How to easily work in (nearly) frozen butter--and NOT slice your fingers to shreds in the process!

February 04, 2012

Our User's Guide to Scone Making and Scone Mixes is at the printer--with a proof copy due to arrive this week. Once that is approved, you'll be among the first to know! Our goal is to have this on our table at the Mid-Atlantic Innkeepers Conference, and up on our website as well. Here's a sneak peek:

I confess--for years and years I made these scones prior to starting Victorian House Scones--and no, I did not work with frozen butter. Cold butter straight from the fridge--yes--but more often cool butter that came out of the fridge and sat on the counter for 10-15 minutes. After all, it is SO much easier to cut it in when it is slightly cooler than room temperature vs. COLD. And my scones? They were, of course, very good--sometimes even excellent--but outstanding? Well, not all that often. Then I started working with frozen or nearly frozen butter. The difference is remarkable--and remarkable enough that I'm becoming the poster child for frozen butter.

So the question is--how do you get it into the mix without slicing your fingers to shreds--or ending up with a sore stiff arm for days because it was so hard to work into the mix?

I have two recommendations--both work equally well, so the choice is yours.
1. Use your mixer. If you own a stand mixer (such as a KitchenAid), you can use the mixer to work pats of butter into the flour mixture. Add the pats of butter to the bowl containing the mix, attach the flat beater and turn the mixer on low. It will quickly and easily work the butter into the flour mixture, leaving you with small nubbins of butter--and a crumbly mixture resembling corn meal.

Knowing how hard it is to slice frozen butter--slice it up when it is cool but not frozen--and then pop it into the freezer until you are ready to make the scones. If baking scones is one of the primary uses you have for butter, you can slice up several sticks of butter into scone size "batches", bag them, and freeze them so that they are ready for use when you are ready to bake.

2. OR--use your cheese grater. Grate up the proper amount of butter for a batch of scones (1-1/2 sticks for a retail bag, 3 sticks for a commercial bag), onto a sheet of wax paper. Wrap it up gently and place the grated butter in the freezer for a few minutes. (or you can grate up several batches of butter in advance, bag them, and store them in the freezer for future use). When you are ready to bake, take out the grated butter and add it to the mix already in the mixing bowl.

Blog--how to cut in butter.jpg Once the grated butter is in the mixing bowl, you can then either use the mixer (as described above)--OR a pastry cutter--I promise you that even if you choose the pastry cutter, it will take less than 10 passes to fully work the butter into the flour mixture. This technique is truly amazing!!!

Gently add the buttermilk to the butter/mix blend--and presto--you have scone dough!!

One word of caution--using very cold butter and cold buttermilk seems to result in a need for additional buttermilk to get all of the flour/butter blend moistened and worked into a ball. This is normal--so slowly add (by tablespoons) enough buttermilk to achieve a workable ball of dough.

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