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I'm trying to stay away from single use plastics for the environment. The only kitchen thing I have not yet managed to find a substitute for is wrapping pastry in cling film to let it rest in the fridge before rolling and baking. What can I use instead that doesn't let the pastry dry out while resting? I'm interested in a substitute that's either biodegradable or ideally reusable.

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    I use BeesWrap for just about everything, including pastry wrap, excepting meat. It's made of cotton with beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. It's washable, reusable, and a compostable alternative to plastic wrap. – bishop May 1 at 18:06
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    @bishop Bees Wrap claims to be sustainable but it’s really not: The producer suggests replacing it once per year. For the same price you get a multi-year supply of cling film, and the environmental impact of that is almost certainly less than that of buying new Bees Wrap every year (cotton in particular has a terrible eco footprint). It’s clever but deceptive marketing, nothing more. (It also plain doesn’t work great but that’s another issue.) – Konrad Rudolph May 2 at 10:51
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    @bishop My data is in the fact that it’s substantially more expensive: Price is often a fairly good proxy for resource usage (because, minus markup, that’s what the producer has to pay). Of course it’s not perfect but given our prior knowledge of the cost of the raw material involved I’d be very surprised if I was wrong here. – Konrad Rudolph May 2 at 14:10
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    @only_pro The major argument against cling film is oceanic plastic pollution. It's got nothing to do with its otherwise obvious convenience. – J... May 2 at 17:07
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    Price as a proxy for resource usage is a blatant lie from a environment point of view. Usually, the cheapest option for an enterprise is the one that moves most of it's cost as an externality, not the one that uses less resources. Like coal, cheap pesticides, mass antibiotics on cattle, etc etc. It does not reduce resource usage, it only reduces internal cost to the business. – Oxy May 3 at 12:55
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It is less useful than what you think

Frame challenge incoming...

Cling film is very light and made especially for such purposes. The environmental damage is extremely low - which limits what alternatives you can choose. Most alternatives (including those already mentioned in the other answers) will be so much more resource demanding to make, dispose or recycle for it to be worth it. Baking paper, while extremely useful - is full of silicones, so don't put it in the "paper" bin... and it is more resource demanding to make. Teflon, cloth, etc - same deal!

Aluminium foil, for instance. 75% of all Aluminium refined and made is still in use. Because of the extremely friendly "recyclability" of aluminium, it is a very good material. Just not for aluminium foil, it is rarely recycled. People just throw it in the trash. We destroy a valuable resource.

Cling film, on the other hand is dirt cheap to make and can safely be incinerated. If you worry about polluting the sea - I'd see if there are any alternatives to landfilling your waste in your community. As for carbon emissions - Walk once to the store instead of driving, and you'll be in the green even if you consider a life time supply of cling film.

Note: Some cling films are made with PVC, I'd consider switching to the less clingy, but better overall alternative LDPE. PVC contains chlorides and while the environmental impact is still low, if you go for LDPE or similar it goes to negligible. Check the box it came in to find which you have

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    Great answer. I’d like to add that domestic use of cling film is likely a tiny fraction of the overall use (in restaurants, but also in other industry). Stopping the use of cling film at home has zero impact or, more likely, a net negative impact since the substitute is likely worse, even if it claims to be “sustainable” (e.g. Bee’s Wrap — seems great on paper, works badly in reality). – Konrad Rudolph May 1 at 12:36
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    Sorry, but this doesn't answer the question, which is about alternatives to clingfilm, not the actual impact. – GdD May 1 at 12:49
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    @GdD That is why I introduced it with the "frame challenge". The result of meta.stackexchange.com/questions/263661/… seems like yes, it is allowed. As my pre post 131 reputation would indicate, I am not sure if it is common here on SA. – Stian Yttervik May 1 at 14:06
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    @GdD A well-supported frame challenge to assumptions in an OP's question is always a valid answer. It still might not be the answer the OP wants, but it's relevant information nonetheless. – Graham May 1 at 23:21
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    I wasn't aware of the concept @Graham, I'll keep it in mind for the future! – GdD May 2 at 7:23
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Use Tupperware, or a plate over a bowl. Since those items are reusable the environmental impact will be less so long as you keep using them. You can get Tupperware that is mostly glass too. Lots of places do this with their dough. All that moisture will still be in there as the dough rises or rests. As long as it's airtight it should work.

Alternatively you can put a damp tea towel over a bowl. This will allow the pastry dough to breath while maintaining moisture. Make sure the towel doesn't dry out though. If it does, your dough will too. Just add some more water to the towel when it starts to get dry.

Bakers use some variation of tupperware and damp towels all the time. Plate over a bowl won't work as well, but it should still work.

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    Downsides that I know, admittedly minor, but some applications you may want better air control that a tight wrap may provide, and in some cases ever pressure which you may not be able to duplicate with a container. Some synthetics plastic and rubberized containers also are porous and especially with use can tend to retain some amounts of smells, flavors and contaminants so some like to avoid them. In general, up/down votes do not get explained, but in this case is seems that many appreciate the challenge to the basic assumptions of the question. – dlb May 2 at 13:46
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    +1 - pastry was made long before cling film or fridges was developed, techniques from that time are still perfectly valid – Mołot May 2 at 14:43
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    @Steve 'think about your release strategy'? It may be you are overthinking this. I put pastry in a bowl with a plate over it. I have a variety of bowls in my home, and my standard pastry batch is always the same size, so not a great deal of risk of fatal error there.My release strategy is that I take the plate of, reach into the bowl, take hold of the pastry and remove it. This has never failed me yet. I appreciate that the bowl and plate method wouldn't work for a sheet of laminated pastry. – Spagirl May 2 at 16:14
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    @Skidsdev Dishes washed by dishwasher can be washed with less water. If you flour your bowl and develop the gluten in your breads well enough, then you really shouldn't have that much left over to wash. You might be able to get away with a towel. Clingfilm adds up. This approach won't add up as much because the bulk of the impact, the production, only occurs once. I'll wager that washing a bowl with a lid every time you use it for 50 years has less impact than using 50 years worth of clingfilm, especially if you have an environmentally savvy dishwasher machine. – user63835 May 2 at 19:26
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    I'll take that wager @Steve - any day. Water is energetically very expensive, it has to be procured, cleaned, heated, used, cleaned again, disposed. Sorry but I think you are wrong on this one... – Stian Yttervik May 2 at 23:34
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You don't have to use clingfilm (cling wrap, saran wrap depending where you are in the world), there are alternatives as long as the pastry is not sticky:

  • Plastic bags: I reuse zippable plastic bags as many times as I can, you can wash them by turning them inside out
  • Baking paper: baking paper can be re-used as long as it stays clean
  • Aluminum foil: again this can be reused several times
  • A damp towel: if all you want is to let pastry rest for an hour in the fridge then a damp tea towel works pretty well. Just make sure it is damp, not wet, or you risk moisture from the towel getting into the pastry and making it too wet
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    instead of plastic bags, there are also cloth reusable sandwich bags. They are easy to make at home if you want them. – Reed May 1 at 13:19
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    I personally like plastic bags for multiple uses with the zipper giving better humidity control even than the cling wrap. I find it works especially well when making fresh pasta for instance as it creates a nice humidity dome but I like the increased breathing over cling wrap. Pasta is not pastry, but a similar use. All viable alternatives though. – dlb May 1 at 13:22
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Put it in a bowl, large enough so the dough doesn't reach the top (if possible), cover it with a damp dishtowel (not wet, just damp). Voila. Totally ecological, and works better than plastic wrap because the dough can breathe.

If the towel touches the dough, you might have to scrape it off depending on the dough and the time involved, but that's not really a problem. Make sure to use a smooth towel, not a textured one which will both stick to the dough more and probably hold too much water. And use a clean one of course.

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    What does "the dough can breath" mean? Pastry dough has no need to respire - it's not alive. Even yeast dough doesn't need oxygen - yeast will happily produce CO2 from sugar without any oxygen (and even if the dough is completely open to the atmosphere, essentially zero oxygen will be able to diffuse into the body of the dough). – Martin Bonner May 2 at 8:41
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    Think back, people have been making dough for thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of years. Plastic wrap? Existed maybe 50 years. Do you really think dough needs to be totally sealed off from the atmosphere to do well? – user57361 May 2 at 16:33
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    @GeorgeM The fact that people have been doing something for thousands of years doesn't preclude the possibility that the modern way of doing it is substantially better (for whatever definition of "better"). Why do you need a truck? We've had horses and carts for thousands of years. Why do you need clean drinking water? We've needed to drink for thousands of years. – David Richerby May 2 at 17:13
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    @DavidRicherby You have to feed a horse. You don't have to feed a towel. – Jim May 3 at 1:00
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    @Jim I can get my horse to lie on top of my dough while it proofs. I can't get a towel to pull my cart. Wait, what are we talking about again? – David Richerby May 3 at 9:15
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I have reusable teflon sheets for lining cake tins and baking sheets. They also work well for wrapping pastry and dough. With pastry the easiest way is to make a folded parcel with the opening side underneath on a plate or dish. They wash up by hand or in the dishwasher and also save you lots of baking parchment/greaseproof paper and some foil.

Another option is a plastic box only a little larger than the pastry. With very little exposed surface area and very little air in the box it won't dry out noticeably. The two options can be combined - ina box with a small piece of the teflon sheet (an offcut perhaps) on top

  • I find the teflon sheets available in my area don't take too well to repeated folding, they lose the coating along any creases. – GdD May 2 at 7:25
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I have always used wax paper to wrap pastry for the fridge. It's always worked for me.

(Note: this is not the same thing as the baking paper/parchment mentioned in other answers.)

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    For pie crusts, cookie dough, and similar, that's what I use, too. (for yeast doughs, I find the wax paper can either stick to the dough and make a mess ... worst case being the wax paper tears as you're removing it, and then you have to go searching for the torn bits) – Joe May 1 at 17:45
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    Wax paper is awesome but it almost certainly has a larger negative environmental impact than clingfilm. – Konrad Rudolph May 2 at 10:44
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    @KonradRudolph How so? It is certainly much less harmful to wildlife, as it is digestible. I imagine it also breaks down a lot more quickly than plastic. – GentlePurpleRain May 2 at 14:48
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    @GentlePurpleRain Resource cost of production. Harm to wildlife and time of breakdown are much less relevant and, ideally, don’t matter: General waste rubbish is incinerated, not dumped, and the pollution thus produced by cling film is probably lower than that of burning wax paper, at least with additives: Ideally, LDPE cling film burns completely and the only waste it thus produces is CO2. Admittedly, sustainable wax paper does the same. So what remains is the difference in cost of production. – Konrad Rudolph May 2 at 14:58
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    @KonradRudolph Ok. Fair enough. I don't want to start a debate. I don't actually know that much about the environmental impacts of either; I just wanted to make sure that everything was being considered. Thanks for your input. – GentlePurpleRain May 3 at 16:11
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If your question can be changed slightly to: What to use instead of cling film to prevent pastry dough from drying out when resting (or storing) in the refrigerator?, here is what I would do. Similar to what others have suggested, find a glass container or plastic tub with lid a little larger than the footprint of the dough. Place a ramekin (smaller than footprint of dough) in it upside down (or something else you have around your kitchen to elevate the dough), add a little water to the bottom of the container, place dough on ramekin, cover with lid. Dough should not touch water, of course, sides, or lid. This method is used by home cheesemakers to create a humid environment.

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