To Paddle or Whip: that is the question

Ok. So you have a recipe and it says to “cream some butter with sugar” or “whip the cream with the sugar”. And you ask yourself which tool do I use? Keep reading, help is on the way.

My electric mixer is great. Amazing actually! It is one of my most beloved and MOST used pieces of kitchen equipment. And it came with three attachments: a paddle, a whip and a dough hook. These attachments are standard if you buy any electric mixer.

The trouble starts when a recipe uses words like “cream the butter and the sugar” or “whip the egg whites” but doesn’t reference which attachment  to use. Many recipes and their authors assume people know which one they mean. And we all know what happens when we assume!  Many home bakers and even some of my baking students use the incorrect mixing attachment mainly because they do not understand what these terms actually mean and what they are meant to accomplish. This misunderstanding was so pervasive that I decided to ALWAYS include which attachment to use in all of my published recipes and for all of the new recipes in my soon to be published book as well.

So let’s have a quick review:

When should the paddle attachment be used? Whenever a recipe says to blend or mix ingredients together. Also, when a recipe uses the word  to “cream” something like the softened butter with the sugar until they become “light and fluffy”. This direction is actually a part of a mixing method known as the creaming method.

The paddle helps the crystals of sugar force air into the fat, and these clever air cells actually get bigger when they get together with the chemical leaveners to help that baked good to rise in the oven. The act of mixing in this way really can affect the texture of your baked good. (Note to self: go and read about the T-Rex cake in my blog, The Icing on the Cake-Chef Gail’s blog)

When should the whip be used? NOT for creaming butter and sugar!! The whip is used only to beat lots of air bubbles into ingredients such as heavy cream to make whipped cream or eggs or egg whites to create egg foams for sponge cakes or meringues for many other types of baked goods. One such baked good can be seen on my YouTube video on how to make meringue mushrooms.

And the dough hook? Captain hook is only used to simulate the kneading process when making yeast breads.