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Beat vs. Fold

Q. When baking cakes, sometimes the recipes call to beat in ingredients and sometimes fold in. What is the difference and when are appropriate scenarios for each? – Luca, Appleton

A. Beating is a rigorous process where two or more ingredients are forcibly combined into what becomes one smooth and relatively homogenous product. Butter and sugar are often beaten together which is known as creaming to start the cookie making process. Beating also can help aerate a product, such as beating egg whites to make a meringue. Folding is a gentle process where two or more ingredients are combined with the intent to cause as minimal disturbance as possible. For example, if beaten egg whites are to be added to a cake batter to help the finished product be light and fluffy, the intent would be to maintain as much of the air that has been beaten into the eggs as possible. The trick to folding in ingredients is to get the components adequately combined while still maintaining the integrity of the products being folded. Using a large rubber spatula and making large lifting stirs from the bottom of the bowl up the sides and to the top is usually an effective technique.

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