You’ve probably heard that stone worktops are better for baking. You may even have heard that top pastry chefs use marble worktops or marble slabs in their kitchens, despite the fact that it’s simpler to meet health and safety regulations with stainless steel. If professionals are willing to spend time, money and effort on something, that’s a clear sign its worthwhile. But why, exactly, is a marble worktop better than a wooden or stainless steel one?
Which Foods are we Talking About?
Stone worktops aren’t a feature in most Michelin-starred restaurants, so which dishes does it make a difference for? The answer is that while stone’s heat and scratch resistant properties make it a great choice for everyday cooking, it really shines when you’re making something special. Marble worktops are particularly loved by the fine artisans of the cooking world: pastry chefs and chocolate makers.
What’s so Great About Stone?
In both pastry making and chocolate making, temperature control is critically important. Marble absorbs heat quicker than wood or plastic, which means that it helps cool chocolate quickly, and keeps pastry cool as you work with it. Chefs work pastry with their hands, and body temperature is rather higher than the ideal point for pastry, so it’s really useful to have a marble counter wicking away the added heat.
Try it at Home!
Stone is food safe, so you don’t need to worry about rolling your pastry out directly on your countertop. Of course, you should make sure it’s clean first, and, as usual, spread around a little flour to stop the pastry sticking.
Modern stone countertops are typically sealed, which makes them even easier to clean and more scratch resistant. This is great if you’re cooking with kids, as you can spread things out and let them bash away without worrying that your little chefs will damage your counters.
Making Chocolate at Home
Making chocolates at home is easier than it sounds, particularly if you’ve got a cool stone counter to work on. You can start from scratch, with cocoa and milk, or mix ready made chocolate with your own selection of flavours – perhaps fresh berries or a dash of liqueur – to create delicious truffles.
Not Cool Enough? Use Ice!
Working in a warm kitchen, every surface can heat up so even marble or granite loses its chill. If that’s happening, you can cool your counters or baking slab by laying ice on it. It’s safe to lay ice directly against the stone, but you may want to use a container for ice cubes, to avoid getting melting water everywhere.
Watch out for Lemons
Highly acidic foods, such as lemons and limes, can damage stone. Typically, this dulls the polish rather than damaging the stone itself, but it can still be frustrating. Avoid letting lemon or lime juice get in direct contact with your stone to keep it pristine.