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A customer recently asked, “What does it mean when a recipe says to cream the butter?” Well, it does not mean to add cream — as he then asked, “the recipe doesn’t say how much cream to add.” To “cream” means more than just mixing together. To “mix” or to “stir” means to just blend or combine the ingredients. But “to cream” means to thoroughly and completely blend together the ingredients into a smooth and creamy paste. You cannot overcream and undercreaming the mixture can result in grainy and unpleasant textures.

Usually, butter is what is creamed. Butter can be creamed all by itself, so that is light and fluffy. For cakes and cookies, butter is creamed with sugar (white granulated sugar or brown sugar). Creaming helps to completely dissolve the sugar and create a light texture. Creaming is easier when the butter is at room temperature and super-smooth creaming is hard to achieve without an electric mixer. Creaming does not happen at high speeds, but with long mixing. Depending on the temperature of the butter, allow 10 to 30 minutes for creaming. Other ingredients can also be creamed, such as cream cheese for achieving a silky-texture cheesecake. Creaming should occur before adding any eggs or flour.

Shortbread is a classic example of a recipe that requires creaming the butter. What makes shortbread so delicious is the taste of the butter, but the texture of the cookie comes from thoroughly creaming the butter and sugar together, and then refrigerating before baking.

Shortbread

  • 1 pound butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • optional: zest of a lemon or lime or orange

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and smooth. Add the vanilla and citrus zest, if desired. Fold in the flour and salt until just mixed. Press the dough onto a lined sheet pan about ½-inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Cut the shortbread into “fingers” and place on another lined cookie sheet. Use a fork to punch holes in the shortbread, so that the cookies do not spread. Bake at 300 for 25 minutes or until light brown.

For more dazzling cookie recipes, join us in one of our upcoming cookie classes:

  • “Irresistible Cookies” on November 25
  • “Heirloom Cookies” on December 3
  • “Cookie Exchange” on December 15