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By Nellie's Kindness Crew
If you've ever wondered how to cut butter into flour for an apple crumble topping, a flaky pie crust, layered biscuits, or tender blueberry scones, good news: there are countless ways to do it!
Cutting in butter means working large chunks of butter into dry ingredients (usually flour) in order to break the butter down into smaller pieces that are each fully coated in those dry ingredients.
When the small butter pieces in your pastry start to warm in the hot oven, the small amount of water in the butter turns into steam. That steam then tries to escape, creating a tiny air pocket that the butter itself melts into. The result? Those flaky, tender layers (and not to mention that rich and buttery flavor!) you know and love that are found in pie crusts, biscuits, scones, and other pastries.
A food processor is the quickest and easiest way to cut in butter. The only thing that can go wrong is overprocessing, which can happen in seconds. And when it does, the butter pieces become too small and overworked, resulting in a pastry that isn't flaky, but closer to a buttery cookie dough. As long as you're conservative with the pulse button, using a food processor is a foolproof way to cut in butter.
A pastry cutter is a tool made specifically for cutting in butter, and can be a great starting point for new bakers who don't have a food processer or worry about overprocessing their mixture. Pastry cutters are U-shaped with a handle across the top and 4-5 thin blades at the bottom that do the actual cutting of the butter. Unlike the food processor, pastry cutters let you target the biggest pieces of butter in your bowl while ensuring that the butter temperature doesn't increase too much in the process.
Most experienced bakers who have a pretty good handle on their technique like to cut in butter with their hands. While there are many benefits to gadgets and tools like a food processor or pastry cutter, using your own two hands gives you the most control over your butter pieces. It's also great way to tell exactly how your mixture feels at different stages of the process. There's one downside to this method, though: the heat in your fingertips will warm your butter pieces fairly quickly, so it's essential that you start with very cold butter.
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