There are so many different techniques and skills in the world of cooking and baking. Once you look beyond your basic pound cake or apple pie you will find that there are a lot of other possibilities. Since I just love to explore and learn new things, it always gets me excited when I find something new. If I don’t understand why a technique is used I’ll dig into it even more, trying to understand its purpose.
The other day, when I was trying to make quite a complicated lemon meringue tart, I ran into a technique called ‘fraiser’ (a French term). It’s a technique used for making certain pie doughs that isn’t commonly mentioned and has quite an interesting effect on the pie dough itself. We’ll dig deeper into the science of ‘fraiser’ in this post.
Fraiser vs fraisier vs frasier
First of all, don’t confuse these three terms. They are spelled very differently and Google seems to assume you’re not looking for ‘fraiser’ but for one of the other terms since they seem to be far more popular.
Fraisier refers to a very elegant strawberry cake (fraise is French for strawberries) which has two layers of cake and strawberries and cream in the middle. It looks very pretty, and is very different from fraiser.
Frasier refers to something completely different again, not at all relevant to baking. It was a tv show in the late 90’s in which the main actor is called, yes, Frasier.
Last but not least, fraiser is the term we’re looking at here. You’re most likely to find success in your searches if you search for results in French, that’s how uncommon the term is.
Fraiser is a pastry technique
Fraiser is a technique that is used when making certain pie doughs by hand. It is most commonly used for sweet doughs (e.g. pâte sucrée). When you ‘fraiser’ a dough you use your handpalm to push down the dough (or parts of the dough) and smear it over your working surface. Some use it extensively, other only smear out the dough a few times. The video below (in French) shows a chef demonstrating the concept. The video starts at the point where he explains that you have to use the palm of your hand to push down the dough. He then only smears it down three times.
What is fraiser used for
You tend to use fraiser with a pastry that contains quite a bit of butter. By smearing the dough after you’ve mixed it you elongate the pieces of butter in the dough. Instead of butter pieces or balls you will end up with streaks of butter throughout the dough. It also helps to incorporate all ingredients homogeneously and bring the dough together in a soft smooth dough.
Cooks’ Illustrated found that fraisage of the dough (as it can also be called) helps to prevent leakage of thin pie doughs. Smearing out the butter makes the butter layers thinner, so if the butter melts it doesn’t create weaknesses in the areas with larger lumps of butter.
Butter for flaky crusts
The fraiser technique also tries to create pockets of butter in the dough, even though they are elongated. It’s function therefore has some similarities to that of folding a croissant dough or carefully bringing a flaky pie crust together. In all cases we try to use the butter to create surprising new textures in a pastry that really contains of just flour, butter, water, salt, maybe some sugar and yeast.
Pâte sucrée using the fraiser technique
Pâte sucrée is a French sweet pie (or tart) dough which can be used for all sorts of recipes, for fruit tarts for instance. It is q bit more robust I found than our standard pie crust. This recipe is from the Bouchon Bakery and uses fraiser to bring the dough together. There are all sorts of other recipes for pâte sucrée out there, some of which just consist of mixing the ingredients together. They all give a slightly different texture. This one was easy to make in a leakproof tart shell.
- 115g butter
- 50g icing sugar
- few drops of vanilla extract
- 190g all purpose flour
- 25g icing sugar
- 25g almond flour
- 1/2 egg
- Add the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix for several minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add the first portion of icing sugar and mix in slowly at first (to prevent icing sugar all over the counter) and then at a higher speed until it has all been incorporated and is a light and airy consistency.
- Mix in the vanilla extract.
- Mix the flour, icing sugar and almond flour together and break up any lumps (use a whisk to do so). Add them in with the butter/icing sugar mixture and mix until it's all just combined.
- Add half the egg to the mixture and again mix gently until it all just comes together (remember, you don't want to overmix to preserve those pieces of butter).
- Take the dough form the stand mixer apply the 'fraiser' technique. Use your hand palm to gently press the dough away from you, don't do the whole piece of dough in one go, take several smears to smear it all out over the counter.
- Collect the dough together, wrap it in plastic foil and store in the fridge until you'll be using it. In the fridge the butter will turn solid again which will help to create the right consistency. It works very well for fruit tarts.
Cook’s Illustrated, The science of good cooking, p. 374, 2012
L’atelier des chefs, Comment préparer une pâte sucrée ou sablée : les techniques des chefs, visited July-2018, link
Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel, Bouchon bakery, p. 128, 2012