Quick cake mixing question


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In this recipe, the cake is mixed using the creaming method with cooled browned butter. I noticed that Stella adds some water with the rest of the ingredients when creaming in step 5 of the recipe, presumably to make up for some of the evaporated water when browning the butter, with the water being 6.25% the weight of the total butter so it's only a partial replacement.

My concern with this procedure is that you risk the water moistening the leaveners which are also creamed together with the butter at the start and activate them prematurely. Would it be better to simply add the water with the milk instead, or does having water present during the creaming process help aerate the butter better?

And if you do add the water with the milk, could you also just simplify things even further and just replace it with milk instead too? I know that water and milk aren't completely substitutable - the proteins in milk would theoretically cause more browning, for one thing - but with that small quantity I'm not sure if it would be a concern at all.
 
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@Cahoot

Oh your question is perfect timing, I’m trying to procrastinate on some thing I need to get done and trying to avoid like the plague.

I wouldn’t worry about it. Baking powder is double acting.

Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is an alkaline. Activation requires an acid and moisture.

Baking powder is a blend of sodium bicarbonate and acid. Most baking powders contain two acids. Baking powders are double acting, meaning they activate, go dormant then activate a second time.

First activation happens when the acid comes in contact with liquid. The second activation happens when the acid reaches a certain temperature.

These brands contain two acids:


Argo

monocalcium phosphate and sodium acid pyrophosphate


Clabber Girl

monocalcium phosphate and anhydrous sodium aluminum sulfate


There is an one acid that will activate, go dormant then re-activate at a higher temperature: monocalcium phosphate.


Rumsford contains acid monocalcium phosphate. It is often mistaken for a single acting baking powder, but it is in fact a double acting baking powder.


When the monocalcium phosphate comes in contact with liquid at room temperature, two-thirds of the CO2 will release within two minutes of mixing. It will then go dormant because of dicalcium phosphate is a byproduct of mixing. When it is heated 1140°F (60°C) it will reactivate.


The only time you really need to worry about the The time of chemical activation, is when you’re working with just sodium bicarbonate. It will activate as soon as it when it comes in contact with moisture and acid. So the clock starts ticking then.
 
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@Cahoot

Oh your question is perfect timing, I’m trying to procrastinate on some thing I need to get done and trying to avoid like the plague.

I wouldn’t worry about it. Baking powder is double acting.

Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is an alkaline. Activation requires an acid and moisture.

Baking powder is a blend of sodium bicarbonate and acid. Most baking powders contain two acids. Baking powders are double acting, meaning they activate, go dormant then activate a second time.

First activation happens when the acid comes in contact with liquid. The second activation happens when the acid reaches a certain temperature.

These brands contain two acids:


Argo

monocalcium phosphate and sodium acid pyrophosphate


Clabber Girl

monocalcium phosphate and anhydrous sodium aluminum sulfate


There is an one acid that will activate, go dormant then re-activate at a higher temperature: monocalcium phosphate.


Rumsford contains acid monocalcium phosphate. It is often mistaken for a single acting baking powder, but it is in fact a double acting baking powder.


When the monocalcium phosphate comes in contact with liquid at room temperature, two-thirds of the CO2 will release within two minutes of mixing. It will then go dormant because of dicalcium phosphate is a byproduct of mixing. When it is heated 1140°F (60°C) it will reactivate.


The only time you really need to worry about the The time of chemical activation, is when you’re working with just sodium bicarbonate. It will activate as soon as it when it comes in contact with moisture and acid. So the clock starts ticking then.
To make sure I understand, you're saying that the first activation is inevitable, so it doesn't matter when it occurs during mixing? I'm curious though since I've read that even for batters with just baking powder and not baking soda, they still lose leavening power the longer they sit, presumably from the first activation continuing. Is that a wrong assumption?

I'm also curious about the effect of water in butter - does it affect how effectively the butter is aerated when creaming?

Something else I just thought about regarding that recipe is that it's called a white cake despite only using whole eggs, with the reasoning that the batter is extra-aerated enough that the cake still bakes very pale. The difference between that recipe and all of Stella's other recipes is that the butter is creamed for 8 minutes (at medium speed) instead of 5 minutes.

But how come you couldn't just cream those other recipes for 8 minutes too to achieve the same amount of mechanical leavening? Is it the brown butter that somehow allows for extra aeration and longer creaming without becoming overcreamed? I've read that the creaming effectiveness of fats depends on their solid fat index (SFI) at the specific temperature they're being used, so maybe evaporating the water increases its SFI which means more effective creaming and it can be creamed for longer. But then if my line of thinking is right, you wouldn't want to add back water during the creaming process.

As another detail, the brown butter's starting temperature according to the recipe should be 70°F instead of the 65°F Stella normally uses, which would make you think that it should be creamed for less time before it gets too hot, not more. So I'm thinking there must be something different about the browned butter that changes how it behaves during creaming.
 
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To make sure I understand, you're saying that the first activation is inevitable, so it doesn't matter when it occurs during mixing? I'm curious though since I've read that even for batters with just baking powder and not baking soda, they still lose leavening power the longer they sit, presumably from the first activation continuing. Is that a wrong assumption?

I'm also curious about the effect of water in butter - does it affect how effectively the butter is aerated when creaming?

Something else I just thought about regarding that recipe is that it's called a white cake despite only using whole eggs, with the reasoning that the batter is extra-aerated enough that the cake still bakes very pale. The difference between that recipe and all of Stella's other recipes is that the butter is creamed for 8 minutes (at medium speed) instead of 5 minutes.

But how come you couldn't just cream those other recipes for 8 minutes too to achieve the same amount of mechanical leavening? Is it the brown butter that somehow allows for extra aeration and longer creaming without becoming overcreamed? I've read that the creaming effectiveness of fats depends on their solid fat index (SFI) at the specific temperature they're being used, so maybe evaporating the water increases its SFI which means more effective creaming and it can be creamed for longer. But then if my line of thinking is right, you wouldn't want to add back water during the creaming process.

As another detail, the brown butter's starting temperature according to the recipe should be 70°F instead of the 65°F Stella normally uses, which would make you think that it should be creamed for less time before it gets too hot, not more. So I'm thinking there must be something different about the browned butter that changes how it behaves during creaming.

1. Technically you’re correct it is not a white cake because it contains whole egg.

2. It’s true that once activated the chemical leavening releases its CO2. But we put way way too much emphasis on how affective it is over time. In restaurants and bakeries leavened batters are frequently made well in advance and refrigerated. It’s not uncommon for muffin batter to be mixed the evening before. Or pancake and waffle better to be mixed hours in advanced. These batters bake and cook just fine hours after mixing.

3. She cools and allows the browned butter to re-coagulate (turn opaque). And then she creams it. If she didn’t let the butter solidify, she would have to use some other mixing method.

4. Adding the water back in the creaming is because the browned butter is 100%; cake batter is an emulsion. You create the emulsion in the creaming process. The butter and the egg. After the butter is creamed you add the egg. The suspension of fat and water happens with the beating of the egg into the butter. Remember the majority of the egg white is water. So she’s beating water back into the butter. That’s going to balance out the water in the butter. Then when she beats the again she’ll have a balanced emulsion.

5. and so far as the differences in temperature I’m not sure why there’s a 5° difference. And the way Americans brown butter and traditional beurre noisette is done are different anyway. Americans like to get those dark brown bits. But a French baker will strain the butter through a fine mesh lined with cheese cloth.
 
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1. Technically you’re correct it is not a white cake because it contains whole egg.

2. It’s true that once activated the chemical leavening releases its CO2. But we put way way too much emphasis on how affective it is over time. In restaurants and bakeries leavened batters are frequently made well in advance and refrigerated. It’s not uncommon for muffin batter to be mixed the evening before. Or pancake and waffle better to be mixed hours in advanced. These batters bake and cook just fine hours after mixing.

3. She cools and allows the browned butter to re-coagulate (turn opaque). And then she creams it. If she didn’t let the butter solidify, she would have to use some other mixing method.

4. Adding the water back in the creaming is because the browned butter is 100%; cake batter is an emulsion. You create the emulsion in the creaming process. The butter and the egg. After the butter is creamed you add the egg. The suspension of fat and water happens with the beating of the egg into the butter. Remember the majority of the egg white is water. So she’s beating water back into the butter. That’s going to balance out the water in the butter. Then when she beats the again she’ll have a balanced emulsion.

5. and so far as the differences in temperature I’m not sure why there’s a 5° difference. And the way Americans brown butter and traditional beurre noisette is done are different anyway. Americans like to get those dark brown bits. But a French baker will strain the butter through a fine mesh lined with cheese cloth.
Ah I understand, since the initial creaming (i.e. the 8 minutes of creaming the butter) contains most of the actual mixing in the creaming process, it's better to add the water then to make sure it gets fully emulsified than later.

So Stella adds back some water, but at 6.25% the weight of the initial butter it doesn't entirely make up for the water that evaporated. Maybe having less water content than regular butter raises the SFI curve of the brown butter-water mixture so that it creams most effectively at the higher temperature of 70°F?

I've always thought that straining the browned butter makes it ghee (as opposed to clarified butter, which isn't necessarily cooked long enough for the milk solids to actually brown). So by that definition, traditional beurre noisette is the same thing as ghee? I know the terminology can be a bit tricky, as some people also don't strain it but still call it beurre noisette.
 
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Ah I understand, since the initial creaming (i.e. the 8 minutes of creaming the butter) contains most of the actual mixing in the creaming process, it's better to add the water then to make sure it gets fully emulsified than later.

So Stella adds back some water, but at 6.25% the weight of the initial butter it doesn't entirely make up for the water that evaporated. Maybe having less water content than regular butter raises the SFI curve of the brown butter-water mixture so that it creams most effectively at the higher temperature of 70°F?

I've always thought that straining the browned butter makes it ghee (as opposed to clarified butter, which isn't necessarily cooked long enough for the milk solids to actually brown). So by that definition, traditional beurre noisette is the same thing as ghee? I know the terminology can be a bit tricky, as some people also don't strain it but still call it beurre noisette.

It is hard to say. She is really good at the science of it all. I feel pretty certain that the reason she added the water back with the butter is because the an emulsion is a suspension of one liquid into another. And since the step after creaming the butter, the next step is to create the emulsion with the egg, it only makes sense that the butter is re-hydrated.

Interesting I never though of it as ghee. We Americans always use the brown bits—we LOVE those brown bits. God for bid anyone throw out those browned bits or burn them!!! But every stuffy French or classically trained chef I have taken a class with calls it beurre noisette. And they strain it. For me, it is just not the same without the crunchy munchy little brown bits in it. If I want plain butter I’ll just use clarified butter. I mean seriously why go to all that trouble then throw out the best parts:oops:
 
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