How I Learned to Roll Pie Dough

Yesterday, as I was rolling the dough for our quiche, Clif said, “You sure do know how to roll pie dough.”

I laughed. “And no wonder. I’ve rolled out dough for hundreds of pies.”

Not because our family eats so much pie—although we like pie as well as the next family—but instead because when I was a young woman, I worked in the bakery in one of the dining halls at Colby College in Waterville. Everything was made from scratch, including the pies, and we would spend entire afternoons rolling dough.

Fran York was the head baker, and she was the nicest boss I have ever had. Soft spoken and cheerful, Fran set a calm but hard-working tone, and there was never an ounce of drama in her bakery. She had that elusive quality that so many bosses don’t have—-in her own quiet way, she made us want to work as hard as we possibly could. But she never badgered, harangued, or scolded us. We just wanted to do our best for Fran.

She came in early and worked until 3:00 p.m., leaving us, her assistants, to finish the work we had started. On one particular day, it was pies.

“We need one hundred and fifty” Fran said. “But if you do seventy-five, that will be fine. We can roll out the rest tomorrow morning.”

Then she left, and there were two of us, one of whom was Fran’s mother. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name, but she was a lively woman, a southerner, an extrovert—unlike Fran—and oh so fun to work with. “Son a’gun!” was one of her favorite sayings when something surprised her. Like Fran, she was a hard worker.

“What do you say?” she asked after Fran had left. “Let’s see if we can roll out all those pies by the time we leave.”

And so we began. The flour flew, the rolling pins thumped against the big work table, and pie after pie was made. Five, ten, twenty-five, fifty.

Fran’s mother sang, “Can she make a cherry pie, Billy boy, Billy boy? Can she make a cherry pie, charming Billy?”

We were, of course, making cherry pies, and I grinned as Fran’s mother sang.

We reached one hundred. “We’re almost there!” Fran’s mother cried.

More flour flew, and the thumping of the rolling pins grew louder. “One hundred and fifty,” came the triumphant call. “With plenty of time to clean up.”

My apron was covered with flour, and my face had a fair share, too. But I felt triumphant. We had exceeded Fran’s expectations.

The next day when I came in, Fran said, “My, you two did a good job yesterday. Look at all those pies ready to bake.”

I felt as though I had been given a prize—praise from Fran.

“Oh, we worked right along, didn’t we, Laurie?” said Fran’s mother.

We certainly did.

And forty years later, how did my one little quiche turn out?

“Pretty darned good,” my Yankee husband said.

Addendum: About all those cherry pies: I forget to mention that the pie filling and the dough were made ahead of time for us. All we had to do was roll. And, it took us hours. We were working the late shift, and we rolled until the end.



16 thoughts on “How I Learned to Roll Pie Dough”

    1. In my post, I forgot to mention that the dough and the filling were prepared ahead of time. All we had to do was roll ’em out.

  1. Thanks, Judy! I also must admit that Fran’s mother was quicker than I was. She could roll like a son a’gun šŸ˜‰ And, it must have taken us four hours or even more. We were working the late shift, and we rolled until the end.

  2. Believe it or not, I used to be able to make pie crust from scratch. Judy grew up making pies from scratch with her mother, but now she prefers to buy the frozen Pet Ritz crusts.

    1. Making pie crust from scratch is rewarding but quite a lot of work and mess. It’s easy to understand why busy people go for the frozen crusts.

    1. Thanks, Johanna. Someday I do hope to come out with a book with the title—surprise, surprise!—Notes from the Hinterland.

    1. A very good memory. And it has me wondering how many pies I could roll in an hour nowadays šŸ˜‰

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