Chasing Delicious | Kitchen 101: Mixing Methods
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KITCHEN101-MIXINGMETHODS-SLATE

Kitchen 101: Mixing Methods

 

A measuring cup filled to the brim with flour dangles precariously in one hand over a light, fluffy batter while the index finger of your other hand presses firmly against number eight, a vaguely-worded instruction in a worn and tattered favorite cookbook; your eyes dart between both hands as you wonder, “Am I doing this right? Do I really add this flour now? Wait. Did I miss a step?” You tip your hand and flour spills into the bowl. You slide the mixer on and watch in horror – and excitement – as a batter – what you hope is batter – comes together. Minutes later and you’re sliding your fork into a deliciously moist, rich cake. A smile pierces your lips in accomplishment. You have no idea why what you just did worked; all you know is you’ve found a new favorite cake recipe.

You may not have realized it as you were beating sugar and butter together, adding one egg at a time, or even after you had added milk and flour to the batter in small increments, one after the other, but you were performing a centuries-perfected  method rooted deep in chemistry and physics – a method devised to trap air, mix water and fat, and build structure (very difficult tasks when you consider the ingredients you’re working with) – all in the name of creating something delicious for you to snack on. Baking is, without a doubt, a science. There is a reason we keep our finger planted firmly on a particular step of the recipe we’re making – we know if we mess up one small detail, the entire recipe will go up in flames.

While the ingredients we use – and how much of them we use – play a very important role, the method in which we mix those ingredients together play just as an important of a part. And yes, nearly every recipe out there will tell you how to mix and what method to use, but knowing each of the mixing methods is essential in baking, especially when you want to develop your own recipes or adapt a new or unfamiliar recipe to your liking. Knowing the ten different mixing methods also comes in handy when you find a recipe with a scrumptious set of ingredients but a set of instructions that seems a little off  (Excuse me! You want me to use the creaming method to make pie dough?! I think not!).

That’s what this Kitchen 101 post is all about: the different mixing methods, when and why we use them, and some tips and tricks on how to make your dessert come out perfect every time. As with all of my Kitchen 101 posts, I’ve included a Mixing Methods Poster.

kitchen101: Mixing Methods at chasingdelicious.com. Infographic by @rvank.

The Ingredients

Before we jump into the methods, let’s look at the parts of any baked good. There are, for the sake of knowing mixing methods, only seven basic parts to any recipe (and an eighth when making bread: yeast): dry ingredients, liquid ingredients, fat, sugar, and eggs (which are broken down into whites, yolks or whole eggs). Dry ingredients include your flours, cornmeals, cocoa powders, baking soda and powder, salt and sometimes spices or extra ingredients. Liquid ingredients are all things liquid (like milk, coffee or water) but do not include things like oils, melted butters or liquid shortening; those last three are the fats. Sugar is, well sugar. And then the three parts of the eggs are exactly that as well.

Ingredients are broken into these seven parts because each group reacts a particular way to each other and performs it’s own set of duties within a recipe. The process in which they are added to a batter is very important and the foundation of any mixing method. What you do with an ingredient and when you add it to the mixture will determine if you end up with a dense, moist cake with a fine, crumbly crumb or a light and airy cake with a large, spongy crumb.

Extras like nuts, raisins or other large chunky things are almost always added very last as they play no part in the structure of the baked good.

Parts of a Recipe

Dry ingredients – create structure within a baked good.
Liquid ingredients – add moistness and flavor.
Fat - affect flavor and crumb.
Sugar – affect flavor, crumb and structure.
Egg Whites – add and trap air; act as a leavening agent;  affect the crumb and structure.
Egg Yolks – emulsify fats and liquids; add flavor and color; affect the crumb and structure.
Whole Eggs – emulsify fats and liquids; affect the crumb and structure.

As always, you should follow a recipe as it is written. This post is meant to be used as a reference and tool for understanding the basics of the various mixing methods. There are in fact numerous, if not infinite, variations on each mixing method. The methods listed below are the basic, classic methods at their simplest. The mixing method is only about one-third the equation in manipulating the characteristics of a finished product as well; the ingredients used and the amount of a particular ingredient that is put into a recipe will have a large affect on texture as well – that’s another Kitchen 101 post though.

Creaming Method

The most common method used in baking today (in the home kitchen) is the creaming method. Not only is the creaming method very simple – only more complicated than the muffin or one-stage methods -, it is incredibly versatile as well. The creaming method can be used for cookies, cakes, certain muffins, quick breads  and other delicious treats. While the textural characteristics of baked goods made with the creaming method vary, especially between the different types of cookies, they typically producer a denser product that is often moist – when not over baked.

The Steps

1. Cream butter and sugar together, usually until light and fluffy.
2. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing them to mix into the batter completely.
3. Add the dry and liquid ingredients alternating between both. If there are no liquid ingredients add all of the dry ingredients and mix in.

The best tool for the creaming method is a wooden spoon. If you’re using a stand mixer you should use the paddle attachment. Baked goods made with the creaming method are usually rich or flavorful because of the amount of sugar and fat this method can support.

Did You Know?

The amount of time you cream the butter and sugar (just combining vs. light and fluffy) can determine how light and fluffy a particular baked good is (the more light and fluffy the butter and sugar look the more light and fluffy the final product will be).

Also, the amount of time you spend mixing the flour in will determine how chewy a product will be come (the longer you mix the flour the more gluten activated within the recipe and the chewier a baked-good will be).

Muffin Method

Another common method, though less versatile in its application, is the muffin method. This is one of the easiest methods out there, although it can easily be done incorrectly. The muffin method is used to create crumbly products; this is achieved by minimal mixing.

The Steps

1. Add all of the dry ingredients together in one bowl and the wet ingredients together in another.
2. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until the batter just comes together.

The best tool for the muffin method is a wooden spoon. If you’re using a stand mixer you should use the paddle attachment although I suggest not using a stand mixer as you can easily over mix the batter. The point of the muffin method is avoid creating gluten within the batter, so the final product will be crumbly.

Tip

Take care not to over-mix the batter in this method. Mix until the butter just comes together. Lumps and unevenness in the batter is ok – do not try to mix these out. The entire mixing process should not take longer than 20 or 30 seconds.

Biscuit Method

The biscuit method is another common method that is a very specific process and used for a few products. If you’re looking for a flaky texture, then you want to use the biscuit method. This is used for making biscuits, pie crusts, scones and other flaky baked goods. Baked goods made with the biscuit method are usually rich, flaky and less sweet because of the large amount of fat and little to no sugar – although an exception to the sweetness rule is with scones.

The Steps

1. Cut the fat into the dry mixture by pinching the fat between your fingers until the mixture is course and crumbly.
2. Add the liquid and mix/knead the batter gently until it just comes together.

The best tool for the biscuit method is your hand – that’s right, if you want an excellent product here you’ll have to get dirty. You should not use a stand mixer at all for this process as there is no attachment that can do the job properly, and even though you can use a food processor – by pulsing the fat and dry together a few times until crumbly before adding the liquid and finally pulse a few times more until a dough forms – I suggest avoiding it as it is too easy to over mix the dough.

Tip

Make sure all the ingredients are very cold – this will aid in keeping the fat solid and from mixing in with the flour. Also, avoid over mixing – seeing chunks of fat in the final product is a good thing.

For pies, you want the fat to be the size of marbles.
For biscuits or scones, you want the fat to be the size of small peas or corn meal.

Did You Know?

The flaky texture comes from the chunks of fat left in the dough. During baking, the chunks of fat are  evaporate. What is left are layers of dough and pockets of air.

Angel Food Method

The angel food method is another highly-specific method. In fact, this method is used only to create angel food cakes. The angel food method creates very light and airy cakes that are spongy and tender.

The Steps

1. Whip sugar and egg whites to soft peaks.
2. Fold the dry ingredients into the whipped egg whites and sugar mixture.

The tools you’ll need for the angel food method are a whisk and a spatula or if you’re using a stand mixer, the whisk attachment. You’ll still need a spatula as folding should always be done by hand and never with a stand mixer.

Did You Know?

Since there is no fat and only egg whites are used in this method, angel food cakes are fat- and cholesterol-free.

Foaming Method

The foaming method (also known as the sponge method or egg-foam method) is a common mixing method used mostly for cakes, particularly their namesake, sponge cakes. This is one of the more difficult methods as it has the most steps. There are many variables in the foaming method and thus the final product can range from light and airy to dry and crumbly.

The Steps

1. Whip whole eggs or egg yolks and sugar to the ribbon stage.
2. Fold the dry ingredients into the whipped egg/egg yolk and sugar mixture.
3.  Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold them into the egg/egg yolk, sugar and dry mixture.
4. Fold the fat into the batter last, if there is any to be added.

The tools you’ll need for the foaming method are a whisk and a spatula or if you’re using a stand mixer, the whisk attachment. You’ll still need a spatula as folding should always be done by hand and never with a stand mixer. If fat is to be added in the last step, it must be a liquid fat (melted butter or oil).

Did You Know?

There are numerous types of foaming methods including some where step one is done over heat (the warm-foaming method) and others where it is not (cold-foaming).

Since there are so many variations on the foaming method, it is best to follow the recipe.

Chiffon Method

The chiffon method is a cake-specific method that lends it’s name (or get’s its name from) the cake it creates: the chiffon cake. The chiffon method creates moist, fluffy cakes that are also airy. This method is one of my favorite methods for baking cakes as you get a nice balance between a light sponge cake and a rich, pound cake.

The Steps

1.  Whisk together the fat, egg yolks and liquid until combined.
2. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the liquid, fat and yolk mixture and mix in well.
3. Whip the sugar and egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the preceding mixture in three parts.

The tools you’ll need for the chiffon method are a whisk and a spatula or if you’re using a stand mixer, the whisk attachment. You’ll still need a spatula as folding should always be done by hand and never with a stand mixer.

One-Stage Method

The one-stage method is similar to the muffin method in that it is very simple and has few steps. The only difference is there is no need to separate dry and liquid ingredients beforehand with the one-stage method. Because of the variety on ingredients that can be used in this method, the final product itself varies as well. Typically, it is used for cookies in which a soft, crumbly texture is the result.

The Steps

1.  Add all of the ingredients and mix until just combined.

The best tool for the one-stage method is a wooden spoon. If you’re using a stand mixer you should use the paddle attachment although I suggest not using a stand mixer as you can easily over mix the batter. The point of the one-stage method is avoid creating gluten within the batter so the final product will be soft and crumbly.

Two-Stage Method

Despite the similarity in names between one-stage and two-stage these two methods have little in common (aside from the strictly technical meaning of both names). The two-stage method is used almost exclusively for high-ratio cakes or cakes with a very high proportion of liquid, fat and sugar. High-ratio cakes and the two-stage method create moist, rich and airy cakes.

The Steps

1.  Mix the fat and dry ingredients together until a paste is formed.
2. Slowly add a portion of the liquid in to the paste and mix until it is absorbed.
3. Add the remaining liquid plus the sugar and eggs slowly until it is absorbed and whip the mixture for a couple minutes longer.

The best tool for the two-stage method is a whisk. If you’re using a stand mixer you should use the whisk attachment. Unfortunately, this method also requires a specific kind of fat, emulsified shortening, and thus is rare in the home-kitchen as emulsified shortening is not readily available in grocery stores.

The last two methods are for making bread. While baking bread has 12 steps total, the two methods before are simply the mixing methods for creating the dough. Baking bread will be another Kitchen 101 post.

Straight Dough Method

The straight dough method or direct dough method is the simplest of the methods for mixing bread dough.

The Steps

1.  Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and mix until combined. Knead.

The best tool for the straight-dough method is your hands or the dough hook on your stand mixer.

Sponge Method

The sponge method (not to be confused with the foaming method or sponge method for cakes) is the second method for mixing bread dough. This method has an extra step of creating a sponge – or a wet dough left to ferment before mixing with the rest of the ingredients to create the bread dough.

The Steps

1.  Mix a portion of the liquid, dry and yeast until combined. Let ferment.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Knead.

The best tool for the straight-dough method is your hands or the dough hook on your stand mixer.

Did You Know?

The sponge method for mixing bread dough is often preferred because the extra step of fermenting gives the bread more flavor and unique characteristics.

 

kitchen101: Mixing Methods at chasingdelicious.com. Infographic by @rvank.

Do you have a preferred method when you bake? Did you learn something new in this post? Do you have any tips for a particular mixing method that always produces perfect results? I’d love to hear all about your approach to mixing methods in the comments below.

 

Note about this post: The post is meant to be used as a reference and has been researched and collected from numerous sources including but not limited to: Glenn Rinsky and Laura Halpin Rinksy of “The Pastry Chef’s Companion: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Baking and Pastry Professional” and from Bi Friberg of “The Professional Pastry Chef, Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry” Fourth Edition. Photo (“Mixing”) and Styling credit: Loree van Kraayenburg

Check out the other Kitchen 101 posts.  

Don’t forget to check out The Sweet Tooth Paper Goods Company where you can buy this or any of the three other Kitchen 101 posters! Ten percent of all poster sale profits will go towards supporting  education in the culinary arts. Have a suggestion for a product you’d like to see in the Chasing Delicious Store (fridge magnet, screen-printed tea towels, t-shirts, etc)? Feel free to email Russell with your idea. 

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AUTHOR - Russell van Kraayenburg

Founder of Chasing Delicious, and author of Haute Dogs, Russell's works have been featured in Southern Living, Men's Fitness, Redbook, TRADHome, and Real Simple magazines and on various sites including Lifehacker, Fast Co., Business Insider, The Kitchn, Live Originally, Quipsologies, Explore, and Fine Cooking. Follow Russell on Twitter @rvank and Instagram. Get more delicious @chasedelicious.

63 Comments

3
  • Cassie

    This is so informative and these photos are absolutely stunning! Great post!

  • Jonathan

    Such an incredible and valuable post. Another great addition to your growing library of help. Thank you for making yet another awesome poster/chart. It’s nice that you’ve divided up the post and categorized everything in such a way that makes it easier for people to reference back and grasp the information properly. Good Job Russell.

  • Amanda

    Loving your Kitchen 101 posts, Russell! Another great installment :)

  • Sukaina

    Whoooa, this post has TOO much valuable information. I need to reread it again….and again!

  • Ashley

    This is such a great, informative post- as a cook first and a baker second- I still get intimidated by how EXACT you have to be in following baking instructions- this will be a great resource!

  • kitchenriffs

    Really nice job of deconstructing the ingredients and procedures in baking. Simple, clear, elegant. I suggest making your favorite cookie and eating the entire batch by yourself – you deserve a major reward for such good work. Great post – thanks.

  • Natascha Kessler - Heaven On Hearth

    So much great information. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • RavieNomNoms

    I LOOOOOOOVE your kitchen 101 posts. Such amazing facts and pointers. Thank you!

  • thelittleloaf

    This is absolutely essential reading for anyone who loves baking. I like to think I know what I’m doing in the kitchen but your posts always shed light on something new that I haven’t thought of :-)

  • susan davis

    I am always thrilled with a Chasing Delicious post. Since I first discovered Russell’s site, I have learned, been inspired, and reconsidered many a culinary thought. You asked for any other tips and I have one: for a simple double pie crust mix the dry ingredients then cream the fat with one half of the flour mixture. Cut in the remaining flour and add ice water, sprinkling one tablespoon at a time, gently incorporating it into the flour mixture. Gather the dough into a ball and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so before rolling out. I have always had good results with this method when I don’t have time to “fuss” with a more intricate crust recipe. Thanks so much for your blog!

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    You made quite the mess my friend! But what a good mess it was!

  • Kathy - Panini Happy

    What an incredibly informative post (and poster!). I’ve been mixing for a long time and still picked up a lot of insightful tips. :-)

  • Erica

    This is super informative! Thanks so much for synthesizing all this information and also providing the explanations that are sometimes lacking in recipes.

  • Tesei

    THis is sucha useful post!!! Great info gathering, thank you soooo much!!!

  • Gary

    Great color pallette–love the red and the white with a bit of black and gray thrown in. Great tips. Thanks for posting.

  • Sommer@ASpicyPerspective

    Fabulous tutorial, Russell and I love your charts! You are artistic on so many level. :)

  • Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.

    wow this should be a book!

  • Kiri W.

    Wow – what a great post. I didn’t know about half of what you explained! Thank you for sharing!

  • Jeanette

    What a fantastic tutorial on mixing. Thank you for putting this resource together. I never realized there were so many methods!

  • Ken┃hungry rabbit

    Most informative and beautifully illustrated,

  • Kankana

    Love all your kitchen 101 posts but this one is so helpful.. specially for someone like me who is not good at baking but wants to learn. You are amazing my friend :)

  • Kim Bee

    Russell every time I visit your writing just moves me. You have so much talent.

    I love this post. I never really knew what to call the methods so this helpful. You are a wealth of knowledge.

  • Cindy

    Wonderful pictuers you got there!

  • Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen

    I love your posters! You really break things down so well.

  • Kulsum at JourneyKitchen

    oh i have friend who always complains about getting her baking wrong and I tell her its that you mix things wrong! Going to send her this link and that chart is fabulous!

  • Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef

    holy cow, what a lot of work you put into this post. I’m going to bookmark for all my clueless in the kitchen friends.

  • TidyMom

    oh how I love how you put all of this great info in one place!!
    fabulous pictures and poster too Russell!! you are so talented!

  • Cookin' Canuck

    This post totally rocks, Russell! I can’t believe how much information you provided in this post and that amazing poster.

  • Stephanie

    Awesome post! I am in love with the post of it, great graphics. As soon as I have my own kitchen again I’ll be wanting a few of your prints :)

  • Ambika

    Such a wonderful post Russell! Love it!

  • Thyme (Sarah)

    I cannot wait to dig into this and really digest it further. I think I am at a point in the kitchen where I am constantly wondering about the chemistry side of cooking and wishing I knew more than to just blindly follow the recipe. Super job Russell!

  • Amanda

    This is wonderful!! You need to go on Martha. Every baker needs to have this wonderful and simple breakdown!!!

  • Katie

    Wow – first time I’ve come across you blog – its incredible. Happy that you commented on my post. I’ll be following yours from here on out!

  • Mama's Gotta Bake

    What valuable information for any baker! I have bookmarked this page. This information can make or break a recipe. Thanks.

  • Kim Bee

    Russell I am so happy this went top 9. You are a rock star!

  • Laura @ A Healthy Jalapeño

    wow, what an incredible post!!! This one is getting pin’ed and saved for my rainy baking days. And beautiful photos… your food styling is just wonderful! Congrats on Top 9!!!

  • Traci

    Your photos are absolutely incredible! I love the tips and especially the chart. What a help! Congratulations on your FoodBuzz feature!

  • alyce culinary thymes

    Very helpful. Now I want to bake a cake!

  • Michael Toa

    Russell, thank you so much for this informative post. You are very helpful. The items in your store, can they be delivered to the UK?

    • Russell

      Hey, Michael! Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you found this helpful. And I can definitely ship to the UK – there should be an option for international shipping on the checkout page.

  • Ridwan

    Great post,thank you so much for sharing this,is useful and congrats on foodbuz top 9 today :)

  • Lora @cakeduchess

    Super fun photos and post. So much valuable mixing information that is useful for every baker: thank you for sharing, Russell:)

  • Shumaila

    Love all your posts!

    By the way I have given a shout out to your blog on mine. Thanks for the lovely food! You can check it out here:
    http://wp.me/p10soU-1IX

  • nadia

    This is so interesting and informative, thank you for sharing!!!!

  • Brighteyedbaker

    I never knew that the best tool for creaming with a stand mixer is the paddle attachment. I always use mine, but that’s because I have one with a scraper on one edge and love the way it works. I never knew it was preferable to the whisk attachment. Also thought that the bit about the fat evaporating to create air in biscuits, scones, etc. was really interesting. I love the kitchen 101 posts; I learn so much!

  • Ilan (IronWhisk Blog)

    Useful!

    Thanks.

  • Kiran @ KiranTarun.com

    Amazing tips, Russell! Thanks for sharing :)

  • peachkins

    This is a very helpful post specially for someone like me who is has started to explore baking…

    Thanks a lot!

  • shu han

    When I’m not cooking in the kitchen, I’m actually a graphic design student at central saint martins, and this is just the type of inspiration I need. It combines two of my favourite things, and is really just a brilliant piece of design, and helpful at that. I’m at that stage of my life when I’m just frettign about my future, and I don’t know how to reconcile my two interests and let me just say that this has just given me lots of ideas and I want to thank you for showing me how one can do the many things that he/she loves all at once.

  • Mcdop

    TYPO:

    “Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and flow them into the egg/egg yolk”

    Flow should be fold.

    • Russell

      Thank you for catching that!

  • That one guy

    GAYYYYYYYYY

  • That one guy

    Id screw my cat to this

  • All that glisters

    This is honestly so helpful, I hadn’t even heard of some of those methods or why and when they are used! Thank you so much (:
    From Emily xxx

  • Ines de Guzman

    To Chasing Delicious

    Hi!

    I am writing a module for high school students in the Philippines entitled “Baking Basics”. I would like to request permission to include your Kitchen 101 Mixing Methods in this module. It will be a big help for students and teachers. I will give due citation to Chasing Delicious or your preferred citation format.

    I hope to get a positive response from you.

    Thank you very much!

    Ines A. de Guzman, PhD
    College of Home Economics
    University of the Philippines-Diliman

  • Cecilia Hamman

    Waarom moet ‘n sponskoek vir 10 minute geklits word? Wat is die funksie van die klitsery?

  • mcm キーケース

    ロンシャン+う

  • Felicity

    Hi there,

    Great explanation of the mixing methods. I have seen various explanations of the “two-stage” method, but none of them require the butter to be incorporated into the flour to a paste (see The Cake Bible method (beaten into flour with some liquid) and the Cooks Illustrated Baking Illustrated method (beaten until cornmeal consistency)).

    I would be interested in your comments on that?

    Thanks!

  • kinh tran

    Thank you very much for such valuable information

  • computernerd01 baby

    I always use mine, but that’s because I have one with a scraper on one edge and love the way it works. I never knew it was preferable to the whisk attachment. Also thought that the bit about the fat evaporating to create air in biscuits, scones, etc. was really interesting.

  • partytent huren zwolle

    Really your blog is very interesting…. it contains great and unique information. I enjoyed to visiting your blog.

  • tiny house for sale florida

    These look delicious and they are so pretty and festive too!

  • petrina

    Hi!! I credited your website for your valuable information. Let me know if you feel it’s inappropriate.

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