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I have a kitchenaid 6 quart stand mixer and a large family of nine. At the moment we're using coupons to buy biscuit dough, but I wanted to look at the time and effort to make our own. Not just for cost savings (though that would be nice) but more to control what we're actually eating.

Many of the better recipes call for the butter to be cut into the flour. I have a hand tool for this, but am unsure whether the paddle or whisk is best, or if there's another tool I should consider purchasing.

What tool should I use, and at what speed will best duplicate the process of cutting cold butter into flour without warming up the butter too much?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Since you ask about other tools, I recommend avoiding the mixer altogether and instead grate frozen butter into the flour. If you have a food processor you can use the coarsest grating blade--chilling the bowl and grater first will help keep the butter cold will help--but it goes quickly by hand with a coarse grater.

The key is to get the butter distributed quickly and keep the butter and dough cool while working the dough as little as possible. If you do use the mixer, chilling the bowl and paddle helps.

And, regardless of method using ice water and very cold liquids helps.

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The paddle should be used for this. You'll want to do it on a lower speed, probably no higher than 2 or 3. You'll have problems with the flour flying up before you have trouble with the butter melting. It will also help to chop the butter up some before putting it in.

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Instead of a mixer, I use a food processor (Magimix) with a steel knife.
It's the fastest way to blend cold butter with flower without heating and melting the butter.

Note that a mixer will probably heat the butter because more energy must be applied to squash the butter than to cut it.

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Is this common around here to down vote without explaining? My answer is legitimate, even if it's pointing at other, (much better IMO) alternative than the question asked for. – uval Jan 19 '14 at 0:40
It's often polite and helpful but never required to explain voting, and we'd rather people feel free to vote even if they don't have time or wish to explain than for them to not view at all. I can't read the anonymous voter's mind, but perhaps they found your answer not useful because you didn't actually answer the question as asked in the title. Or perhaps it was mentioning the heating - while it's probably true that the mixer will heat the butter more, it's because it takes longer, not because of mechanical energy being turned to heat, and it's probably not enough of a difference to matter. – Jefromi Jan 19 '14 at 8:31
@Jefromi - thanks! Naturally everyone is entitled to have different opinions, and I welcome debate in the aim of education - myself as well. Anonymous down vote is in my opinion contrary to this approach, as it is just being a bully. Intimidate people from speaking up is bad. (And about heating the butter - you're right - longer time leads to higher heat - but also what I've said is perfectly true - mechanical energy is transformed to heat). – uval Jan 19 '14 at 12:08
It's not bullying. It's helping get answers ranked in the right order, on average. You may or may not have deserved this particular vote, but that doesn't mean anonymous voting is bad. The site is designed that way - your votes are private. See also… and… – Jefromi Jan 19 '14 at 15:42
As for mechanical energy: yes, it does of course get transformed into heat, it's not going to be a significant amount compared to the other heating. What you've said is perfectly true, but also insignificant. – Jefromi Jan 19 '14 at 15:45

Dice the butter and use the paddle attachment, as sourd'oh recommended. The paddle will break up the butter some, but more importantly will 'squish' the pieces, making them thinner and flatter. That will layer the butter through your pastry, making it flaky. This is similar to the effect of coarsely grating the butter, but will create a good shape and mix the pastry at the same time. You won't mix as fast this way as with the whisk or a food processor, but it's still hands-off and you'll get flakier results.

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Well, I have to go against what sourd'oh said, I like the whisk attachment for cutting in butter. I have owned two kitchen aid's in the past and they both had nice solid whisks with thick wires that worked great for cutting in the butter.

And to go with the heat theory that uval mentioned, a whisk has much smaller surface area hitting the butter and so is not smashing the butter as much as a paddle would.

As a side note, I now own a Delonghi stand mixer, and I do NOT use that whisk attachment for cutting in butter because it is much to then/easily bendable wires.

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I'm going by what kitchenaid says and yes you can. Use the paddle and the lowest speed.

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