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Creaming butter by hand - beat or cut and fold?

fame da lupo Apr 3, 2009 01:55 PM

I never, ever bake, so I have no electric mixer. Thus I'm creaming butter by hand. Ought I beat the two together, or cut and fold the two together? I realize the goal is to add air to the mixture, but I'm unsure which is more effective. The former seems like it would beat the air both in and out, the latter seems like it might not add enough air into the mixture.

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  1. todao RE: fame da lupo Apr 3, 2009 02:30 PM

    A large fork works fairly well. If you have a stout (not the wire type) dough blender you could start with that, then finish up with a large fork. It's the whipping action, not the pressing action, that brings the air into the mix so don't be afraid to use the wrist action to accomplish that goal.

    1. Caitlin McGrath RE: fame da lupo Apr 3, 2009 02:31 PM

      You want to beat, with a mixing sppon (the wooden type), since the objectives are to incorporate some air and mix the sugar in so thoroughly it dissolves.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Caitlin McGrath
        fame da lupo RE: Caitlin McGrath Apr 4, 2009 08:13 AM

        Well I used a mortar to smash the butter, then used the ole wood spoon to cut-and-fold until the mixture was incorporated well (which took forever), and then beat/whipped it until soft and expanded. Tiring work, although I think I made it harder on myself than necessary as I was paranoid about letting the butter get too warm, so I started with it still quite cold.

        1. re: fame da lupo
          Caitlin McGrath RE: fame da lupo Apr 4, 2009 12:37 PM

          I think it's much easier to use the back of the spoon to incorporate the sugar - just keep pushing it against the butter and sort of smear it against the side of the bowl. Then, as the butter softens up and the sugar dissolves into it, you can start fluffing the mixture up.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath
            Karl S RE: Caitlin McGrath Apr 4, 2009 12:54 PM

            Wood does not transmit heat like metal, so wood is a better tool material for this...

      2. Phurstluv RE: fame da lupo Apr 3, 2009 04:14 PM

        Agree with Caitlin McGrath, use a wooden spoon, that's what my Nana always used. And yes, the sugar needs to be dissolved. Make sure the butter is at room temp.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Phurstluv
          Karl S RE: Phurstluv Apr 3, 2009 05:27 PM

          68F. Anything much warmer and the butter will start to melt, which will defeat its ability to help hold the air.

        2. alkapal RE: fame da lupo Apr 3, 2009 06:12 PM

          i didn't think the purpose of creaming was anything but thoroughly softening the butter or fat and incorporating the sugar -- not beating air into the mixture.

          2 Replies
          1. re: alkapal
            fame da lupo RE: alkapal Apr 4, 2009 08:09 AM

            The purpose is to create tiny air pockets where the gasses during cooking can fluff the cookie, making it less dense and more chewy.

            1. re: fame da lupo
              alkapal RE: fame da lupo Apr 5, 2009 05:07 AM

              ok, good to know. the only thing i've really creamed is the shortening and sugar for my family's sour cream pound cake. now i'll cream with a conscience. ;-).


          2. alwayscooking RE: fame da lupo Apr 4, 2009 05:48 PM

            Lots of great replies but don't over think it - just quickly get the butter and sugar together. Personally, I use a fork and pull it through the butter and then turn and pull again.

            1. Joe MacBu RE: fame da lupo Apr 6, 2009 09:43 PM

              This article might be of interest (you might need to register for free):

              You can also access it here without registering:

              1 Reply
              1. re: Joe MacBu
                fame da lupo RE: Joe MacBu Apr 7, 2009 01:09 PM

                Yes I had read this awhile ago, hence my paranoia about letting the butter get too warm.

              2. Kajikit RE: fame da lupo Apr 7, 2009 01:20 PM

                It depends on what the end result is supposed to be. If you're making pastry or dough, generally you cut the butter into the mixture and then gently rub it in with your fingers, handling it as little as possible so that the dough stay light and airy (and as cool as it can)... if you're making a cake or some cookie recipes, it will generally say 'cream' the butter and sugar, which is to stir it and squish it in with the big spoon. When you beat the eggs in you put the air back into it and make it light and fluffy then.

                1. d
                  divadmas RE: fame da lupo Feb 3, 2010 10:05 PM

                  some banana bread recipes call for creaming, others just add melted butter, a lot easier. Is creaming really necessary or is banana bread with its density just a special case? when can you safely avoid creaming sugar?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: divadmas
                    housewolf RE: divadmas Feb 4, 2010 11:44 AM

                    There are two methods of cake baking - the "cake method" and the "muffin method". The cake method involved creaming the butter and sugar together and then adding the wet and dry ingredients. The muffin method involves combining the dry ingredients and then adding any wet ingredients along with melted butter and/or oil, and is the method used for most quick breads and muffins (allthough they can be made using the cake method, too).

                    The main difference is in the end result - the cake method gives you a finer, more delicate crumb that we normally associate with layer and pound cakes. The muffin method produces a more coarse, rough crumb texture that we generally see in muffins and quick breads. Which method you choose depends on the results you want.

                    1. re: housewolf
                      greygarious RE: housewolf Feb 4, 2010 11:50 AM

                      I almost always melt butter when making cookies that call for creaming. Melting yields a flatter, crisper cookie but I prefer that.

                      On the rare occasions when I use a boxed mix that calls for oil, I sub melted butter.

                      1. re: greygarious
                        fame da lupo RE: greygarious Feb 8, 2010 03:17 PM

                        I wonder what using ghee would do to a cookie's flavor? If you were going with the melty route, that is.

                        1. re: fame da lupo
                          cinnamon girl RE: fame da lupo Feb 8, 2010 05:05 PM

                          Interesting - it might have less of a buttery taste as the milk solids aren't there.

                          Like Greygarious, I like a thinner crispy cookie (otherwise I'd eat muffin tops) so I don't refrigerate the dough before baking. While I haven't yet actually melted it (genius stroke GG!), I don't hesitate to work the dough more than necessary with my hands, when they're the type of cookie you roll into balls.

                          I'm with Karl S on the virtues of the wooden spoon for creaming the butter, btw.

                          1. re: cinnamon girl
                            greygarious RE: cinnamon girl Feb 8, 2010 06:40 PM

                            Here's how a) lazy, and/or b) obsessed with minimizing steps and equipment I am: Melt the butter on low microwave power, so it doesn't erupt. Then stir in the sugar, which will cool down the butter enough that I can crack the eggs right into the mixture as long as I then stir it up vigorously. Stir in the vanilla. Dump in the flour and top it with the leavening, salt, and any spices or cocoa. Swish that around without going into the liquid below, then stir it all together well. Finally, dump in the nuts, chips, etc. and stir again. One bowl, one wooden spoon, plus the cookie scoop and measuring cup/spoons to clean (the pan is parchment-lined). Pretty much the same M.O for cakes.

                            1. re: greygarious
                              cinnamon girl RE: greygarious Feb 8, 2010 07:31 PM

                              Ha ha . . . this is pretty much my MO for most things too. When making brownies, or anything chocolate, everything gets mixed in the pot I melted the chocolate in (no microwave). Even better if I can weigh everything - still fewer things to wash. An added advantage to our way is that all of butter/chocolate/whatever ends up in our finished product, not down the drain. A disadvantage is that sometimes it's hard to watch (very closely anyway), other people bake . . . drives me a bit nuts seeing all the unnecessary steps and mess.

                  2. roxlet RE: fame da lupo Feb 9, 2010 04:07 AM

                    I find that when I am baking cookings I do not want to incorporate a lot of air into the batter. I am also currently without a suitable mixer, and I just use my hands to incorporate the sugar into the butter. If I were baking a cake, I would have to beat well to get the air incorporated.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: roxlet
                      cinnamon girl RE: roxlet Feb 9, 2010 07:21 AM

                      Yes - I don't always want to incorporate air into cookie dough either. It really depends what you're making. A few years ago my little hand-held mixer died on me and to replace it I got a hand-held Kitchen Aide. (Don't want to take up valuable counter space with a stand mixer.) Anyway, it's a little work horse and I torture tested it. I got the one with dough hooks and immediately tried a croissant dough with it. Then pb cookies ... all sorts of things. If you're in the market . . . I'm just sayin'. Costs more than most other hand-helds though, but a lot less than a stand mixer.

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