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desserts

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How to Cream Butter

LESSON 7.1

How to Cream Butter


The purpose of creaming butter with sugar is to create air pockets, or cells, formed
when sugar granules are blended with fat. Later, during baking, gases from
any chemical leaveners combine with evaporating moisture to inflate the pockets,
resulting in a light, nicely textured finished product. For creaming, its most
important to start with butter at room temperature, since air pockets wont form
in cold butter. If you forget to take it out of the refrigerator, there are some
shortcuts that will speed up the process (see note at right), but use these with
care. If the butter gets too warm or soft, it wont hold its structure well enough,
and youll need to chill it again some before you cream it.
You can cream by handthe old-fashioned way, with a wooden spoonwhich
takes a fair amount of muscle (and perseverance), or with an electric mixer.
There are advantages to doing it by hand at least a few times: Youll get a close-up
view of the interaction of the fat with the sugar, as well as a good feeling for
when youve achieved the right consistency (without as much of a chance of
overbeating). Some recipes will indicate a time frame of at least several
minutes for creaming, but most important will be visual cues: the mixture
should become paler in colora creamy shadeand should have increased
in volume some and have a fluffy appearance. Dont keep beating once this stage
is reached; overdoing it can cause the air cells that have formed to collapse.
Other ingredients will then be added to the mix: eggs, like the butter, should be
at room temperature (if not, you can place them in a bowl of warm water for
about 15 minutes). When you add them, they need to combine thoroughly with
the other ingredients, a process that will be inhibited if they are cold (or added
all at once); using cold eggs (or cold liquids like milk or buttermilk, for that matter)
can cause a batter to separate and look curdled. Once the basic ingredients
are fully incorporated, stop mixing to preserve the texture. (Again, theres a risk
of overmixing at this point, which is why youll see the phrase just until
combined in so many baking recipes.) Any solid ingredients such as chocolate
chips, chopped fruit, and nuts should be stirred or folded in at the end.

basic drop cookies

Makes about 40

Everyone needs one reliable recipe for an old-fashioned drop cookie. This
master recipe fills the bill. Its simple (no machines necessarythe butter can be
creamed by hand, though you can use a mixer for ease) and infinitely variable
(modify the dough with any of the add-ins listed below, or split it into two or three
batches so that you can make more than one type of cookie at the same time).
And if you want, you can bake a portion of it, then form the remainder into balls
(on baking sheets) and place in freezer until frozen. Store the frozen balls of
dough in a resealable bag in the freezer until until youre ready to bake; let sit at
room temperature for 30 minutes before baking, and bake a few minutes
longer than the recommended time. These cookies are somewhat cakey; for a
chewier texture, reduce the flour by cup and the baking time by 2 minutes.

THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE


FOR BUTTER
What does it mean when a recipe calls
for room temperature butter? The stick
should be soft enough to hold a deep
indentation when you press it with your
finger, but not so soft that the stick
smooshes out of shape. Let butter sit out
of the refrigerator, and test its softness
by pressing your finger into the top. When
the indentation remains but the butter
still holds its shape, its ready. Never
microwave or otherwise melt butter to
speed things up. Butter that is too warm
will separate and wont cream well. To
hasten softening, cut the cold butter into
slices, or grate it on the large holes of a
box grater.

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Drop-Cookie Tips
If your cookies turn out dense and
hard, you might be using ingredients
that are too cold and not creaming
them enough. If your cookies spread
too much in the oven and are too
thin, on the other hand, you might
be overdoing the creaming step or
using ingredients that are too warm.
Its worth the time to chill your
dough before baking; this will help
to control how much it spreads in
the oven as it bakes.

3 cups all-purpose flour


1 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar (or use dark-brown sugar for deeper flavor and color)
cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups desired add-ins (semisweet chocolate chips or chunks; coarsely chopped pecans,
walnuts, or peanuts; raisins, dried cranberries, dried sour cherries, or chopped dried fruit
such as apricots, dates, or figs)

Prepare oven and pans Heat oven to 350F, with one rack in center and one
rack in bottom third. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Combine dry ingredients In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda [1].

Basic Drop Cookies, Step by Step