"Cream butter, sift flour, alternate adding dry ingredients with wet ingredients…"
Really? Do I have to?
We're going to explain why baking recipes instruct you to do these steps and the science behind it. After you’ve purchased and gathered all of your ingredients and are ready to bake your cake or cookie recipe, here are a few steps a recipe may call for. By following these steps correctly, you will be assured and happy with the outcome your baked good.
Why cream butter with sugar when baking cookies or cakes?
An important step in baking is to make sure that ingredients are well combined and aerated. Creaming butter and sugar together with an electric mixer is important to have a baked good rise high and have uniform texture.When you cream butter with sugar small air pockets are formed. When the baking soda or powder produces gas during baking it gets trapped in the air pockets and expands, causing the cake/cookie to lift or rise.It is important your butter is room temperature and soft, but not too soft. Butter should be around 60 degrees F and indent when pressed with your thumb. The butter is firm enough to crack if pressed hard. Once the sugar is incorporated into the butter with a mixer for several minutes, the batter will be light, fluffy and off-white in color. If the butter is too warm the butter will be too soft and look shiny and wet, resulting in a flat dense cake.
Why sift flour and dry ingredients?
Sometimes a recipe will ask that you sift flour and other times not. There are two reasons to sift flour. One is to aerate the flour and get rid of lumps. Often times in transportation the flour gets packed down and lumps can form due to moisture. Sifting will fluff the flour. Other times a recipe will ask that you sift flour with other dry ingredients (for example: sift flour with salt, baking powder and cocoa powder). This is a good way to evenly disperse the ingredients before adding them to the wet ingredients.
Why do some recipes ask that you alternately add dry ingredients with wet ingredients instead of just dumping everything in all at once?
Some recipes ask that you add your dry ingredients alternately with wet ingredients starting and ending with the wet ingredient. A cake batter is basically an emulsion. By adding the dry ingredients alternately with wet ingredients a uniform batter is formed and the result is fewer and smaller holes and a fine tender texture. If everything is added at once and mixed together the texture will be coarser with large.
There really are reasons why a recipe calls for you to do certain steps. When followed, you will have the best outcome. Happy Baking!