Creaming butter and sugar
Q: When creaming butter and sugar, how long do I need to beat for?
A: The short answer is there is no actual time that you need to aim for when creaming butter and sugar as it is about the transformation of the mixture rather than a specific time.
Firstly, let’s look at why ‘cream’ butter and sugar for a recipe – there are two reasons:
- To soften the butter further so that when you add the remaining ingredients they combine easily.
- To incorporate air into the butter so that it will add to the ‘lightness’ of the final bake and help leaven it.
Some recipes ask you to cream the butter and sugar until ‘just combined’ and in this instance you want to beat the butter and sugar until it is ‘just combined’.
However, when the recipe requests for the butter and sugar to be beaten until it is ‘pale in colour and light or creamy in consistency’ this is when you need to take notice of how the mixture transforms while beating. The more you beat it the paler in colour, lighter in texture and creamier in consistency it will become, but it will get to a point that it won’t change any more and this is the stage that you will know you have creamed it enough.
It’s important not to rush this step – changes in consistency and colour are essential and can take some time, especially if your butter is a little firm. However, if you don’t beat for long enough will affect the final texture and volume of your bake, often making it heavy or dense.
If you are unsure of what you are looking for it is a good idea to take a small sample of the mixture at intervals as you beat, and it will soon become clear. Here I’ve taken a few samples from a mixture I’ve just creamed (from top to bottom): just combined, beaten for a few minutes and then two samples taken a minute apart that show that the consistency or colour didn’t change once it had reached this point and therefore it had been beaten enough.
It is also worth noting that how ‘creamy’ a butter and sugar mixture becomes depends on both the proportion of ingredients used and the size of the sugar crystals – the more sugar added and the coarser the crystals the less ‘creamy’ it will be.
Also, it won’t matter if you beat on high, medium or low speed when creaming but the higher the speed the faster you will reach the right consistency.
So, remember, next time you are creaming butter and sugar, it isn’t a matter of time, just a matter of transformation.