A Pastry Trick

November 13, 2012

Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, Amanda shows us a neat pastry trick with butter.

Never make pastry the same way again. Many recipes call for cubed butter -- but today, Amanda reveals a nifty hack of freezing a stick of butter overnight so you can turn it into little curls, avoiding the awkward act of pinching butter cubes.

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Watch Amanda revolutionize the way you work butter into your dry ingredients, and then make the perfect puff pastry with confidence.

This video was shot by Kyle Orosz. Photos by James Ransom.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • jo
  • mcs3000
  • PFossil
  • Komal
  • paseo

Written by: gheanna

My two (current) favorite foods start with the letter D: doughnuts, and dumplings. If a dish has bacon in it, I will most likely eat it. If I could marry honey butter, I would.


jo February 23, 2014
in my quest for perfect biscuits I read this tip: slice chilled butter, vertically, as thin as possible. it was shown using a paring knife, & resembles flecks of butter. I then freeze the butter for 10 minutes or more, after slicing to firm it up then proceed with recipe. my search continues for biscuits i'd call my favorite.
mcs3000 October 7, 2013
Ok, that's genius, Amanda.
PFossil August 26, 2013
I'm sure the more skilled and graceful among us will succeed with this wonderful trick but alas, not I. I tried this and ended up grating my thumb because the whole mess was so slippery. I had to toss the dough... too bloody. And, it all got a little melty and hard to scrape off the grater. I'll stick with the little cubes.
Komal February 21, 2013
I also use this tip, thanks to delia. Will try the alcohol tip mentioned by abbyarnold!
paseo November 21, 2012
?hanks to Eleanor Klivans been doing this for years
tinyapartmentchef November 21, 2012
Just used this tip this morning for my thanksgiving apple pie - I will never cube butter again! The dough came together much quicker and with less aggravation on my part than pie doughs I've made in the past. Thanks Amanda!
lpeteob November 15, 2012
Great tip, but Amanda, please take your rings off when you work with food by hand. A jeweler friend of mine says it's disgusting to see the amount of bacteria that builds up on the inside of rings! I keep a ring holder on my kitchen windowsill just for that...
wizarddrummer November 14, 2012
great tip. I've had decent luck with a few quick pulses on the Food Processor with very cold butter, but this, I think is more elegant.
EllieinArecibo November 14, 2012
Can someone offer advice on how to use this technique if I am making a piecrust that involves both butter and lard? Should I freeze the lard and try this technique with it as well? Just use this for the butter and then mix in the lard some other way? This year I'm going to try using some percentage of lard in my crusts, maybe up to 25%, but I like the idea of this butter technique.
wizarddrummer November 14, 2012
I've used lard a lot and I think that it depends on the type of crust you want. Crumbly or flaky. Flaky crust has wider, broader layers of fat that separate the flour whereas a tender crumbly crust has smaller pockets. You might want to consider doing this. I'm just guessing here but it might work.
1) decide on the percentage of butter to lard that you want.
2) do the butter operation the same as described in the video.
3) cut the remaining (chilled) lard into pea sized or 1/4 inch cubes and toss that into the butter/flour mixture.
4) chill for about 15 minutes, add cold water, incorporate and let rest for the desired amount of time
5) roll out. You should get a combination of crumbly / flaky (again it's a guess because when I use lard, I use cubes that are a little larger than 1/4 inch and I just roll them after blending gently.)
wizarddrummer November 14, 2012
or vodka / other water substitute instead of water :)
petrini.elisa November 14, 2012
GREAT tips!
[email protected] November 14, 2012
Wonderful tip and new to me despite years of German Xmas baking lessons.... cool!
abbyarnold November 14, 2012
I've been grating butter for years out of laziness! Two other tricks:
One that makes crustmaking SO easy is a round, zippered crust envelope I bought at Bed Bath & Beyond. It is the size a piecrust should be, and you flour your dough lightly, put your dough in there, zip it up and roll it out. Voila!
The other is to use vodka or a flavored spirit (bourbon is good for a pumpkin pie) as all or part of the cold liquid you use to bring the dough together. It evaporates when baked, making a flakier, not soggy crust. Wow, I think I'll go bake a pie!
ChrisBird November 14, 2012
I got $35 from fine cooking in 2004 for submitting this as a tip. I probably learned it from Delia Smith too, since I am a Brit. But sadly I didn't remember where I got it, so didn't acknowledge her.
CarlaCooks November 14, 2012
This is a nifty trick. I first learned about it through Cooks Illustrated about 5 years ago, via their recipe for scones. It really works well.
Margaret M. November 13, 2012
I can bump fists with Amanda here; it will change your ever-lovin' pastry life. I know this because of Delia Smith's "Christmas" (BBC 1990) and her recipe for Sausage Rolls, page 72. The grated frozen butter gives you instant demi-puff. I've made it for well. 22 years and it never fails.
mcs3000 November 13, 2012
lovemesaysfood November 13, 2012
chickadee November 13, 2012
Great idea!