Experiment #11 – Butter and sugar

One day my kitchen bench will house a beautiful Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer to cream all the butter and sugar I need for my baking.  Until that day arrives I continue to experiment with other creaming appliances.  Those appliances consist of the hand mixer, the food processor and the mighty wooden spoon, with a twist of elbow grease.

Most baking recipes instruct you to cream the butter and sugar, until it’s light in colour and fluffy in texture.  The aim is not to have chunks or bits of butter, otherwise it impacts the baking.  When it comes to using the hand mixer if you put on the medium to low speeds the result is bits of butter not mixed into the sugar.  If you take the mixer up a notch, the end result is still bits of butter not mixed and half of the butter and sugar sprayed all over one’s kitchen.  While it seems like the quick and easy way to get creaming, it is the least effective.  The hand mixer is best left for whipping egg whites or whipping cream.

Jamie Oliver reminded me that the food processor isn’t just a kitchen tool for making crumble topping, hummus or soups. In fact, it’s a well kept secret, until now, that it’s great for creaming.  So when I made his carrot cake recipe from his Cooking with Jamie cookbook the food processor was put to use.  It’s a similar concept to using the food processor to make pie or any other type of dough, except flour is replaced with sugar.  Once the butter and sugar is creamed you transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl and continue with your recipe.  It’s less painful than the wooden spoon, less messy than the hand mixer; and there’s only a few extra dishes to clean at the end.  I’ve only tried this technique the two times I’ve made Jamie’s recipe so I’m interested to see how it does with some of favourite recipes.

When I went to culinary school one of my chef tutors taught us that before you use electrical appliances for baking and even cooking you must master the manual techniques.  It was painful in the arm, but well worth it in the end.  You end up getting a better sense of the right textures of things because you’ve got your muscles working at it for a wee while.  You’re also putting your love into this.  I’ve actually returned to this method most recently.  If your butter is soft, then it’s easy peasy.  If not, then I suggest either chopping the butter into 1 cm cubes or using a cheese grater and grate the butter into your mixing bowl.  Snuggle up in front your fire or heater with a bit brainless tv and start working those arm muscles of yours until you achieve that creamy consistency.  It will take you about 30 minutes or so to mix about 70 grams of butter (not supper soft) with about 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  Be patient; think of the muscles your developing; and think of the love and effort you went through to makes some delicious baking.

What I may try is a comparison of Jamie’s recipe using the food processor and the wooden spoon to see if there is any difference in the taste, look and texture of the carrot cake.

I encourage you to explore trying these different tools for creaming butter and sugar.  I especially recommend if you haven’t done it with your own arm strength ever, or in a wee while then give it a go.  You will really respect and love your kitchen appliances more and definitely the finished result.


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