rubbing butter into flour :golden syrup dumplings
Posted: 23 August 2011 07:14 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello everyone,

I don’t know if this is just an Australian thing, but one of my warmest childhood food memories is Golden Syrup Dumplings, which I have never been able to replicate to my satisfaction in my own kitchen. My sauce isn’t quite right (too lemony and not gooey enough) but the real disappointment is the dumplings. My mothers were always light and fluffy. Mine are not.

The basic technique called for in every recipe I have ever seen is rubbing the butter into the flour using ones fingers. This is something I have never enjoyed, and whenever a recipe calls for me to do this (I recently tried a new biscuit recipe which uses the same technique) I am unsure when I am ‘done’, and I don’t understand quite what I am trying to achieve. Is it important that the butter not melt? (At least one recipe for dumplings I have seen tells you to start with butter at room temperature, which doesn’t make sense to me if its a pastry type ‘must not melt’ situation, although it sure does make the rubbing go quicker!) Can I whiz them in the food processor and expect a similar outcome? Could I just blast them in the microwave and stir them together? And if not why not?

Hoping for a little light,

Jane

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Posted: 24 August 2011 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’m unfamiliar with these, is there a recipe? Are they cake-like inside? 

In general, when you rub butter into flour, the purpose is to coat the flour so that very little gluten forms when you mix the dough.  This produces tenderness.

Butter temperature matters: melted butter, softened (65F) butter and cold butter all produce different effects in a dough.  If the recipe calls for softened butter, letting it melt would produce a different texture.

If you object to using your fingers, then a food processor would probably be the next best thing.

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Posted: 24 August 2011 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The recipe sounds like a colloquial biscuit recipe. At least we Americans call them biscuits but they are really dumplings. The texture of the final result will depend upon the person that makes them. You have to ‘learn’ these recipes through practice. The goal is to coat the flour with butter to keep the dumplings tender. If some flakiness is desired you want to keep some of the butter in small pieces (usually described as cornmeal texture). Then there is the final mixing when the liquid is added. You want to mix only enough to bring the dough together. Some gluten is needed to achieve lightness but more gluten will lead to toughness. Make lots of small batches and take notes of what you have done. Change only one thing for each batch. Keep us informed of your progress.  smile

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Posted: 24 August 2011 10:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Some recipes for golden syrup dumplings:
http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/6557/golden+syrup+dumplings
http://thecakemistress.com/blog/freerecipes/golden-syrup-dumplings/
http://www.csrsugar.com.au/Sweet-Decadence/Desserts/Golden-Syrup-Dumplings.aspx

The dumplings are not particularly cake like, the dough is unsweetened, all the flavour comes from the sauce. I think (not really being overly familiar with american biscuits… in my earlier comment where I talk about biscuits I mean ‘cookies’) Gene is right in saying these things are similar to ‘biscuits’. The dumplings are all about texture. Over the years I have achieved everything from rubber balls to a mushy mess which is more like soup! I manage to avoid the two extremes now, but have never got to anything which captures what made this such a peak winter dessert experience.

I must say, Gene, that your response ‘The texture of the final result will depend upon the person that makes them. You have to ?learn? these recipes through practice’ is depressingly similar to what I am always being told here. As someone who has been making the blessed things for twenty years and still finds her results sub-optimal I was hoping for a little more, I don’t know, science?

Any suggestions how to quantify how ‘rubbed in’ the butter gets, so I can make proper comparisons between batches?
If I am starting with room temperature butter, would it be preferable to have the egg and milk at room temperature as well ( I know with some recipes having everything at the same temp improves performance), or would this be redundant?

BTW, even though _mine_ are nothing to write home about, made well these are just about the yummiest thing I know.

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Posted: 24 August 2011 11:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I would suggest trying to standardize your ingredients and method, so you can keep track of progress and changes that you do or don’t like.

A few thoughts:
-I assume you are weighing ingredients, is that right?

-The flour brand, type of butter, etc. should be the same every time (unless it is the one thing you are changing),

-Have all ingredients at room temp each time (if your ingredients are refrigerator cold, the dumplngs are more likely to be dense and/or have too much gluten development).

-To standardize the step of rubbing the butter into the flour, you can use a food processor and time it.  You want the butter/flour bits to be pretty small if tenderness is a goal. Larger butter pieces will be a little flaky and less tender.

-If it were me, I would err on the side of too much mixing with the first step of rubbing the butter into the flour, and then err on the side of barely enough mixing when adding the liquid ingredients. 

-After all that, you could also consider adding more baking powder (in addition to what is contained in the self-rising flour) for additional lightness and tenderness.

-Or you could consider replacing part or all of the egg white with yolk, for added richness, flavor and tenderness.

-Or you could use a richer dairy, like creme fraiche or heavy cream for flavor and tenderness.

Good luck!

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Posted: 25 August 2011 03:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Wow! Butter dumplings cooked in syrup. What could be better? Served in the syrup with cream. Seems very British. Maybe we can attract the attention of some of our British friends for help.  I would guess that these do not cook well if the concentration of sugar in the syrup isn’t high enough. That adds more variables. Is the syrup traditionally thick and heavy in the final product?

My ancestors were Norwegian and every Christmas my aunt made a cookie we called ‘futtymuns’. I have tried to reproduce my aunt’s Fattigmans many times and have never come close to my memory of those holiday treats. I think she fried them in lard which is a commitment I have been unable to make so far. I still make them every year and despite their poor quality it preserves my connection with a dear aunt.

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Posted: 27 August 2011 02:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Did you see this?

http://theenglishkitchen.blogspot.com/2011/04/golden-syrup-dumplings.html

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Posted: 28 August 2011 02:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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msjane - 23 August 2011 10:14 AM

Can I whiz them in the food processor and expect a similar outcome?

Many American biscuit recipes call for just that.  Another technique is to freeze the butter and then use a coarse grater to provide the fat particles to disperse in your dough.  The latter method would prevent you from overprocessing the butter.  I agree with you in that I find the pinching method unappealing.

BTW, you want the butter as cold as possible.  Your goal isn’t so much to coat the flour, but to separate layers of gluten with flat pieces of butter.  That’s what makes them flaky.  Melted butter is bad.  However, in order to pinch, it’s conceivable that right-of-the-fridge butter might be too hard.  Most of the flour in biscuits is uncoated with fat, which is why it’s very important not to handle the dough too much after the liquids are added or they will develop too much gluten and become tough.

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Posted: 29 August 2011 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m not sure but I think that the recipes in question aim to produce a soft, doughy-yet-light dumpling interior, rather than a flaky biscuit interior.  Any Aussies want to set the record straight and tell us what the inside of these should be like?

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Posted: 01 September 2011 04:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thanks everyone, I appreciate the advice! I am going to beat this one, and when it’s PERFECT I’ll have you all round for dessert, OK?

The English recipe looks interesting… I’ve never seen a recipe which calls for the golden syrup in the dough itself! I think I’ll have a run at this one tomorrow night, and let you all know how it goes.  It calls for the food processor, so I won’t even need to cheat. I haven’t actually done the dumplings again yet since my first post, but I did do the new biscuit recipe I alluded to, working in the food processor instead of rubbing, and I certainly don’t think the product was any worse. (It was certainly less work for me!)

My problem now is that I have run out of winter… first day of spring here today (and the blossom on the trees down our street to prove it!) Now I think of it, this seems to happen to me every year. By the time I have had as many disappointments as needed to really make me focus on the problem, the seasons change and I put it away for another year…

One other thought I had during the week was about scones… the classic scone recipe I learned as a girl has the same basic rubbing butter technique, but a few years ago I found a really wonderful recipe for scones which doesn’t use butter at all, but cream; my scones improved markedly overnight. This suggests another approach to the problem…

But for this week at least I’ll do a half batch of the English Kitchen recipe (there’s no way my family is going to put away 4 cups of flour worth of dumplings!)

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Posted: 02 September 2011 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Well, I did try the English Kitchen recipe, and it is definitely an improvement, both in terms of ease of production, and quality of product.

As per Julie’s advice, I made a sincere effort to if anything overmix the butter and flour, and in the second phase sought to stop mixing as soon as the dough came together.

I am wondering about the direction to warm the milk… would this be to ease the mixing of the syrup and milk, or would it make a difference to how the milk incorporates into the dry ingredients? I did as they said anyhow.

I was certainly glad I did a cut down version… though my boys are serious eaters, even a half quantity of the dumplings defeated them. Mind you most of the recipes I have made before called for 1 cup of flour, and this was 2 cups even at half quantity. I was worried about there being enough syrup to cook the dumplings in so I went 2/3 for the syrup, but if (when) I was doing this again I think I would do the full whack of syrup, and cut down the amount of dough even more.

The next challenge I envisage is about getting the dumplings into the syrup in a timely manner. Because you are not pre-forming the dumplings (as some recipes require), just spooning them directly into the cooking syrup, you need to be fairly quick or the first ones in will be half cooked before you are getting the last ones on. Hmmm. I wonder if an icecream scoop would speed things up? Though you wouldn’t want them to be over regular in shape. It’s probably just a matter of practice, I suppose (and having some clear working space!!! Because this is a ‘serve straight away’ type thing, I was making it in post dinner prep pre-washing up dinner shambles. Trying not to knock over the tottering piles of dishes. Not especially conducive to undivided attention.) Any how I certainly will be starting for a higher base when I come back to it next winter. Am going to write up changes and copy this into my recipe book before bed tonight.

Thanks again.

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Posted: 02 September 2011 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Happy to hear of your progress!  Good luck next year. smile

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