Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How-to: Creaming

I love the holiday season, from about mid November until January, people everywhere become hosts and hostesses, bakers, cooks, and crafters when they might not think themselves capable the rest of the year.  When someone tells me of the delicious cookies they baked or cocktail party she hosted, I want to run up and give her a big hug and say something like, "See?  You can do it!  And isn't it fun?!  You should do this more often!"  (and probably frighten said person a little in the process, meh)

These seasonal bakers, or TC (Thanksgiving-Christmas) bakers as I like to call them, sometimes need a little refresher when it comes to baking lingo.  And some of you who are new to this may, too!  In most cookie and cake recipes, you'll see the instruction "cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy."  But, what exactly is light or fluffy?  How long will it take?  Patience, young grasshoppers.

Creaming is the process of mixing fat, butter or solid shortening (i.e. Crisco), together with sugar.  The dry ingredients are mixed with the fat until it becomes light and fluffy and increased in volume, due to the incorporation of tiny air bubbles.  Not only does the mixture expand, but the color becomes a paler yellow (if using butter).  These air bubbles, locked into the fat, remain in the final batter and expand as the item is baked, serving as a form of leavening agent.

Overall, creaming is a very important step when making cookies, cakes, and buttercreams (Captain Obvious on that last one, right?), so certainly don't skip this one.  There aren't any steadfast time constraints on this one, but usually two sticks of butter with sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium-high takes about 3-4 minutes.  Use your judgment, and pay attention!  This is not the time to walk away from your stand mixer and do an exercise video... who would ever do such a stupid thing... :)

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