creaming & combining, folding without deflating

Beating

To beat together ingredients simply means to thoroughly combine them and at a high speed, incorporating air into the mixture.  This can be done using a hand-held whisk and spoon in a rapid, circular motion, or using electric tools, like a mixer or food processor.

Creamed butter and sugar

Creaming

One of the most common first steps in many dessert recipes is to ‘cream’ together butters and sugars.  This is a very important step that can make all the difference in the quality of the final product, yet it is a step that is often rushed or not really done properly.  To truly ‘cream’ together butter and sugar means to combine the two ingredients at a high speed until the sugars have dissolved into the butter and the two have created a homogeneous mixture.  The mixture should become fluffy and be pale-yellow in color.  This process usually takes anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes.  I read once in a cookbook that when it comes to creaming butter and sugar, many people don’t realize how long 3 minutes is and consider this step completed after only about 1 minute of mixing.  I used to be a huge culprit of this.  Next time you’re following a recipe that calls for this step, set a timer for 3 minutes and take a look at the fluffy mixture before you.  There’s a chance it may be different than the one you’re used to seeing after you’ve prematurely concluded the creaming process!

Combining

To combine ingredients is just to stir them together until they’re thoroughly mixed.

Folding

Folding ingredients together is a very different process than the techniques describes prior.  Failure to fold correctly can result in some pretty serious consequences for your final product.  To fold means to gently combine a mixture or ingredient with another, more delicate one, such as beaten egg whites or whipped cream.  The reason that folding is supposed to be done gently, is to preserve the air in the delicate substance when combining it with the heavier one.  To fold two mixtures together, it’s best to use a rubber spatula to spoon a portion of the lighter substance onto the heavier.  Then,  use the edge of  spatula to ‘cut’ a path down the middle of the mixture, and then gently turn one half of the mixture onto the other half, being careful not to deflate any of the air from the lighter substance, but rather, incorporate that same air into the heavier substance.  Continue to ‘cut’ and ‘fold’ the mixtures onto one another, gradually adding more and more of the lighter substance until just combined.  Be careful not to over-mix and run the risk of deflation.

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