Adventures in Baking- Cutting In Butter
February 27, 2015
Have you ever read a recipe for crusts, biscuits or scones that asks to cut butter into flour and have no idea what it means? Well drop those scissors because today I’m going to explain what it means and how to do it!
The technique of cutting butter into flour essentially means incorporating the butter into the flour so that small pieces of butter stay whole in the flour mixture, creating a flaky texture when baked. Depending on what you’re making, a recipe may call for the butter pieces to be pea sized or cut in to the point where the mixture resembles crumbs or corn meal; the bigger the pieces the flakier the end product. In my case I was making scones so I cut mine in until it resembled crumbs.
The first, and one of the most important steps, is to cut cold butter into little cubes. The colder the butter the better! You don’t want room temperature or melted butter because you’ll never get that flaky texture everyone loves.
Before we get to the cutting, lets discuss a few different tools that can be used and what I think is the best tool for the job. First up, a food processor, yes it’s fast and it works really well but not everyone has one and they can be a bit pricey. Next on the list, two knives, this works as well but I suggest you save those wonderfully sharp edges for slicing and dicing veggies. A sharp knife is a happy knife! Now for the tool that everyone uses, a pastry blender (pictured above). This tool was made for cutting butter into flour! My advice: DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE. I’ve never used one and I have had great results. My tool of choice-my fingers! They get the job done and they don’t take up space in your kitchen. Now you may have heard that the heat from your hands will make the butter too soft to achieve a flaky textured end product. This may be true, but all you need is a pair of latex or vinyl gloves to slow down the heat transference.
Now that we have flour, cold butter and the greatest tools ever, let’s get “cutting”. You want to pinch and rub the butter together with the flour using the tips of your fingers until you get to the desired texture. Once again, in my case I stopped when it resembled crumbs. Once you get your mixture to pea sized pieces or all the way to corn meal in texture…that’s it! You’ve done it! Easy right?
Now you can move on to the next step in the recipe you’re using.
I hope I’ve shed some light onto this easy yet essential baking technique. Sometimes they just sound more difficult than they really are.