While you may see a recipe that calls for creaming butter and sugar together, this is rarely a skill that we are taught. However, it is an important one to master. Here is exactly how to cream sugar with butter.
This post is the first in a 4-part series on How to Make Sugar Cookies and in it you’re going to learn how to cream butter and sugar, which is a really important baking technique. Post #2 showcases a side-by-side baking trial of sugar cookies whose butter and sugar has and has not been creamed (blew my mind!). Post #3 contains my gluten free sugar cookie recipe, and Post #4 will save you much frustration in rolling out sugar cookies.
As I was making up a batch of gluten free sugar cookies this week, I realized that a new cook reading a recipe for sugar cookies, would have no idea what “cream the butter and sugar” means. To check the accuracy of this thought I consulted with my husband who has, to my knowledge, never made anything that called for creaming butter and sugar. His initial response (while playing World of Warcraft) was “I have no idea.” After a little prodding on my part, he peeled his eyes away from the screen long enough to expound, “I would guess that it means mixing of some sort, but I don’t know specifically what “cream” means.”
And that is exactly what it means. To cream butter and sugar is to mix the sugar into the butter until you no longer have butter and sugar, but a delectable mixture of the two that is lighter, fluffier, and a pale, pale yellow color. The creaming creates tiny, tiny air pockets in your dough. When the cookies are baking, the carbon dioxide bubbles from your leavening agent (baking powder or baking soda) will find these air pockets and expand them. This is why the cookies rise.
Set your butter out on the counter to soften to “room temperature”. How do you know when it’s at room temperature? Poke it. If your finger leaves an indentation, you’re ready to go. While you’re waiting you can go ahead and assemble your mixer and measure out all of the ingredients for your recipe.
Cut your butter into 1 inch cubes and add to the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on low until the cubes of butter have been broken up. Then up the speed to medium and mix for 1 1/2 minutes. If the butter gets caught up in the beaters, stop the mixer periodically and scrape the butter out with a rubber spatula.
With the mixer still on medium speed, begin adding the sugar a little bit at a time. I usually put the sugar into a spouted measuring cup so that I can slowly pour it into the bowl. Once all of the sugar is in the bowl scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with your rubber spatula to make sure that all of the butter and sugar are incorporated. Keep mixing on medium speed until the beaters start creating ridges in the mixture. This may take 7 – 8 minutes. You have now creamed your butter and sugar.