Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: How to cream butter and sugar the old fashioned way.
Sometimes we want to be romantic about cooking, to do things with our own two hands. To do our non-appliance-wielding grandmothers proud. And when we do, we’re going to have to know how to live without the mixers and the beaters of the world.
Today, after you read this post, you’ll be able to cream butter and sugar without anything but a bowl and a fork. Dessert’s likely going to take you a little bit longer. Your arms are going to be a little more tired. But you’re going to let appliances steal none of the glory, and you’ll be rewarded well: with cookies, quick breads, cakes—that you’ve made with your own two hands.
Step one: Soften your butter.
This, of course, is a hands-off process, but if you want the best results, it does require a spry mind, or at least a functioning Google calendar. Friends, you must remember to take your butter out of the fridge or the freezer.
If it’s in the fridge, take it out about two hours before you plan on using it, depending on how warm your resident counter is. If it’s holing up in the freezer, move it to the fridge two days beforehand, and then follow the fridge protocol. Last-minute butter softeners, we direct you to our community’s wonderful solutions. And we urge you to remember next time.
Step two: Combine the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon.
To get the process started off on the right foot, make like you’d mix anything else together. This will set you up for success when you move on to step three. If your butter isn't perfectly soft, you can get in there with your two hands—working the sugar into the butter will help it soften and combine.
Step three: Break out the fork.
This is the tool you’ll use to faux-cream. Using the back of a fork (choose one that is leggy with long tines), start beating the butter and sugar together, in the same motion you’d use to whisk your scrambled eggs. Keep at it—enlist a friend if you're not ambidextrous—until there are no longer any streaks of butter. You’re looking for uniform texture and a slightly lighter color. Depending on how much butter and sugar you have, this could take anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes.
Keep in mind that, unless you’re somewhat of a body builder, you won’t get the same lift in your baked goods that you might with a stand mixer. But does it really matter? You’ve just creamed butter and sugar, appliance-free.
Photos by James Ransom