I’ve always heard that marble is the best surface for rolling out pastry dough because it’s cooler than other surfaces. But is it true? If marble is at room temperature, isn’t it the same temperature as everything else in the room? In any case, why is it so good for rolling pastry?
R.T.P. Gravely, Port Colborne, None
Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Pie & Pastry Bible, replies: Marble (or granite) is indeed best for rolling out pastry dough, not because it’s significantly cooler but because it absorbs heat from the dough, helping to keep the dough cool. In pastry making, it’s important not to let the dough heat up because the butter can start to melt, which hinders flakiness and makes the dough hard to roll. Marble can do this because it has a high thermal mass, which means it holds its temperature better than other materials. So even as a marble surface absorbs head from the dough, it still stays relatively cool. If you can chill the marble board first, it functions even better. If your marble board is too large for the refrigerator, set a bag of ice on the marble for several minutes. Be sure to dry the surface before putting the pastry on it.
By the way, I don’t recommend rolling pastry dough directly on marble, or any other surface, for that matter. I know that many pastry chefs do, but I find that I end up incorporating too much flour into the dough. Instead, I lay a lightly floured canvas pastry cloth on the board and pull a floured cotton sleeve over the pin; both of these add just enough flour to prevent sticking.