Wouldn’t it be neat to look at a list of ingredients and know exactly what to do with them, without having to read the rest of the recipe? By understanding the basic methods of baking, you can do just that!
We’re going to start with the most basic, the creaming method. You’ve likely used it countless times to make cookies, cakes, muffins, and more and knowing how (and why) it works will give you consistent successful results every time.
What you’ll need
The creaming method starts with sugar and fat (shortening, butter, or other) beaten until light and creamy. In order to achieve this, you need a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Unfortunately, no other kitchen appliance (hand-held mixer, food processor) will do it right. You can of course do it by hand, it will just take more time and elbow grease.
An important note about butter: it needs to be at room temperature. Not straight out of the fridge, and not at all melting. The butter should be firm, but your finger easily leaves an imprint when pressed into it. Thirty minutes before you’re ready to prepare your recipe, remove the butter from the fridge, cut into cubes, and let rest on the counter.
How the Creaming Method works
Place the sugar and fat in the bowl of your stand mixer.
With the mixer on a good medium speed (I use “4” on my KitchenAid), beat the sugar and butter together for several minutes, stopping the mixer and scraping down the beater and bowl as needed.
What happens during this time is the sugar granules are cutting tiny holes into the fat (butter), which incorporates air, and causes the fat to soften and increase in volume. You’ll notice the batter change drastically in color and texture.
Are you guilty of inadequate aeration? Undercreaming is quite common. Stop mixing when the mixture appears light and creamy. You should no longer be able to see sugar granules, but you can still feel them if you rub a little of the batter between your fingers (try this next time you make cookies!).
Next, add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. This is so that the fats have a chance to emulsify and come together with the batter. Add them all at once and you’ll overwhelm the batter, causing it to separate and appear curdled.
Add the dry ingredients slowly while mixing on low, alternating with any other liquids (such as in a cake recipe). Again, adding these ingredients slowly helps to not overwhelm the batter, which can encourage overmixing.
Finally, add any additions, such as chocolate chips, mixing only until incorporated.
The creaming method is most responsible for texture in the final baked good. Do it properly and you’ll have a tender cake and chewy cookie every time.
Questions? Leave me a comment or send me a message.
Recipes using the Creaming Method
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies | Brown Butter Skillet Cookie | Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies | Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake | Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies | Gooey Cinnamon Squares | Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars | Peanut Butter Buttercream | Southern Coconut Cake