Post #491 Time to Cream the Butter

July 13, 2016 at 9:44 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #491 Time to Cream the Butter

In a post last week, I mentioned the fact that I could cream butter to light and fluffy with just a bowl and a wooden spoon.  One of my blog readers who is a friend and leads one of my favorite food groups on FB called Food Interactive pleaded for me to show her how.  So, I’m gonna.  It’s not difficult, and doesn’t require any special skill set.  It just takes time, patience, and endurance.

And the right equipment.

The Bowl.jpg

That bowl, right there, that exact one, hand painted, ceramic, is the bowl I learned to cook in.  It sits in my sister’s kitchen now, but when I told Mom I wanted to learn to cook, she handed me that bowl and said, “Let’s go.”  I made cakes in that bowl.  I made cookies in that bowl.  I made salads in that bowl.  I used that bowl to hold french fries, spaghetti, stew, fried chicken, and a host of other dishes.  And it was in that bowl that I learned to cream butter by hand.  That bowl fit my skinny teenage arm, holding it tightly against my side as I beat the butter with a frenzy.  And a wooden spoon.

When I was a kid, I usually made cookies after dinner, and I seldom brought the butter to room temperature.  I’d beat the ice cold butter into submission, and because it was Arizona, and the oven was on in the kitchen, the butter was quickly reduced to a paste that could then be easily beaten and stirred to the creamed consistency needed to add the sugars for whatever I was baking, normally the cookies.  So I decided, since I hadn’t made chocolate chip cookies for a few weeks, I’d made them by hand, harkening back to the “olden days” to show the manual technique for creaming butter.

I’ve always got ingredients handy for cookies and cakes and pies and rolls and breads and biscuits, so it was no effort at all to get started.  And I decided to do it all the “right” way.  First, though, I reviewed my recipe in my head and remembered something that occurred when I was a teenager.  I accidentally used half the butter called for in the recipe without noticing.  The cookies spread only a little, were crisp on the outside but remained soft and doughy on the inside.  I’ve done it that ever since.  Until recently when I increased the amount from half a cup of butter to 3/4 a cup of butter.  I have tried the full cup, but don’t like the flavor or consistency after a lifetime of half the amount.

So I pulled out my favorite mixing bowl and my favorite wooden spoon.  I cut the butter into chunks and put it into the bowl.  Smaller chunks will get to room temperature faster than whole sticks.  Now, let’s talk about “room temperature.”  What the heck is it?  In summer, our rooms are a heck of a lot cooler than they are in winter.  And in spring and fall when the windows are open, the ambient temperature can fluctuate dramatically.  Most experts agree that room temperature is around 70 degrees.  The easiest way to tell if the butter is ready is poke a spoon into it.  If it gives easily while still maintaining some structural integrity, it’s ready.

Butter Creaming

After that, it’s really just a matter of mashing the butter and stirring it a lot and mixing it a lot and getting it off the sides of the bowl.

Butter Creaming 01

You’ll notice that it will get softer and fairly quickly it will turn into the light, lemon-colored goop you need.

Butter Creaming 03

Butter Creaming 04

Once it’s hit that stage, I usually keep beating it and stirring it for about a minute.  For the cookies, or for any recipe that calls for creaming butter, the point is to get it to a stage where the other ingredients will incorporate easily and be suspended in the butter.  My mom taught me to mix ingredients in one at a time and that’s how I still do it.  I know people who throw every ingredient into a blender or something like that and switch on.  A few minutes later, they have a batter that they take out and add chocolate chips to and call it good.  I can’t do that.

So, I added the brown sugar.

Butter Creaming 05

This is where you need to start really stirring and beating with vigor.  You need to break down the sugars so they melt and suspend into the butter.  It really only takes a couple of minutes.  One thing I found as a kid is that if the brown sugar is lumpy, it will never ever incorporate into the butter smoothly.  I tried all kinds of things but the only thing that worked with real success was adding small drops of hot water to the sugar before adding it to the butter.  Don’t get it to the syrup stage, just melt the lumps.  Before you do that, though, let me just say that those brown sugar lumps will melt during the baking process and caramelize and taste just like candy when you eat them, so consider carefully before you break them up too much.

Then I added the white sugar.

Butter Creaming 06

By this time, the butter is starting to say “Hold up, that’s a ton of sugar, give me a minute!”  And it will act as though it’s not working properly.

Butter Creaming 08

But keep at it.  Notice the strong grip I have on the spoon, the white knuckles, etc.  It wants to fight at this moment.  Keep stirring.  You’ll get this.

Butter Creaming 07

It all comes together just like it’s supposed to.  It’s creamy, well blended, and ready to taken on the eggs and vanilla before adding the dry ingredients.  I added three cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt and one of baking soda.  It gets more difficult at this stage because the batter will be stiff.  I’ve broken many a wooden spoon trying to stir it all together.

Partner/Spouse who took the pics, asked for sunflower seeds in the cookies, so I poured about a third of a cup into the batter and went to the pantry for the chocolate chips.

“What’s the matter?” he asked hearing the air filled with curses.

“There’s not a damned chocolate chip in this house!”  And nothing I could substitute, either.

So I put the batter in the fridge until I could bring home chocolate chips from the store.  Guess what?  It takes batter a much longer time to reach room temperature than just plain butter.  Like four times longer.  However, they were successful, and they had the same flavor and consistency that went back to my high school days.  Good stuff.

Butter Creaming 09

Sorry this post is so late, but this was a crazy day filled with unexpected hurdles.  Let me know if you try the handmade version of a favorite dish.  And include pictures, too!

Enjoy

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