Mixing is the process of combining ingredients together, usually to make a well-distributed mixture, and is an important step in cooking. The techniques used in combining ingredients contribute significant textural changes and greatly influence the quality of the final product—it is important to use the correct mixing technique for the task at hand in order to achieve the desired results. In sauce making, for example, the emulsification, incorporation of hot liquid and starch, mounting of a sauce with butter, and more are special skills that must be mastered by every cook. In baking, such procedures as the folding of egg whites or whipped cream into cake batter, mousses, and moulds are special skills. The mixing of batters in general is a science in itself.
Folding is a way of gently mixing ingredients, used to incorporate ingredients into a batter or other mixture. Use a wooden spoon or broad spatula and mix the ingredients a spoonful at a time. The technique is often used when one of the ingredients (e.g., egg white or cream) has been whipped, and strenuous mixing would risk driving out the air that has been incorporated. Similarly, if a delicate ingredient, such as cooked fish, is to be mixed, folding will prevent the pieces being broken up.
Beating is vigorously mixing the ingredients, often with an electric mixer. Some recipes and ingredients that often require beating are whipped cream, egg whites, and butter. Beating butter is sometimes referred to as creaming.
Creaming is a form of beating that combines sugar with solid fat. The sugar's sharp particles cut into the butter, introducing air bubbles. It is the most important step for cookies and cakes because it allows them to rise. It can be done by hand using a wooden spoon or spatula; or mechanically, using the paddle attachment of a mixer.
Whipping is a technique where a food is mixed very vigorously in order to incorporate a large amount of air. This results in a fluffy and/or foamy product. It can be done by hand using a whisk, or with a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. The foam produced by whipping must be stabilized by a fat, protein, or other gelling agent—otherwise, it will dissipate. Some of the most commonly-whipped ingredients include cream (see: whipped cream) and eggs, especially egg whites (see: meringue).
Kneading is a process in which a dough is repeatedly worked in order to combine everything thoroughly, increase water absorption, and, in the case of wheat-based doughs, develop gluten. It can be accomplished using your hands or a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Longer kneading times are required for significant gluten development.
Mixing flours powders into hot liquidsEdit
Adding dry ingredients like flours and other powders directly into hot liquids will almost always form lumps. This is because the fine particles begin to cook immediately when they touch the hot liquid, and stick together. To prevent lumping, you must first stir small quantities of cold liquid into the dry ingredients until they are uniformly wet and smooth; only after this should you stir the wet mixture into the hot liquid. Remember not to use more liquid than a recipe calls for; if the recipe calls for 2 cups of hot liquid, but you used a ½ cup cold, then you will only need 1½ cups of hot liquid.