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By Dennis Cowden
The Cookie Engineer 

Creaming butter and sugar

Cookie Corner


How often have you seen a recipe begin with the words "mix the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla"? What this really means is to cream the butter and sugar, and then add the eggs and vanilla as the first and most important step in making cookies. This is the step where the butter and sugar are whipped together to form lots of air bubbles.

We start by scrunching the butter against the sides of a bowl, with the mixer, where it will be folded over and over, creating little pockets of air with every turn. When the sugar is added to the butter and they are creamed together, the rough sugar crystals cut into the fat, creating more air bubbles.

The temperature of the butter is very important when creaming. Experts generally cite 65°F as the ideal temperature for butter, but that fails to take into account a couple of critical factors. First, the temperature will go up as soon as you add the sugar, which is as warm as your kitchen. And second, once you start mixing, the friction generated by mixing itself generates heat. That doesn't leave much time before the butter hits the point of no return. Therefore, err on the side of keeping things cool.

The best way to overcome this heating is to take a stick of butter straight from the fridge, slice it into quarter-inch pieces, and by the time you have everything else ready, it'll be cool enough to use.

Use your mixer on low to break up the cubes of butter. Beat at a low speed with the paddle attachment for 30 seconds or so to get the butter creamy and whipped. Then turn the speed up to medium and mix for 1 - 1½ minutes until the butter becomes soft and creamy.

Then slowly add the sugar in a steady stream at the side of the bowl with the mixer on low. Increase the speed to medium and as the sugar is beaten, it cuts through the butter, leaving bubbles of air behind. This aerates the mixture, allowing it to rise and give the final creamed product a light, fluffy texture.

Don't forget to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and the paddle with a spatula from time to time to reincorporate any sugar or butter that has stuck to the sides.

Be careful not to over-mix the butter and sugar. Once the mixture is pale and creamy, and forms slight, soft peaks, you should stop beating. If you cream the mixture just right, it will look somewhat creamy and a little shaggy. Do not overcream it to the point that it is really creamy and fluffy. The mixture should be slightly cool.

Remember that you're trying to beat air bubbles into the butter and sugar. Baking powder and baking soda don't make new bubbles; they only enlarge the bubbles that are already in the batter.

Now let's try this method on some delicious cookies:


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