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Why not Dry to Wet

  • d

Whenever I'm making muffins, cornbread, etc., the recipe always tells you to add the wet ingredients to the dry, and to stir as little as possible.

Stupid question (I haven't tried it, but I figure I'd ask): why can't you add dry to wet? Wouldn't pouring the dry ingredients slowly into the wet moisten them with less mixing?

Forgive my heresy.

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  1. I'd be curious too. I've assumed this technique is largely an inheritance from the time when one made doughs and batters on a flat surface, mounding the dry ingredients and creating a well into which to pour and gradually mix wet ingredients. Like the way fresh pasta is still made today. That way, you only had to deal with one container, rather than two. In days of limited containers, that made a difference.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Karl S.

      The goal of the mixing is to make a dough that is homogenious. If you put dry into wet; the ingredients will absorb more liquid than they are supposed to have.
      When wet goes into dry the total wet is absorbed and averaged among the dry because it is less than the total wet it is capable of absorbing.

    2. If you pour the dry onto the wet, the dry will escape and powder every horizontal surface within five feet. That's all.

      1. To make a long story on starch science short, the batter would be impossibly lumpy if you add the dry to the wet. Trust me.

        1. Altho Shmingrid proposes a plausible reason below, I'm not 100% convinced. The simple, quick answer is, why not try it the other way and see what happens?

          As a general matter, I find a tremendous amount of ignorance among even so-called professional cookbook writers. For expl, I've seen recipes by famous cookbook writers in which they suggested boiling sugar in water for *FIVE* minutes, to make sure the sugar dissolved! This is probably a throwback to some situation decades ago in which the sugar did not dissolve quickly; that's not the case today.

          I could give you lots of other examples, so the simple answer is, try it the reverse way and see.

          1. I must be nuts... or dyslexic when I read my recipes... but I've always added the dry ingredients in to the wet. I just fold them in carefully... I've never had a problem with this method... but now I must re-think this... I just mix the way my mother did... and her mother before her. dear lord do I come from a long line of women who had it WRONG!

            I think I'm developing a complex about it... questioning years of baking.... I think I need a glass of wine. *sigh*

            1. I honestly don't think it really matters direction of incorporation, as long as you add *gradually*. If I'm using my KA stand mixer, I usually have wet ingredients in the bowl and slowly stream in the dry. Off the top of my head, I make my choc chip cookies this way, as well as Sir Gawain's cake. As long as I add my dry ingredients slowly and incorporate slowly, I never have problems w/ lumps or flour dispersing all over the kitchen.

              1. I have to ask "WHAT RECIPES ARE YOU USING??" I bake A LOT and I never have directions telling me that!! (Maybe I'm dyslexic too!) I often have recipes asking me to incorporate dry with a wet into a wet beginning with dry and ending with dry and I don't know the reason for that either. That being said, I do recall reading a very scientific explanation (maybe from Alton Brown?) about why the baking steps are what they are-for example mixing all dry ingredients before adding to wet rather than just measuring them directly into the wet bowl. Either way, I have always made things the same way and almost always have great results unlike my bf who adlibs all of her baking!!!

                1 Reply
                1. re: 4chowpups

                  This generally applies mostly to things like muffins and biscuits where the wet is poured into the dry all at once and mixed by hand just to incorporate.

                2. Because I'm lazy, here's what I do: Mix all the wet ingredients together. Measure the dry ingredients in on top of the wet ingredients without stirring. Then toss just the dry ingredients around, trying not to touch the wet, just to make sure I don't have a big lump of baking soda or salt. Then I stir just until the dry is incorporated. I don't have unmanageable lumps, or flour everywhere, and only one bowl is dirty. I can't think of anything I've ruined like this.

                  But then again, maybe it's only 90% as good as it could have been if I'd done it the other way. Sounds like we need a good experimentalist. Not it.

                  1. To test this out, I went to Epicurious and then Googled "cornbread recipes"....2 recipes called for dry ingred to be added to wet.

                    1 said to put all ingreds in a bowl and combine

                    1 said add wet to dry ingreds. Then I stopped looking.

                    Go figure.

                    1. Ya know, I've been scratching my head on this one. How's this for a reason: the products that use this method are all made with chemical leavening (I know I didn't spell that properly). Do you think it may make for a quicker mix so the CO2 produced isn't wasted during the mixing process thus being available for the baking?? I don't know, I just carry the hose (an old Pogo expresion). Whada'ya think??

                      1. I always add dry to wet and have never had a problem. Pouring dry ingredients out of a bowl or parchment paper doesn't require a utensil, so it's easier to do that way.

                        1. b
                          babette feasts

                          The reason why it is not recommended to add dry to wet:

                          The starch in flour swells when it becomes wet. When you dump a bunch of flour onto liquid, the flour touching the liquid immediately swells. Take a spatula and start folding in, what was the sides and top of the flour becomes moistened and swells. The trouble is, this can create little balls of flour where the layer of starch on the outside has absorbed as much liquid as it will, but there is still a dry center of flour that will never get moistened and mixed in.

                          Yes, it is often not a problem, and sifting your dry ingredients well will help, but there is a reason. If you want to avoid the possibility of having hard, dry little lumps of flour in your baked goods, add wet to dry.