You whisk your egg whites for a soufflé recipe you’ve been meaning to try. You add the dry ingredients into it and just to make sure the ingredients are really incorporated, you mix the batter for a few minutes longer. The mixture suddenly collapses. The fluffy soufflé of your dreams is now just a fantasy. Standing next to the curdled, watery mess, you think to yourself - who knew mixing is so crucial?
Well, pastry chefs have long understood the importance of properly whisking and mixing ingredients and it’s time we apply the right techniques in our kitchens. We spoke to experts to learn.
Know your whisking and whipping
Whisking and mixing are two fundamental techniques used in both baking and cooking. Whether you're making a cake, whipping up some cream, or mixing a marinade, knowing how to whisk and mix properly is essential for achieving the best results.
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While putting different components for a recipe together could seem simple, it’s definitely not a haphazard process. The movement of your hands, the speed at which your mix, tools, and various intricate details matter. Change your technique and you will get an entirely different result.
Chef Vimal Nair, head pastry chef, at Risen Café Dubai, categorises mixing ingredients as a whole separate discipline. “Pastry and baking is science and every step makes a huge difference in the final product,” Nair, who has been a pastry chef for the past 15 years, said.
Let’s talk about whipping and whisking. It is a technique used to incorporate air into ingredients, to create a light and airy texture. When whisking, you can use a handheld whisk, an electric whisk, or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. The method involves vigorously beating the ingredients together in a circular motion until they become fluffy and voluminous.
“Patience and consistency in whipping give you proper texture and results. The idea is to create air pockets of equal size to bring stability to the mixture or else you might end up breaking the air bubbles inside the ingredients and it will collapse the mixture,” Nair said.
Patience and consistency in whipping give you proper texture and results. The idea is to create air pockets of equal size to bring stability to the mixture...
Speaking about a foolproof method to making your macarons, fluffy omelettes, and frosting, he said: “Make sure to whip at a medium speed consistently in one direction to incorporate air into the ingredients whether it be eggs or cream.”
Whisking is used in baking to make meringues, whipped cream, and cake batters. When making meringues, egg whites are whisked until stiff peaks form, creating a light and airy foam that is perfect for making Pavlova or adding to a lemon meringue pie. Whisking cream is also essential for making whipped cream, which can be used to top cakes, pies, or hot drinks.
What’s folding and creaming?
Mixing is used to describe techniques to combine ingredients to create an even consistency, for a uniform result. There are two main methods of mixing - creaming and folding. The creaming method is commonly used in baking and involves beating sugar and butter together until they are light and fluffy. The two ingredients are beaten together until they are pale, creamy, and almost double in volume. Then eggs and flour are added to create the cake batter.
Whereas, the main aim of the folding method is to combine ingredients gently, without losing any of the air that has been incorporated through whisking or creaming. So, it could be flour, egg whites, fruits or any other ingredients.
“Folding is the process of incorporating heavier and lighter ingredients, you need to be careful while folding the products not to break much of the air pockets, using a rubber spatula fold from the bottom of the bowl and flip the mixture carefully in one direction until you get a uniform colour and texture,” said Nair.
Here are some more recipes to try
Dangers of over mixing
When it comes to baking, using the correct mixing technique is essential for creating a delicious and consistent end product. Mixing too much can lead to a tough and dense cake, while not mixing enough can result in an unevenly baked cake with pockets of unmixed ingredients. Don’t mix the life out of the batter.
Right tools are important
When speaking of delicate and complex processes, it’s not just the movements and techniques that are important. But the tools and materials that are used have an equally essential role to play.
Michelle Audrellia Claudy is an Indonesian pastry chef based in Dubai, currently working at Salmon Guru. She shared her tips for amateur bakers and cooks. “You will need basic equipment like a bowl or a curved, circular container. Then, for whisking, you need to use a whisk, spatula, hand mixer, stand mixer, or hand blender. Why can't we do it in a square container? Well, this is because the entire container needs to be reached by the tools we use, the corners of a square container will be difficult to reach so then the batter will not be mixed or stirred perfectly,” she said.
When it comes to the material and quality of the equipment used, she said: “Generally use stainless steel or plastic. Because these two materials are strong enough to withstand scratches caused by the mixer and are also easier to clean and maintain over time.
“When we start mixing the ingredients, it is necessary to ensure that the tools used are dry, not greasy, generally at room temperature not hot, and not very cold either
“When we start mixing the ingredients, it is necessary to ensure that the tools used are dry, not greasy, generally at room temperature not hot, and not very cold either. Several dessert-making processes can fail instantly with just a few drops of water, for example when making meringue. Egg whites that are beaten when exposed to water droplets will not expand optimally into foam,” she added.
Know your tools and what they are for
Knowing your tools and having a list of the basic equipment you would need is important for beginners in the kitchen. Here are some tools, as per pastry chefs, that will come in handy when making a recipe that requires any sort of mixing.
1. Handheld whisk: A handheld whisk is a basic tool that can be used for whisking small amounts of ingredients. It's great for making whipped cream or beating eggs for an omelet.
2. Electric whisk: An electric whisk is used for whisking larger quantities of ingredients. It’s best for recipes that require a lot of whisking. For example, it’s great for making meringues, whipped cream, or cake batters that require you to whisk the batter into stiff peaks.
3. Stand mixer: A stand mixer is a tool that can be used for both whisking and mixing. It comes with a whisk attachment, which can be used for whisking egg whites or cream. It also has a paddle attachment, which can be used for mixing cake batters or cookie dough thoroughly.
4. Mixing bowls: As Claudy mentioned, mixing bowls are one of the most essential items in the kitchen for both whisking and mixing. They come in various sizes and materials, such as stainless steel, glass, or ceramic. They can be used to mix ingredients together before whisking or to hold ingredients while whisking.
5. Rubber spatulas: Rubber spatulas are useful tools for scraping ingredients from the sides of the mixing bowl while mixing or folding ingredients together. Due to this, they also help with not wasting batter. They come in various shapes and sizes and are often heat resistant.
7. Food processor: A food processor is a powerful tool that can be used for mixing ingredients together quickly and efficiently. It's great for making dips, sauces, or marinades that require finely chopping ingredients, which might be difficult to achieve with a knife.
Overall, the choice of tools will depend on the recipe and the quantity of ingredients being used. Now that you have basic knowledge of what different types of mixing techniques are, what are you planning to make? Check out our recipe section to get started.