Let's Talk Fraisage...(Smearing butter into flour)

Discussion in 'Pastry' started by J13, Jun 17, 2019.

  1. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    So, a few years back one of the PBS channels hosted a Julia Child Marathon for a holiday weekend. I turned it on and caught one of the old black-n-white episodes were she was making...I think it was an apple tart? Being a veteran of many a failed pie crust and always on the search for that secret method that creates perfect-crust-without-fail (I KNOW it's out there. I just have to find the right Master-of-the-Pie-Arts and convince them to tell me what it is!), I watched with amusement and interest.

    She mixes flour and cold butter together, yes, yes, add cold water, yes, yes...dump it all out on the counter...okay....And then...then she did something I had never seen at that point, never heard about. She smashed one part of the mixture with the heel of her hand and smeared the butter. Then she did it with another part of the mix. Again, and again, and again.

    I had no idea what she was doing, but boy, did it look like fun! And, of course, in the end, she scraped it all up together into a perfect crust that rolled out beautifully. :rolleyes: Never does that for me (grumble, grumble, grumble).

    So, of course, I googled around and found out this method was called "Fraisage." I did try it, twice—and it was fun! But I had some issues with he resulting pie crusts. One turned out tough, not flaky and tender as pie crust should. Another leaked out the butter. So. Here's the question (finally, right?): What do you think of Fraisage? Have you tried it and what were the results (besides it being a lot of fun)? What is the right way to do it (to avoid tough crust/melting out butter)? Why would you recommend it/not recommend it over other pie-crust-making methods?
     
    J13, Jun 17, 2019
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  2. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Fraisage is not meant for American pie crust. American pie crust is meant to be flaky. So you need chunks of butter in the flour. Fraisage does the opposite, it rubs the butter into the flour. And of course working the dough for that amount of time is also going to make for a very tough piecrust. It only takes a few minutes to make a pie dough, so I don’t know why someone would spend 15 minutes on fraisage anyway.

    I’ve used fraisage to made brioche by hand. You have to use fraisage when making brioche by hand.

    Last year someone asked for help in re-creating a bread from their childhood. It was a bread their grandmother baked every Easter. It turned out that they had a list of ingredients, but no instructions. The list of ingredients was in huge quantities (50 lbs of flour). Apparently the grandmother and all the ladies from her church got together to bake dozens of loaves every Easter.

    From the list of ingredients and their description of the shape of the bread I figured out it was a paska. After I completed the project I gave the bread to my sister since I can’t eat gluten. Turned out my BIL loves the paska. Loves it as toast. Loves it as French toast. So he requested more paska. Since it’s a heavy dough I don’t like to mix it in my mixer. So I reworked the mixing method to one that is similar to a brioche and use fraisage.


    This was the list of ingredients that I had to work with.

    00C83DFB-8082-4973-9AA4-5F86D2A9E657.jpeg
    And this is the paska I made from that list

    AEE7DFA0-600C-4D64-9E4B-09ADA0A92A04.jpeg
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 18, 2019
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  3. J13

    J13 Well-Known Member

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    Huh! And yet I've seen several on-line recipes and videos that use Fraisage for pie crust, claiming it makes crusts more flaky. They say that it smears the butter between the flour. This as compared to rubbing it into the flour. That was undoubtedly the problem with my attempt. I did it too much and rubbed the butter into the flour. Maybe a quick and fast minute is what's wanted (smash, smash, smash...done!)? I mean, a lot of pie dough recipes now include a similar instruction: Mix cut up butter in flour then flatten the cut up butter cubes with your fingers. Maybe that's the aim here. Keep the butter cold and in pieces, but thinned out so they take up more surface area between the flour like in puff pastry?

    That Paska looks terrific and very much like an "Easter" sort of loaf you'd buy in an eastern-European bakery. And don't you just love old recipes? Sometimes no instructions, sometimes no amounts, or like with yours, huge amounts (and I salute you for your mathematical abilities in trimming those down to a single loaf!), and no one there any longer to answer your questions. I've got a few of those recipes in an old box and when I glance at them I usually think "Do I have the time and patience to deal with this if I guess wrong...?" one is for a roast turkey and you can imagine how eager (not!) I am to try that one out. If I get it wrong there goes the whole turkey! :rolleyes:
     
    J13, Jun 18, 2019
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  4. J13

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I think people assumed that they could use it on an American pie recipe because a pate brisee and pate sucree have similar ingredients. But they are very different doughs, and I don’t think much though was given to those differences.

    In both pate brisee and sucree the butter is worked into the dough. And pate sucree contains eggs and sugar, making a rich and sweet dough. If you have ever had a pate brisee do you notice the crust is not like an American pie crust. While it is soft and does not have the flaky layers like American pie crust.

    The pate sucree, tart crust is smooth and crisp, more cookie like.

    French flour is softer and lower protein than American flour. French butter is higher butterfat than American butter. So when you fraisage using French flour and French butter you end up with a different dough from American pie crust. That technique is really not suited for American pie crust.

    Yes the poster grandmother was Polish, so it was an old European style bread. Scaling the recipe was the easy part. Trying to figure mixing method was more challenging. The poster said the bread had large holes. That is very unusual for a yeast bread.

    It was really puzzling to me that all these grandmas were making bread in the kitchen at the church. Yet the list of ingredients was written in Baker’s percentages.

    The Pet can milk also puzzled me for a minute but then when I thought about it I thought oh yeah that’s brilliant— it’s concentrated milk, so it’s pure protein. There was definitely a baker among them.

    Also how were they getting really big holes in yeast bread? Why was the list of ingredients in baker’s percentages? I figured a baker among them used a pre-ferment, so I created a poolish. And they probably had access to professional flour if they were using 50 pound sacks. But instead of using my Central Milling, I decided to go with Gold Medal since that would have been the most common household brand in the 60’s.

    It was interesting to figure it out.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 18, 2019
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