Q. After reading and hearing about the virtues of a marble rolling pin and pastry board, curiosity finally overthrew parsimony and I purchased one. I've been much disappointed. Sure, marble feels cooler. But dough still sticks to it even when I refrigerate the pin. And who could ever have space in the refrigerator for a large, heavy marble board?
A. Marble is not the best dough-rolling surface. It's just the prettiest. Marble is not a cool surface; it only feels cool because it withdraws heat from your hand. That's not going to be much help when you have a room-temperature marble slab and a chilled piece of dough to roll on it.
Marble has been the preferred surface for candy-making, as one can work cooling syrup using a scraper and/or spatula without incorporating wood chips or leaving visible scrape marks in its surface. When the surface is properly oiled, syrup does not stick. Dough does.
Plywood is the best rolling surface. It has no seams and, even when sanded, it is a rough surface with which the dough has little contact. Hence, with a dusting of flour which acts as a lubricant, there is little resistance to the dough's stretching as a pin rolls over it. Smooth surfaces such as Formica or stainless steel present considerable resistance to dough because there is more contact.
To solve your dough-rolling problems, go to the lumberyard and buy a piece of ash- or maple-surfaced 3/4-inch plywood in the size you want (you may have to buy a larger size and either saw it yourself or have it cut). Sand the edges until smooth. Then go to a restaurant equipment supply store and buy a bench brush (a cleaning-style brush with 4-inch bristles) and a bench scraper (a square piece of stainless steel fastened to a wooden handle).
To roll any dough, strew plenty of flour over the board, roll out the dough to the desired thickness. Then brush flour off the board and dough using the bench brush. Flip the dough over if it's smooth and elastic and brush off excess flour. If it's fragile dough, run a spatula underneath, tilting one edge up. This will scrape excess flour from underneath as well as free the dough from the board.
When finished rolling, do not wash the board. This raises the wood's grain and food particles stick more easily. Instead, scrape all adhering dough off with the bench scraper (work with the grain to avoid damage to the board). The ideal place to store your new board? On edge in the space between the refrigerator and cabinet.
Q. I have made this maple butter sauce many times successfully. The last five attempts, however, have resulted in curdled flops. Why?
A. This topping is an emulsion of water (from maple syrup and egg whites) in softened butter. Sugar acts as a water-binder and aids dispersion of the syrup as minute droplets throughout. The addition of egg white (80 percent water), is actually counterproductive. Although it adds air bubbles, its water encourages curdling.
There are five ways to solve maple butter's curdling problems:
*Avoid beaten egg white altogether.
*Or, beat some of the confectioners' sugar ( 1/2 cup) with the egg white after it forms soft peaks. This stabilizes the egg white foam and keeps it from forming curds when it is mixed with the maple butter.
*Cream softened butter, confectioners' sugar and yolk together, then gradually add the syrup. You can't just dump all four together, as the syrup won't break up into minute droplets as readily (especially if the butter is too cold). And, if you prepare this by hand, beat with a whisk, not with a wooden spoon. If sauce separates, dip the bowl into warm water and beat vigorously. If that fails, add another egg yolk and whisk until smooth.
*Use a small mixing bowl. Larger bowls, with flatter bottoms, prevent the mixing action required.
Here's your recipe, revised to incorporate solutions one, three, four and five: MAPLE BUTTER (About 6 servings)
1/2 cup lightly salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup maple syrup
In a small mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar and yolk until light and creamy. Add maple syrup in a thin stream. Store at room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as this causes separation. Keeps one week.