A pastry blender is used to ‘cut’ butter into the flour. You can either use this simple and relatively inexpensive tool or you can your hands by rubbing the butter into the flour. This method is used in making quite a number of baked goods, like scones, some cakes and pastry, and biscuits.
This is what a pastry blender looks like. You can buy a pastry blender from most kitchen equipment stores or ask your granny, she might even have one for you!
Why the Rubbing Method?
The best reason for using the rubbing method I have read is from What Sarah Bakes:
“If you made three cakes with the same ingredients, but used different mixing methods to make it, you would get three different textured cakes.
Unlike the creaming method and the muffin method, the rubbing-in method coats the flour proteins in a layer of fat. This means that it is harder for water to get through, resulting in less gluten – which means a finer and more tender crumb. I particularly like using the rubbing method for a flaky pie crust or shortbread base where not much air is needed as a leavener.”
Tips when Rubbing in Butter
• Always use very cold butter. It should be cut into cubes.
• Always only use your fingertips when rubbing in the butter – it is the coldest part of your hand. You do not want to melt the butter.
• Rub the butter into the flour by using your fingertips and thumbs. You should try to incorporate some air into the mixture by lifting the butter and flour as you work.
This method is easier as it looks. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes quite therapeutic. Keep rubbing the butter & your hard work will pay off once you taste this buttery, ‘biscuitty’, crumbly savoury goods! 😉