January 12, 2011
Many recipes (including the directions for making our scones and our biscuits) call for using chilled butter.
Lets face it--chilled butter is. . .cold. Hard. Difficult to slice--and difficult to work with. It is SO much easier to work with butter that is softened to room temperature, or even melted. So WHY should you go to the extra effort and time to cut in chilled butter rather than melt the butter and simply stir it into the mix?
To paraphrase Lauren Chattman (The Baking Answers Book)--the point in using chilled butter is so that it doesn't melt during dough assembly. What you want is for the butter to melt in the oven--freeing up space and creating minute steam pockets of expanding gases which aid in the rise of the dough. If the butter melts before you get to the dough to the oven, you lose those pockets of gas expanding, leaving you with a denser baked product.
So cut the butter in cold (we use the flat paddle of our mixer to accomplish this quickly!) and if it is hot in the kitchen--pre-chill your mixing bowl!. What you are wanting to create are corn-meal sized granules of butter mixed with the dry ingredients. Then stir in your COLD buttermilk quickly (again, don't pre-melt that butter!)--pat your dough out quickly and cut your scones.
And then--FREEZE the DOUGH. When you are ready to bake, take your scone or biscuit dough straight from the freezer to the preheated oven--and see how gloriously light your scones and biscuits will bake up!