A pastry blender, with thin, crescent-shaped wires fastened on each side to a handle, is a device used to combine solid fat with dry ingredients when making pastry dough. The wires help evenly distribute fat throughout the dough. If you don't have a pastry blender, you don’t have to forgo baking pastries or pie. There are other methods to mix ingredients and still achieve a light and flaky crust or croissant.
Pour dry ingredients into a food processor and fasten the lid. Mix the dry ingredients for 5 to 10 seconds. Remove the lid.
Slice the chilled butter or other solid fat into 1/4-inch chunks, as the small pieces will mix more evenly throughout the dough. Place the fat into the food processor and secure the lid. Pulse the ingredients for 5-second intervals, about six times, or until thoroughly combined; it should have a coarse, mealy texture.
You can use two butter knives if you don't have a food processor. Place the dough ingredients into a bowl. Hold a butter knife in each hand and crisscross them over each other to form an “X” shape. Keep the knives crisscrossed as you gently combine the solid into the dry ingredients. Position the two knives on either side of the bowl and work your way toward the center. Use your right hand to lightly rake one knife across the left side of the mixture, while simultaneously using your left hand to mix the fat throughout the right side of the bowl.
Although it may seem tedious, it's important to work slowly. Don’t stir the mixture or use too much pressure while blending or else the solid fat will not distribute throughout the dough properly.
If the two knives don’t work and you can’t quite get your dough mixed, use your most primitive mixing tools: your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, and make sure they're dry, to avoid clumping the flour. Lightly grab the solid fat with your fingertips and mix it gently into the dry ingredients. Use a soft touch to slowly massage the dough until the fat is completely combined.
If your hands begin to feel warm or moistened, stop mixing the dough, rinse your hands with cool water and dry them before you resume mixing. Excess heat from your hands can cause the solid fat to melt and clump instead of distribute evenly.
Allison Boelcke graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor's in English and a minor in psychology. She worked in print journalism for three years before deciding to pursue Internet writing. She is now a contributing web writer for Demand Studios and Conjecture Corporation.