Whether you are making a quick batch of scones or preparing pie dough, there are many recipes that require you to cut butter into flour. Cutting the butter into flour is an essential step for producing a tender, flaky pastry – but it is also a step that intimidates a lot of bakers who haven’t had much experience with the technique. There are several methods that you can cut butter into flour and all of them will deliver good results. To choose which one is the best for you, take into account the pros and cons of each option:
The Easiest: Use Your Fingers
You can use your fingers to literally rub butter into flour. Chop up cold butter into small pieces, toss them in flour and rub the pieces into the flour by pressing them between your fingertips. This method is fun and will get your hands a bit dirty, but there is no special equipment involved and it will give you a great feel for your dough.
The Fastest: Use A Food Processor
If you have a food processor, a few pulses is all you need to cut your butter into your flour. You can’t beat this appliance when it comes to speed. The only downside is that you don’t have quite as much control over how large your butter pieces end up and they can often be smaller than with other techniques, since it is so easy to pulse the butter in. Having a nice mix of slightly larger (pea-almond size) and smaller pieces of butter often yields a more interesting pastry with a more homemade look. That said, you can produce dough with the same consistency consistently.
Most Convenient: Use a Pastry Cutter
This tool allows you to cut butter in quickly without getting your hands dirty. It has a comfortable handle and several blades that chop up the butter with minimal effort. You can make a good dough faster than the handmade method and with less cleanup than the food processor (since you’re not going to dirty up a whole appliance). Pastry cutters aren’t that expensive and don’t take up that much space in your pantry, so they’re nice to have if you make pastry on a regular basis.
Most Innovative: Use a Cheese Grater
If you don’t mind planning ahead, pop your butter into the freezer the night before you plan to use it. When you’re making your pastry, grate the butter into shreds with a cheese grater. You’ll have to work very quickly because the butter will start to soften in your hand, but all you need to do with that pile of shredded butter is stir it into your flour mixture – no cutting or rubbing required. It produces a wonderfully flaky dough. The technique doesn’t work nearly as well with non-frozen butter, so you really do need to prep in advance for this one.
So, which way is the best? They all are! Pick the method that you are the most comfortable with and it will be the best for you. If you’ve never tried cutting butter into flour before, start with the by hand method and work your way through the list. I actually use all of these methods on a regular basis and find each and every one to turn out fantastic baked goods.