Creaming is a special method to make cookies, cakes and quick breads. It is more complex than just combining ingredients together and it needs to be done the right way, in order to get the results you were looking for, once the baking is complete. That is why it is important to understand the timing and the various parts of the method. Here is what you need to know about creaming butter and sugar.
Baking: A Special Art in Cooking
If you are not afraid of the sweet stuff, and you like to bake, then you must have crossed paths with recipes where you had to cream butter and sugar. Not all cooks are specialized in desserts. It is completely different from creating appetizers and main meals. Some of the greatest chefs in the world are pastry chefs, and that’s because they have the most difficult job in the kitchen.
Why? The answer is simple: You cannot afford to go wrong on quantities, for each ingredient, and on the duration of baking. Otherwise, the recipe won’t work. Creaming butter and sugar is a part of the recipe, which needs to be handled perfectly, or else whatever you are baking won’t end-up as it is meant to.
Creaming: Mixing Butter with Sugar
This method is used when you bake different kinds of cookies, cakes and quick breads. The goal is to create air bubbles in the dough, while it cooks in the oven. This expands them and they become lighter. To do so, you need to mix the butter and sugar in a more extensive manner than just incorporating them together.
When you bake whipped cream or egg whites, it is quite obvious that there will be air bubbles, thanks to the nature of their texture. To get the same effect with butter and sugar, you first need to soften the butter, before mixing it with the sugar. The grains need to be distributed throughout the fat, which is what will fluff up the mixture while baking.
Softening the Butter: The Key to Creaming
If you are too impatient to start cooking, and you don’t take the time to soften the butter, chances are it won’t combine with the sugar the way it should. To cream butter with sugar, thee butter needs to be at a temperature between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is colder, it simply won’t be able to hold air and create the necessary bubbles. If it is warmer, the creaming won’t hold as the bubbles will collapse.
If a recipe says that the butter is supposed to be at room temperature, it can be quite misleading in regards to creaming butter and sugar. Depending in where you live and the season, the room temperature will vary greatly. If you want to know if you have the right temperature for your butter, try pressing on it gently. If it gives a little, you’re good to go. If it remains hard, it needs to get warmer.
The Duration of Creaming Depends on Volume
Depending on the volume you want to reach with the end product, you will need a longer creaming time. If you are baking a cake, you will probably want it to raise high, so you’ll need to spend more time mixing the butter and the sugar then if you were baking cookies (unless you want them to gain a lot in volume). Just be aware that if the cookie is high in butterfat, or is supposed to be thin and delicate, creaming can make it crumble.
But there isn’t only the duration of creaming that is important. It also depends on the kind of mixer you are using, or more importantly, which one is requested inside the recipe. If that is the case, then you only have to follow the duration, according to the mixing method indicated. If it isn’t mentioned, here is what you should do:
If you are baking a light cookie: Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
If you are baking a denser cookie: Blend till you get a smooth paste and don’t cream anymore.
Softening the Butter (or not)
Normally, it is best to leave the butter outside the refrigerator, for as long as it takes to get to the right temperature (65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). However, if you are in hurry, cut the butter into little squares and add sugar to it. Use a hand or stand mixer and beat the two until the colour becomes lighter and it gets fluffy. As you do so, make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl often. It will definitely take you longer to complete the creaming (up to 15 minutes).
Don’t use a microwave, unless you control it perfectly. Otherwise, you will just end up melting the butter. No matter when you decide to mix them, just make sure the butter and sugar are not only combined, but totally incorporated together.