Rubbing flour and butter together?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by chrisbristol, Mar 1, 2018.

  1. chrisbristol

    chrisbristol

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    Hello
    Just wondered if someone could answer me a question about rubbing flour and butter together. If someone understands the science behind it that would be great. I want to be very clear that I know what the head chef says goes just want to ask some questions to find out about the subject.
    I have a little bit of pastry experience but not much and quite a bit is self taught but I have some moderate experience.
    So I was making some scones at work today. We use bread flour to make them. Before when I made them I was told to use a kitchen aid to rub the flour into the butter then mix the buttermilk in by hand. We had to make four batches and we can only fit one in the kitchen aid so we have to do it four times then the buttermilk can be added to the one big lot all together. But the head chef told me to rub the flour and butter by hand as he thought it would be quicker because I could do them all at once. The big mixer is broken so we can't use that. Now he told me to soften the butter in microwave. I thought that was a big no no but he told me so I did it. But I only softened it a bit because I didn't want it to get hot. Now when I was rubbing it into the flour it was taking a while because it was a bit hard. Not that hard but hard enough to make it difficult to rub. A girl who had worked as a pastry chef at quite a high level suggested doing it in the robo coup( Don't know if you call it that in the states in an industrial food processor) The head chef said no because it would over work it.
    So he suggested putting it through a strainer and putting the butter which would have flour on it in the microwave to soften it.
    Now I have two questions. Firstly I thought butter for rubbing with flour was suppose to be soft but not hot. So don't put it in the microwave. The kitchen was cold but there would have been somewhere where we could have left it to soften. It wasn't urgent so I could of got on with something else while it was softening. And two is it OK to rub flour and butter together in a food processor? I have seen recipes from well respected chefs who have done it?
    Like I said what the head chef says goes but from my point of view at the time I didn't want to get the butter to hot so I didn't want to microwave it and I thought it could have been done in a food processor if it was to hard so at that time it was reasonable mistake to make given the knowledge I had.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2018
  2. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    I'm not really sure what you are asking. Are you asking:

    - Should the butter be hot? No.
    - Should the butter be softened in the microwave? If there is no time to let it soften on its own, then, softening butter in a microwave is ok if its done carefully. Use the defrost setting and try not to let it melt.
    - Can the butter and flour be rubbed in a food processor? Yes, especially if you want smaller crumb sizes. If you want larger crumb sizes, its better to do it either by hand or with a mixer.

    Cheers! :)
     
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  3. chefandrewl

    chefandrewl

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    I agree with the previous poster, except the butter or any fat should be cold.

    I believe the "rubbing" technique comes from grandma making biscuits. She would rub the fat and flour together by hand, before adding the buttermilk. You want the fat to be cold so it stays solid and melts in the oven which is what gives you flakes. In my establishment for our scones and biscuits we freeze our butter, then run it through a grater attachment on the mixer, then add it to the flour mixture. Same technique for pie crust as well.
     
  4. chrisbristol

    chrisbristol

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    Yes you have understood the question although it is not should the butter be hot. (I know it shouldn't be ideally) The question is,is it OK if it is? The butter probably would have been slightly hot when it went into the mix and the head chef said it would be OK as it would cool instantly because the room was cold. I didn't want to use the microwave because I was worried about it getting hot(hadn't thought of putting the defrost setting on, great tip thank you) Basically I'm trying to work out what the best procedure is and also trying to work out where I was right as well. Reason is that I lack a bit of confidence so I think it helps if I know what is a just plain daft mistake and what is an easy mistake to make given the knowledge I had at the time.
    The second question you understood it completely . Just want to expand on it a bit though. I know you shouldn't overwork a scone mix and cakes in general but can it be overworked when you are mixing it with butter or is it more when liquid is added and it becomes a dough?
     
  5. chrisbristol

    chrisbristol

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    Ow right. So does that mean that you would say that the best thing to do would have been to do it in the food processor?
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  6. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    [​IMG]
    Beurre manié ???????????
     
  7. chrisbristol

    chrisbristol

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    No I'm on about butter and flour for cakes.
     
  8. chefandrewl

    chefandrewl

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    As long as your fat is cold you can use the food processor, but you have to work quickly and your liquid would be ice cold too. The food processor blade generates friction which is heat.
     
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  9. chrisbristol

    chrisbristol

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    So I know you have to not overwork the dough. But what exactly is happening? Why is this? Also going back to your point you said to avoid heat. But there would be heat on your fingers(Gordan Ramsey made this point on pastry) does this mean that it is better to use a processor as it is faster? And if you do it by hand do you have to use softer butter?
    Also when you mix it by hand the butter and flour will be pushed together where as in a processor it will be cut and more separated like a powder? Is this a problem?
     
  10. Pat Pat

    Pat Pat

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    The texture of the scones can be varied by the way you incorporate the butter.

    If you use the use cold chunks of fat, the texture will be flaky.

    If you use a food processor and go overboard with it, the fat will get over-processed and the mixture will become sand-like, resulting in a crumbly texture.

    If your fat is very soft or completely melted, the texture will be very tender.

    Now that you understand how the fat works in scones, you can easily adapt your method to get the desired result.

    When using the food processor, some of the fat will inevitably get finely processed, so your scones will be a little more crumbly than if done by hand, no matter how careful you are. Personally, I like this texture the best.

    When I had to do 200 scones a day at this one place, I pre-cut my butter into pea-sized cubes and I just add those to the flour and incorporate everything by hand. No rubbing needed. Just kinda stir everything together so the butter cubes are evenly distributed.
     
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  11. frankie007

    frankie007

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    pastry shouldn't be overworked so the gluten doesn't activate. You are making short pastry which needs to be crumbly. More you work it more elastic it becomes and less crumbly(short).
     
  12. chefandrewl

    chefandrewl

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    Ditto the previous posters... a food processor will generate much more heat than your hands and fingers do. This is why I freeze my fat and grate in the small pieces and mix by hand. This creates a product that has a balance between flaky and short that my customers are looking for.

    At the end of the day you need solid fat pieces in your dough. All of the methods mentioned will get you there, it's finding your balance between volume you need to produce, the capabilities of your equipment and the end product you are looking for.
     
  13. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    I also freeze then grate the fat for biscuits.
    Grate then refreeze and combine with drys until you have a shaggy mass.
    Add a tiny amt of liquid and toss up and down in the bowl.
    Pour out on a floured surface and lightly pat into the proper height and cut into circles with a drinking glass (don't twist just straight down and up) then into the pan (sides touching).
    Makes a huge mess but the resulting product is well worth it.

    mimi
     
  14. don rich

    don rich

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