Baking is a fantastic combination of science and art. While following a recipe is important, there are certain skillsets and terms to master so you can enjoy different types of bread, pastries, cakes, and so much more.
One of those skillsets is mixing.
Not every baked good is mixed the same way. The pressure, speed, and method all make a difference in the outcome and final texture. Understanding the differences will help you become a better baker in no time.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at XX mixing methods in baking you should know.
Stirring is not exclusive to baking – it’s the most basic mixing method in cooking and the easiest way to combine several ingredients. Stirring requires you to use a spoon or spatula to work ingredients in a clockwise or counterclockwise motion.
We recommend a wooden spoon or spatula for two reasons. They are both very affordable and work the ingredients thoroughly, and they won’t scratch or damage your mixing bowls.
In baking, you might have to stir ingredients differently depending on how they’re being used. For example, if you’re making a pastry filling or sauce, you might have to stir vigorously over the stove so things don’t scorch or burn.
If you’re stirring together a cake batter, you’ll want everything to be well-combined without overmixing.
Despite what some popular sitcoms may say, folding is not complicated. It is, however, essential for the success of certain recipes.
According to Taste of Home, folding works delicate ingredients into heavier batters. The most common things to fold into a batter are whipped ingredients, like egg whites or heavy cream.
Spatulas are the best tool when folding ingredients. The broader head of a spatula allows you to manipulate your batter without deflating it.
Let’s talk technique. Folding is not difficult. However, if you do not fold your batter correctly, your pastry will not be the right texture. Rather than light and fluffy, it will be dense.
When folding, you should first start by adding a heaping spatula of your light ingredient to the batter. You will then go down through the center of the bowl, scoop your batter, and bring it up, folding it over the light ingredient – imagine you are folding over an omelet.
Then, you turn your bowl and begin the process again. Each time you will fold a little more of the light ingredient into the batter. Fold about three times, then add another heap of your light ingredient to the batter.
Repeat until you add three spatulas-worth into your batter.
Next, you will take your batter and gently spoon it into the bowl with your light ingredient. Avoid adding it directly on top of the light ingredient, as this will deflate it.
Once both are in the bowl, continue the process of folding your meringue, egg whites, or whipped cream into the batter.
Creaming can be a confusing term to new bakers. Unlike stirring, whipping, or kneading, it doesn’t bring a specific action to mind. However, just like folding, this is a very easy way to combine ingredients quickly.
Creaming refers to working butter and sugar together to create a light, fluffy mixture. Cakes and some cookie recipes often require creamed butter and sugar.
According to Pepper.ph, creaming adds air to the ingredients. This makes the butter lighter, while the sugar sweetens and softens it. It results in a better texture for whatever you’re baking.
To cream your butter, place the slightly softened butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and let it whip the two together until they are fully combined.
You can also cream ingredients by hand using a whisk or spatula, but it will take a bit of elbow grease!
Whipping is probably the most well-known form of mixing in baking. However, it’s more of a way to prepare things like eggs and heavy cream.
Whipping refers to taking an ingredient and introducing air by stirring it quickly with a whisk. This is generally done over several minutes until the ingredient’s texture has completely changed.
Whipped cream is a perfect example. To make whipped cream, take heavy cream and whip it for several minutes. The cream will eventually thicken to form standing peaks. However, the addition of air will have also made it extremely light.
The easiest way to whip ingredients is with a stand mixer or a hand mixer. You can whip ingredients by hand with a whisk, and it’s a great workout, but it takes considerably longer.
A hand mixer allows you to move through your batter a little easier and leads to more even results. While stand mixers are convenient, they lack the extra mobility hand mixers have.
Beating is a common mixing method for breaking down ingredients. It’s most commonly used to incorporate eggs into a type of batter. The purpose of beating eggs is to break down the egg white and yolk. You want to do this because egg yolks and egg whites have very different properties in baking.
Egg yolks are filled with proteins and are perfect binders. An egg white is thinner and can add volume to recipes.
Beating eggs into a cohesive state allows them to work together in a baked good.
You can use many different utensils when beating eggs. Around the world, bakers beat eggs with everything from forks to chopsticks and wooden spoons. Use whatever feels right.
The result should be a smooth, silky, yellow mixture. Once you have beaten the eggs, you can work them into a cake batter or custard.
Kneading is a mixing method exclusive to making dough. Unlike batter, dough is often is very thick. You usually can’t mix it thoroughly with a spoon, or even a stand mixer.
The best tools for mixing dough are your hands. To knead or ‘work’ dough, you place it on a floured surface. Take the dough in hand and fold it over itself. You want to work every part of the dough, folding it over and over.
According to Physics World, the purpose of kneading dough is to create gluten. This gives bread strength and the springy texture we all love.
However, you can overwork your dough. For most recipes, the ending texture should still be light and slightly tacky. Overworking dough can lead to dense or crumbly bread.
Different recipes will call for different amounts of kneading so it’s important to abide by the specific requirements. For example, bagel dough only requires 8 to 10 minutes of kneading, while sourdough bread can take up to twenty.
Mixing Methods in Baking Are Vital
As you can see, mixing is one of the most scientific aspects of baking. A single recipe may include more than one of the methods we mentioned above.
While baking may be an exacting science, it is still accessible. After all, none of these mixing methods are impossible for a beginner. Understanding the different types of mixing will help to improve your baked goods right away.
Don’t let the terminology intimidate you. With a few tools and good ingredients, you can whip, beat, and fold your way to delicious pastries in no time.