In a very smart article on her essential tools for baking cookies, Dorie Greenspan made a claim that French rolling pins are the Ferraris of the rolling pin world:
Because the pin and the pressure you put on it are guided by your hands—and you can feel what you're doing—driving a French pin is like steering a well-tuned sports car. (Extend the analogy, and the bruiser pin becomes a tractor-trailer, which is just what you want for the long haul that is bread.)
Dorie's everyday pin is French-style: a solid wooden cylinder that's slender in diameter with no handles (she uses this one in particular).
Why? It's all about control. "Cookie dough—and pie and tart dough, too—should be rolled with a light touch and the French pin will give you that." When using a French pin, pressure is applied directly to the pin and from the pin to a dough, which allows for close contact with the dough and maximum command of pressure.
The other type of rolling pin is a ball-bearing (a.k.a. American-style) pin, where a cylindrical barrel actually rolls around a shaft with a handle on each end. These pins are best for rolling out springy, resilient doughs (like sweet yeast doughs for croissants) because they offer heavy-duty muscle power. Dorie uses these big heavy rolling pins for bread "and anything that fights back."
If you're looking for an all-purpose rolling pin for tarts and cookies, you want the French-style, tapered or untapered.
You may prefer a tapered pin if you have small hands, as the narrow ends will be easier to grasp. But be careful that the pin has an adequately long uniform middle belly, or you risk uneven rolling.
The rolling pins in our Shop come tapered and untapered, so you can choose the one that's right for you. (And the French pin has a small brass-lined hole—so you can display it as art when it's not in use.)
A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.