Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Side-by-Side Baking, Folding in Flour

A comparison bake looking at two different folding in methods when making cake batters.

Victoria Sponge Cupcakes

It's been some time since I last shared a Side-by-Side bake, so wanting to remedy that I donned my pinny and gathered my taste testers together.

For those who may be new to Only Crumbs Remain, my Side by Side Baking series compares similar bakes with a view to achieving better results.  The focus of the actual comparison depends upon the bake itself; it may look at the rise achieved in a sponge, the crumb of the bake, specific ingredients, or perhaps the ease of a technique.  So far we have compared gluten free flour against regular self raising flour in cupcakes; the creaming-in method against the all in one method when making sponges; the effects of resting yorkshire pudding batters; two different pikelet recipes; three different methods of infusing tea flavour into a sponge batter; and the impact butter quality has on sponge bakes.   All of this couldn't be done without my small group of 'volunteer' taste tasters who are briefed on the nature of each comparison bake before trying the samples.

This particular Side-by-Side comparison looks at two different methods of folding flour into a cupcake batter.  It was inspired by August's edition of Asda's free magazine, 'Good Living', which I picked up during a recent shop.  As you may know, James Martin is the new face of Asda, helping them to promote good family food and straightforward bakes.  In the magazine are numerous recipes and tips shared by the Yorkshire pro-chef himself.



Folding flour into sponge batter by hand

One of those tips is on page 43 of the August magazine, where James shares 'Granny's secret to the perfect sponge'.   He explains that the secret to a great, fluffy, light, sponge is by combining the flour into the beaten egg and sugar mixture by hand.   Literally by hand, so no need to dig out any fancy kitchen gadgets!  He goes onto say that "the minute you add the flour, the mixture starts to collapse, so you want to mix it as quickly as possible.  If you think of your hands as five spatulas, it's much faster".

Although I've often seen pro pastry chefs use their hands rather than kitchen gadgets, I personally have never tried this particular technique (well, I'm not a pro-chef, just a keen home baker :-) ).  So, being a huge fan of James Martin's baking I decided to give it a go, and what better idea than to compare it against a sponge using the folding technique I usually adopt.  In recent years I've tended to favour using a spatula to fold our flour into a batter, though as a youngster I was taught to use a metal spoon.   

Side-by-side baking comparing cupcake sponges which have had their flour folded in with a spatula against that folded in by hand.

Side-by-side baking, comparing two techniques of folding in flour.

Although James Martin talked about using this technique when making fat free sponges (ie swiss roll type of sponge), I decided to carry out this baking comparison with a commonly used cake mixture, the Victoria sponge, wondering if the same theory would apply.  So, in this Side-by-Side bake I shall compare two cupcake batters, one with the flour folded in with a spatula and the other folded in by hand.

How I went about the Side by Side baking comparison.

I made two separate batches of the Victoria sponge batter.  Both batches used the same quality of ingredients and they were made using the creaming in method.  The sponge was unflavoured and undecorated to allow my volunteers to focus upon the sponge rather than being detracted with a frosting.  The first batch was made and baked before starting the second batch so as not to potentially affect the raw batter waiting for oven space.  The muffin tray was positioned in the same part of the oven for both bakes.  Each cupcake weighed the same and were baked at the same temperature and the for the same period of time.  Different patterned paper cases were used for the two different bakes, thus preventing them from being muddled up.

Comments about folding in by hand.

Given that James Martin encouraged us to think of our hand as being five spatulas, I splayed my fingers during the folding and mixing process rather than keeping my fingers together to create just one utensil.   Although it didn't occur to me to time the actual folding-in process in both of the batters, this method certainly did seem to be quicker which surely is a good thing.  Not only would the batter retain more air but the gluten in the flour (unless you're using a gluten free flour of course) isn't being activated helping to create a lighter bake.  This method also allowed me to 'feel' when the consistency of the batter was ready, rather than judging it through a plasic or metal utensil.  The slight negative point to this mixing process is the obvious messy nature, but given that the folding-in literally only takes 10-15 seconds your hand can soon be washed leaving them pristine again.
 

The tasting.

Four 'volunteer' taste testers were assembled, including myself.    I explained to each of my tasters the principal behind this side-by-side bake and asked them to simply identify which cake they found to be lightest.  The identity of the specific cakes wasn't divulged to the tasters to prevent them from being unintentially influenced, so my tasters sampled them blind, so to speak.  Only I knew which cupcake was which.

Side-by-side baking comparing cupcake sponges which have had their flour folded in with a spatula against that folded in by hand.

Side-by-side baking comparing cupcake sponges which have had their flour folded in with a spatula against that folded in by hand.

The result.

To be honest I was quite surprised by the results.  We ended up with 50-50 split; 2 preferring the cake made with the flour folded in with a spatula and the other two preferring the mixture which was hand folded.  Both mum and I preferred the sponge which had been hand folded.  We both commented that the cupcake was lighter both in the eat and visually when the crumb was inspected (although there was no visual difference between exterior of the cakes).   Mum described her preferred cake as smoother.   Despite the split in opinion, I shall certainly use this method again in future bakes.  The benefits of this folding in method may be more noticeable when making a fat free sponge, such as a swiss roll, which James referred to in his short article....I may have to investigate further ;-) 



How do you fold your flour into your cake batter?  Have you ever tried hand folding?







 


Pin it for later:

A side-by-side baking comparison looking at the difference between folding flour by hand into a cupcake mixture against using a spatula.



Print the recipe for later:


print recipe

Victoria Sponge Cupcakes
A classic sponge mixture.
Ingredients
  • 50g Butter, unsalted
  • 25g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 25g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Egg, lightly beaten
  • 50g SR Flour
  • 1 tbsp Milk
Instructions
1. Pre-heat the oven to 190c / Fan 170c / Gas 5. Place the muffin sized cases into the muffin tray. 2. Make the sponge. Place the soft butter and sugars into a good sized bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon or electric beaters until very pale and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk. Sieve the flour into the mixture. Use a spatula, large metal spoon or your hand with your fingers splayed to fold this in gently. 3. Fill the muffin cases. Using a teaspoon, fill the cases with the batter mixture. You're aiming for them to be half to two-thirds full. You may decide to weigh each muffin to ensure equal sizes. Each will weigh about 62g. 4. Bake. Place the muffin tray in the centre of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. You may need to rotate the tray after 15 minutes of baking. Once baked, remove from the oven and place on a cooling tray.5. Decorate as desired. Once the cupcake sponges are cold decorate your bake as desired, perhaps with a water icing, butter cream or a chocolate glaze.6. Enjoy :-)
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3




This post has been shared with:

CookBlogShare




Share this Post Pin This Share on StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr Share on DigItShare on Redditt Share on Google PlusEmail This

18 comments:

  1. Ooooh thats really interesting!I always use a mixer to mix all the other ingredients and then fold the flour in with a spatula but never heard of using my actual hand! Wonder ifit works with vegan sponge.... (going to have to have a gonow!!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it just. As soon as I read it in the magazing i thought, "Oh, yeah, that makes sense"! And it really did fold in a lot quicker than with the spatula. I'm sure it'd work with a vegan sponge too Midge, I'd love to hear how you get on.
      Thanks for popping by and commenting,
      Angela x

      Delete
  2. What a great post. I often talk about how technique is just as important as the ingredients in a baked good. Nice work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw thank you Eileen :-) I couldn't agree more, the subtle differences in techniques can really lift a bake. I've been enjoying adressing different techniques / ingredients etc in my side-by-side series to learn the best way of doing things and to hopefully understand why it works :-)
      Thank you for spending the time to pop by and comment,
      Angela x

      Delete
  3. what an interesting test! really fascinating. i have never heard of folding in with your hands, but i can def see a difference in the crumb! thank you for teaching me something new today x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Jenny, We both learnt something new there. It really made sense when in my mind when I read his short piece about it but yet I was still surprised to see the difference in crumb when I cut the cakes in half. I'm imagining it could be a more marked difference if the technique was used in a fat-free sponge.
      Thanks for popping by and commenting Jenny,
      Angela x

      Delete
  4. Well this is a new one for me. Ive never heard of it or know anyone who does it. I do not tend to shy away from getting stuck in with my hands. I feel that very often your hands are cleaner than utensils given the number of time i wash them during any one cooking session. Also sometimes you need to use your hands to gage if a mixture "feels" correct. That said Im really not sure i would want to in this case - Do you not waste rather a lot with it sticking to your hands which must surely be a larger area than a spatula. Still you have intrigued me enough to think maybe I should at least try it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I've seen a couple of pro chefs mix by hand on TV programmes, the person who comes to mind is Paul Hollywood and I wasn't totally enthrawled by the idea - it just looked so messy. But since reading James Martin's piece and recognising how it is a much faster process (with 5 'spatulas' rather than 1) I thought I'd give it a whirl. My instinct too was that it would waste a lot of batter (I'm sorry, I forgot to discuss it in the post), but having knocked off a large amount of batter from my hands I ended up with the same number of cupcakes as I did when I made those with the regular spatula. If you give it a try I'd love to hear how you get on with it.
      Thanks for popping by and commenting,
      Angela x

      Delete
  5. Wow! I've never even thought of hand folding, but I love getting a bit messy whilst baking so I'll give it a try soon and let you know how I get on!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :-) looking forward to hearing what your thoughts are when you've tried it Cliona,
      Angela x

      Delete
  6. I love your side by side posts Angela! This is fascinating. It's never occurred to me to try hand folding but I'm definitely intrigued enough to give it a shot. Thanks for sharing with #CookBlogShare

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw thank you Mandy :-) I think it's deinitely worth getting the hands a little bit messy especially if you're making a special bake. I'd love to hear how you get on with it.
      Thanks for your lovely comment Mandy,
      Angela x

      Delete
  7. Another fascinating comparison Angela, I always look forward to reading these posts. I've never read a recipe where the flour had been mixed in by hand before, always folded or beaten, I was surprised at the difference it seems to make to the crumb in the picture. I'd definitely be tempted to give it a go in future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nor have I Charlotte, though I do seem to think that I've seen one or two pastry chefs fold it in on TV (though it's entirely possible that I've dreamed it!). Until I read James Martin's piece in the magazine I honestly didn't fancy the idea of it. Although there is a difference between the cakes in the images, to be honest I think it seemed more noticeable to the naked eye.
      Thanks for your lovely comment Charlotte, and I'd love to hear how you get on with it if you give the method a try.
      Angela x

      Delete
  8. Wow - fascinating! You know I love these experiments, Angela. I have to say, though, this is not a new one for me as my Dad has been into this particular technique for years - especially with fruitcakes - he feels the ingredients get mixed better that way. There are pictures of me aged 1 with my hands in a bowl of Christmas cake batter 'helping' Daddy make the Christmas cake that year...and that was over 35 years ago!! What is it they say? Nothing new under the sun!! :-) Eb x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so right there Eb, definitely nothing new under the sun. We have the best gadgets on the ends of our arms, don't we :-) Aw, they sound cute pictures Eb with you 'helping' :-)
      Angela x

      Delete
  9. This was such an interesting read! I honestly didn't expect the textures to look so different. I know a couple of eldery ladies who swear by using their hands to mix christmas/fruit cake batters and Paul Hollywood is certainly always keen to stick his hand into mixtures, but I had never considered to apply it to the humble victoria sponge. I'll have to try this out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Jo :-) Eb from Easy Peasy Foodie also commented that her dad always mixes their fruit cakes literally by hand too. And who's going to argue with Paul? The article in the magazine was really referring to making a fat free sponge which really does need gentle handling, but I was still pleasantly encouraged that it made a difference in the Victoria sponge (well mum & I thought it had anyway!)
      Thanks for popping by and commenting Jo,
      Angela x

      Delete

Thank you for spending your time to read my recipe posts. Feel free to leave a comment, I enjoy receiving your feedback. However, due to spam I have activated comment moderation, which simply means that each comment will be read by myself before it is visable on Only Crumbs Remain. I shall publish and respond to your valuable comments as soon as I can. So please don't panic when your comment disappears when you hit the publish button :-)

Flick through our recipes!