To Fold

Picture by Southern Foodways Alliance

Over the weekend I encountered a problem with folding.  I’ve had problems with folding before.  Understanding how to fold laundry is one thing, but folding batter is a whole other thing.

I was following a recipe for Coconut Cake.  It was not my favorite kind of recipe.  Too many bowls were involved.  I like being a one bowl or one dish wonder.  That’s why I adore casseroles.  Back to the cake.  I totally expect to use at least two bowls. One for the liquids and one for the flour mix.  Mixing one into the other is fine with me.  But this recipe had you beating the egg whites first in one bowl.  In bowl two you had the egg yolks.  In bowl three the butter.  And in yet another bowl, bowl 4, you had your flour.  Nevertheless, everything was going along smoothly.  And then came the part where I was to fold the egg whites into the batter.  

The glossary on www.recipetips.com defines folding as follows:

The process of blending a light ingredient, such as beaten egg whites, into a heavier ingredient by lifting from underneath with a spatula or spoon.  In order to fold ingredients properly, the heavier ingredient is placed at the bottom of a bowl and the lighter above. A motion commonly used to fold the ingredients involves starting at one side of the bowl, moving downward and then across the bottom to the opposite side, enabling the ingredients on top to be brought down into and replacing the ingredients on the bottom. The bowl is then rotated a quarter turn and the motion is repeated. It is important not to completely blend the ingredients together. For example, if beaten egg whites are blended too thoroughly, the egg whites will lose their volume.

OK.  That is confusing enough.  I didn’t see this definition until this morning though.  This weekend I was folding, and it’s hard for me because I tend to be heavy handed.  I put the filled cake pans in the oven.  There were big clouds of egg whites through the yellow.  My son came into the kitchen and said “You need to mix that up more.”  I explained to him that I wasn’t allowed to mix, only fold.  He said “Well, that doesn’t look right and it’s gonna mess up the cake.”  I took the cake pans out of the oven and gently stirred a little because I feared he might be right.  Then I returned the cake pans to the oven.  There were still little clouds but I thought what the heck.  If I stir all the egg white puffs away, what’s the point of the fold?

It got me thinking about proper folding.  When do you stop folding?  How mixed up do the two ingredients need to be?  I’d love some comments from experienced (or at last more experienced than me) bakers.  Also, while you are at it, If anyone knows of any beginner baking books, I’d like a recommendation.  Thanks!

By the way, in case you are wondering, the cake came out excellent.  The yellow and white was completely mixed and the cake was light and fluffy!  A folding success, I guess.

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