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The adiabatic pastry chef

 
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cadler2



Joined: 26 Nov 2006
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 7:52 pm    Post subject: The adiabatic pastry chef Reply with quote

My husband and I are installing a new kitchen, and have had a long discussion over whether or not to install a marble (or granite or quartz) area of countertop for pastry dough.

Received wisdom tells me that marble is an ideal surface for rolling out pastry dough because it keeps the butter (or other fat) cold. But marble does not have a particularly high specific heat, nor is it a particularly good insulator. How come it has managed to maintain its reputation as a preferable surface in contradiction to its characteristics? Is this just folk wisdom, or is marble truly preferable? (As my husband says, have pastry chefs really repealed the laws of thermodynamics?)
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danemodsandy



Joined: 28 Sep 2006
Posts: 13

PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi:

Marble really IS a great surface for rolling out pastry dough- if it is chilled. Marble retains the cold for quite a while, helping to keep the butter cold, just as you've heard. If you want to use marble for rolling out pastry, I recommend that you get a marble slab about 18-20 inches by about 20-22 inches, and about 3/4 to an inch thick, and use that instead of putting a marble counter in the kitchen. The reason is that the marble must be chilled to do its work properly. If you have a slab (known as a "pastry marble") then it can go into the refrigerator for thorough chilling. If you have a counter, then you have to chill it by putting a metal pan of iced water on top of it, and it never chills quite as thoroughly as a slab.

There is one other option that is very satisfactory, but very expensive. If you get what is called a "sandwich refrigerator" from a restaurant supply house, it can be built in under the marble portion of the counter. Sandwich reefers have an open top that is intended to be covered with open pans of sandwich stuff, like lettuce, tomatoes, etc. Omitting the pans means that the reefer will keep the marble cold at all times, and the reefer can be used to store baking essentials like butter, milk, etc. Delfield is one brand of sandwich reefer; there are others.

Marble- properly chilled- will make the difference between so-so pastry and superlative pastry, especially if you live in a Southern climate. But it's the chilling, and the cold-retentive properties of marble, that do the trick. BTW, I've tried other stone-like materials, like Corian. It AIN'T the same. One other consideration- marble makes for a very hard counter that is very rough on dishes and utensils. Even a two-inch drop (like having a Pyrex measuring cup slip from your hands) will result in breakage. Getting a slab is cheaper, works better for pastry, and doesn't result in a counter that may cause you some grief someday.

Hope this helps.
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a tip on how to cool your counter. This only works with solid stone, not wood or plastic counters.

If you have a stone (marble, granite or Silestone counter) take 1/8" ID copper tubing and make a spiral with about 1/2" space between revolutions from the center of the counter to as far outward as you have access inside the cabinet space, and epoxy it intimately to the underside of the stone counter. Do not make the tubing zig-zag back and forth unless you make a counter-current pattern, or you might find that one side gets cooled more than the other. Connect the tubing input to the cold water line (under the kitchen sink is fine) with a valve and the output to the waste line. Turn the water on when you want a cooled countertop. A room temperature stone counter is cool enough for dough not to stick or slump when you start working, and the cold water line will keep it cool while you work. To make a rectangular area about 20" deep X 24" wide, you will need about 60 feet of 1/8" ID copper tubing for the cooled area.
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danemodsandy



Joined: 28 Sep 2006
Posts: 13

PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2006 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gary:

This sounds like a great idea for many parts of the world, but I'd like to offer one caveat. In really hot climates- particularly those that are humid- it's not really enough. You really need refrigerator-level cold in those places. Here in Georgia, our summers can be in the 90s, with humidity at nearly 100%. To combat that kind of thing, a really cold marble (not just cool) is an enormous help. It's also a good idea here to outfit one's kitchen with its own air-conditioner; central air can't keep a busy kitchen cool in the summer without overcooling the rest of the house.

Again, your idea sounds workable for most places.
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