Note: Please welcome our new columnist Kumiko Mitarai of the blog Recipe, interrupted. Every week she'll put together a slideshow demo on a technique that seems easy-peasy but is hardly ever explained. Each step-by-step lesson will feature a corresponding recipe so you can put that technique into practice. Show us how it's done, Kumiko! —The Mgmt.
Since I was a kid baking cookies, this recipe instruction would always stump me: "Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy."
I did my best with our family's old hand mixer but always wondered, do they really mean light and fluffy? How could a stick of butter and some sugar ever be anything but thick and heavy?
But skip ahead a few years to culinary school, where I was coached through the technique and finally got it. The butter and sugar will never transform into cotton candy, but if the butter starts at room temperature and is beaten long enough (which can take several minutes with a hand mixer), tiny pockets of air will form and help give the cookies or cake a little extra lift.