fingers over the other side, so that a light coating of flour is spread evenly over the whole surface.
Gently place your rolling pin in the center of the pastry, and roll from the center to the top, away from your body. Stop the rolling pin just before it reaches the edge, then lift it up and gently place it back in the center of the rectangle. Do not allow the rolling pin to roll off the edge of the pastry! If it does, your pastry will be thinner around the edges and thicker in the middle. Instead, you want the whole pastry to be an even thickness.
When working with some types of pastry, such as pizza dough, you can press down firmly on the rolling pin. With others, such as pate brisee for pie crust, you should be very gentle so that your pastry will turn out light and delicate. When working with puff pastry, you will want to barely use any pressure at all, allowing the weight of the rolling pin to do most of the work.
Continue rolling from the center to the top, away from your body, and turn the pastry after each roll or two, so that you are rolling evenly all over the pastry. After a few rolls, flip the pastry over and continue rolling on the other side.
As you turn and flip the pastry, use a dough scraper to gently unstick any spots that begin to stick to your work surface. Gently slide the dough scraper underneath the pastry, firmly but gently pass it under the spot that is sticking, and shift the pastry so that it won't stick to the same spot again. Sprinkle a bit more flour on that spot so that it won't stick again, and keep working.
As you roll, follow the recipe instructions to find out whether you should be encouraging the pastry to form a circle, a rectangle, or some other shape. Also, the recipe should tell you large to make the pastry, or how thick it should be when you are finished.
TRANSFERRING the Pastry for Cooking
When you are finished rolling and it's time to bake, you will need to transfer the pastry to the cooking pan or dish. The type of dough you are using will determine how you do this.
If you are making bread or pizza crust, you can simply lift it with your hands and move it, being careful not to poke holes in it with your fingers.
If you are making something more delicate like pie crust, you will need to be a bit more careful. Some pastry will be very easily torn!
The easiest method is to lightly fold one end of the pastry over the other without pressing down. If you are working with a large piece of pastry, you may need to do this several times to end up with a size and shape you can easily handle. Carefully slip your fingers or a spatula or dough scraper (whatever you think will work best).
Before you lay it in the baking pan, think carefully about where to lay it so that as you unfold it, it will end up centered in the proper place. For example, for a round pie crust, you will want to lay it off to one side so that when you unfold it, it will be centered in the tin.
Carefully unfold the pastry. If it's not centered properly, you may need to gently refold it, reposition it, and unfold it again.