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Recipes keep repeating on how the ingredients you add (at least in pie crust dough) should be cold. A quote:

If your dough gets too warm, send it back into the fridge to chill out. When you take it back out, it should roll more easily.

Why is temperature so important in making a dough more workable?

  • 1
    by "ingredients" they usually mean butter and water. I've never seen a recipe suggest flour or sugar be cold, other than this article from Stella Parks about making pie pastry during warmer months: seriouseats.com/2016/09/… – Agos Nov 24 '16 at 10:00
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It's not drastically important in making it workable, it's more important in the texture of the finished result.

When you roll out pastry dough, you are created interleaving layers of fat and the flour/water mix. When you cook it, the fat melts, leaving pockets in the dough, causing it to form flaky layers. This results in a crisp, light pastry.

For this to happen, the fat must remain as solid as possible until cooking. If the fat melts and blends with the flour and water before cooking, you will have a dense, cardboard-like pastry. Also, warm pastry dough tends to become sticky and hard to work with.

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    Some people want the moon on a stick @Stephie – ElendilTheTall Nov 21 '16 at 13:36
  • Just challenging you to use your full potential ;-) – Stephie Nov 21 '16 at 14:57
  • I assume that when mixing and kneading, care must be taken to not create the kind of friction that would raise the temperature too much - am I correct? – Bar Akiva Nov 21 '16 at 15:34
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    Correct. Your hands should be cold, the water in the dough should be cold, the work surface should be cold, the room should be cold, and you should handle the dough as little as possible. – ElendilTheTall Nov 21 '16 at 15:47
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Its even simpler than what @ElendilTheTall says. He talks about puff pastry, but temperature is general problem. The answer is simple, the warmer dough is, the softer it is (and maybe more sticky). Really fine dough with a lot of fat gets really soft. Cooling it down enables you to work with it easier.

  • Flaky pie crust isn't puff pastry - it doesn't puff up a ton, it just has enough layers to not be totally solid. And the last sentence of Elendil's answer already mentions that it gets sticky when warm, though you might be right that it's worth emphasizing more. – Cascabel Nov 22 '16 at 1:19

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