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I made a sablé base for a cake last night. It was the first time I made this, so I used a basic recipe containing butter, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and egg yolks. After everything is mixed the recipe says to put the dough in the fridge for two hours so it can rest.

I wondered why this is necessary? There is no yeast in the dough that would let it rise.

My only idea would be too cool down the butter so it can be rolled out more easily, but then I think two hours would be pretty long for the amount of dough I got out of the recipe.

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2 Answers 2

Therre are actually two things that happen during the refrigerated rest period:

  • Obviously, the dough is cooled, which firms up the butter, making it easier to roll out without having it fall apart.
  • The starch granules absorb water, making the dough more cohesive, improving its texture, and making it easier to work

See: What does an overnight chill do to cookie dough, that a 4 hour chill doesn't?

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Refrigerating will reduce the temperature of the butter in the dough, making it less likely to melt when it's being worked into shape. There are other tricks: marble worktops; my grandmother had a hollow glass rolling-pin, which you could fill with ice-cubes and water.

If I'm making a wet bread dough I'll put it into the fridge after combining, before serious kneading. This seems to make it less sticky, but I'm not sure why.

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Refrigeration makes it less sticky because the butter is cold (think of hard refrigerated butter versus a stick that's been out all day) and because it's resting, so the flour gets to absorb moisture. –  Jefromi Aug 11 '13 at 16:21
    
Autolysis, apparently. Must be that, because many bread doughs don't call for butter. –  silves89 Aug 11 '13 at 19:25
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