Mixing Method - Basics

Easy Mix Angel Food Cake Recipe TutorialOnce the ingredients have been selected and measured, often the next step is to mix them all together. What does that mean?

The general objectives in mixing batters and doughs are:  

  1. Uniform distribution of ingredients;  
  2. Minimum loss of the leavening agent;  
  3. Optimum blending; and,   
  4. Development or prevention of gluten.   

SARAH SAYS: Flour is made up of particles of protein, glutenin and gliadin, which when mixed with moisture in the recipe, produce gluten. Mixing serves to physically break apart these proteins into smaller pieces and expose the moisture-loving portions, so the two blend together more effectively. Gluten is the magical elastic substance which traps and holds air bubbles which expand from the gas from the leavening. Gluten also allows you to roll out pastry into thin sheets that don't fall apart. During baking, it stretches like a net  to contain the expanding air bubbles during rising. At a certain point in baking, the stretched flour proteins become set, resulting in the structure of the baking recipe.

Mixing is a general term that includes stirring, beating, blending, binding, creaming, whipping and folding. In mixing, two or more ingredients are evenly dispersed in one another until they become one product. Each mixing method gives a different texture and character to the baked good. The implements used, such as blades, whisks, spoons, etc., themselves make a difference. They have a great impact on what happens during mixing.

  • STIR: This method is the simplest, as it involves mixing all the ingredients together with a utensil, usually a spoon, using a circular motion.
  • BEAT: The ingredients are moved vigorously in a back and forth, up and down, and around and around motion until they are smooth. An electric mixer is often used to beat the ingredients together.
  • BLEND: Ingredients are mixed so thoroughly they become one.
  • BIND: Ingredients adhere to each other, as when breading is bound to fish.
  • CREAM: Fat and sugar are beaten together until they take on a light, airy texture.
  • CUT IN OR CUTTING IN: To distribute solid fat in dry ingredients by Bench Scraper, two knifes (in a scissor motion), a pastry blender, your fingertips or with a food processor fitted with a steel blade, until finely divided.
  • WHIP OR WHISK: Air is incorporated into such foods as whipping cream and egg whites through very vigorous mixing, usually with an electric mixer or whisk.
  • FOLD: One ingredient is gently incorporated into another by hand with a large spoon or spatula. It creates little aeration.

 

There are many methods for combining the ingredients of baked products. In general, they are:
METHOD WHEN TO USE HOW TO
TRADITIONAL MIXING METHODS    
Creaming Method (Fat-Sugar, Cake  or Conventional) SHORTENED (BUTTER) CAKES

COOKIES
It is done with sugar beaten into stick butter, margarine or shortening (solid, plastic fats), until light and fluffy. Eggs are then added. Finally, flour and dry ingredients added. This technique is used with our Ultimate Butter Cake (UBC) Recipe Tutorial.

With some cookie recipes, you will not necessary beat the ingredients until light and fluffy. An example is Sarah's Thick-with-a-Chew Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Tutorial.
All Ingredient Method (Single Stage, Quick-Mix, One Bowl or Dump) CAKES All dry and liquid ingredients are mixed together at once. Our Wacky Chocolate Cake Recipe is an example.
 
Biscuit Method QUICK-BREADS (Biscuits and scones)
 
Similar to the Pastry-blend method. Flour and all dry ingredients are combined. Fat is then "cut into" the flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Liquid is added last. Dough is mixed just until moistened. Sometimes a short knead is done. We use this baking technique with our Tender and Flaky Sweet Biscuits Recipe.
 
Egg Foaming or Foaming Method (Conventional Sponge) UNSHORTENED (FOAM) CAKES (Angel Food, Sponge or Chiffon Cakes) Beaten eggs are one of the key's to success in making recipes. Whipping eggs (whole and/or yolks only or whites only) with a portion of the sugar.Try our Blue Velvet Chiffon Layer Cake Recipe Tutorial.
High-Ratio Mixing Method (Two Step or Quick-Mix; erroneously called the Two Stage Mixing Method) HIGH RATIO CAKES  An alternate mixing technique for butter cakes, whether dense or light, developed by the Pillsbury Co. It is used anytime you have the weight of the sugar in the batter is equal to or greater than the weight of the flour. This involves mixing all the dry ingredients first, then beating in cold, but softened butter. Then, the eggs and liquid ingredients are slowly added. Mixing this way guarantees a smooth batter that doesn't separate, thus making for a light and delicate baked cake. However, cakes do not rise as high when using this method.
SARAH SAYS: I did invent the first cake recipe with all-purpose flour using the Two-Step Mixing Method in 2008, with my Year Round Spice Cake Recipe.
Muffin Method (Two Stage or Two Bowl) QUICK-BREADS (Loaves, Muffins, Pancake and Waffle Batters)  Dry and wet ingredients are mixed separately and then combined and folded until the dry ingredients just become moist. Take a look at our Chocolate Muffin Tops or Muffins Recipe.
 
Pastry-Blend Method PIE CRUSTS The fat is "cut into" the flour. Once the liquid is added, the dough should be mixed well, but not beaten at length for this will toughen the gluten. You'll love our Flaky Pie Crust or Pate Brisee Tutorial.
Little Aeration   Ingredients are mixed / stirred with minimal incorporation of air. Folding is a technique often used. We use this in our Frosted Fresh Cherry Cake Recipe Tutorial.
SARAH'S NEW MIXING METHODS    
Easy Mix Angel Food Cake Mixing Method EASY MIX Adapted in 2013 for Angel Food Cakes. See the Easy Mix Angel Food Cake Recipe and Tutorial
Healthy Oven Mixing Method HEALTHY OVEN
LIQUID OIL / FRUIT PUREES INSTEAD OF BUTTER RECIPES (Search using keywords: healthy oven)
I developed the in 1999 (Healthy Oven Baking Book, by Sarah Phillips, Doubleday, 1999). The wet PLUS sugar ingredients are mixed separately and then combined and blended until the dry ingredients just become moist. The wet, typically including fruit purees, such as applesauce) PLUS sugar ingredients are beaten until frothy for better aeration, before being combined with the dry. Includes the development of a new Healthy Oven Reduced-Fat Creaming Mixing Method used in the absence or lowering of traditional solid fat.
Sarah's Gluten Free (Gluten-free) Mixing Method GLUTEN-FREE 
(Search using keywords: gluten-free)
Developed by Sarah Phillips in 2009. Aeration of gums, such as xanthan, necessary in the recipe. For example, yeasted bread dough made without wheat flour containing gluten lack extensibility or stretch. The xanthan gum adds in stretch.See the Sarah's Gluten-Free Yellow Butter Cake Recipe Tutorial.
Sarah's Sugar Free Mixing Method SUGAR-FREE  I successfully developed New Mixing Methods when I developed sugar-free cakes, in 1999 and incorporated it into my gluten-free baking. This method helps aerate cakes in the absence of traditional crystalline sugar, and when using crystalline sugar substitutes. See the Healthy Oven Sugar-Free White Cake Recipe Tutorial

 


MORE MIXING METHODS: Each one is covered under its own section in more detail:
BREAD: Mixing and kneading
CAKES: Mixing methods
CANDY: When to stir and beat
CHOCOLATE: Stirring during melting or tempering
COOKIES: Mixing methods
CUSTARDS: Are stirred or baked
FROZEN: Different types
GLUTEN FREE: Sarah's Gluten-free Baking Mixing Method
HEALTHY: Sarah's Healthy Baking Mixing Method
PASTRY: Different types
PIES AND TARTS: Different types
PUDDING; Different types
QUICK BREADS: Different types

Other How-tos