Scrape your spatula along the curve of the bowl, gently scooping up the batter and egg whites.
Does reading "fold the egg whites into the batter" strike fear into your heart? So many recipes take it for granted that we know how to do this basic technique, but in reality, "folding" batter isn't exactly the easiest idea to grasp. This is why we're taking a three-pronged approach to showing you exactly how it's done: detailed written instructions, a photo gallery, and a short video. No more fear! After today, you can add a new technique to your repertoire of kitchen skills.
The whole idea behind this technique is to create a light and airy batter, which then turns whatever you're making into a light and airy treat. You first whip egg whites or heavy cream until they reach stiff peaks. Make the batter base in a separate bowl. You then gently -- so gently! -- incorporate the egg whites or whipped cream into the batter with a scooping-and-folding motion.
Use the spatula with the widest and most flexible blade that you own for this task. A wide spatula helps scoop more of the mixture at once and makes the task go more quickly. A flexible blade helps you scrape along the curve of the bowl and scoop up every last bit of the liquid batter.
A big bowl also helps. Trying to fold egg whites in a cramped little bowl makes it hard to really get under the batter and then fold it without deflating the egg whites or whipped cream.
Beyond the basic technique, folding also requires patience. If it doesn't look like the batter and egg whites are coming together within a few folds, resist the temptation to start stirring. This will just deflate the egg whites and make your baked good turn out flat. Keep folding and turning the bowl and folding again. Within a few minutes, the mixture will come together.
Still have questions? Any words of advice to share? Let us know!
How to Fold Egg Whites or Whipped Cream Into Batter
What You Need
Egg whites or heavy cream
Large mixing bowl
Flexible spatula with a wide blade
1. Get everything ready.
Whip your egg whites or whipping cream until they form stiff peaks. Prepare the base in a separate large mixing bowl according to your recipe. If you need a refresher on whipping egg whites or whipping cream, take a look at this post:
→ How to Whip Egg Whites or Make Meringue: The Video
2. Lighten the batter with a scoop of egg white. Drop a generous scoop of whipped egg whites or cream onto the base. Stir it gently until the batter looks lumpy and barely combined. This helps to lighten the base and make it easier to work in the egg whites without deflating them.
3. Add the rest of the egg whites to the batter. Scoop the rest of the egg whites or whipped cream on top of the batter.
4. Slice straight down through the middle of the whites. With the blade of your spatula, slice straight down through the middle of the egg whites or whipped cream until you hit the bottom of the bowl.
5. Scoop and fold the batter and egg whites. Scrape your spatula along the curve of the bowl, gently scooping up the batter and egg whites. Fold them over on top of the remaining egg whites.
6. Give the bowl a quarter-turn and repeat. Turn the bowl with your other hand and repeat: slice down through the middle, scoop from the bottom of the bowl, and fold over on top.
7. Stop when the batter and egg whites are incorporated. Repeat this folding motion until the batter has been completely incorporated into the egg whites. The mixture may still look a little lumpy -- that's ok. As long as you no longer see any liquid batter when you scoop-and-lift, you're done. If you continue folding until you make a completely smooth batter, you will start deflating the egg whites. Better to have a few lumps. Be patient -- this whole folding process takes some time!
• Folding Fruits or Nuts:
Use this technique when folding fruits or nuts into a batter. The idea here is less about keeping a light and airy texture and more about minimizing the formation of gluten.
This post has been edited from the original. Originally published April 17, 2008.
(Images: Emma Christensen)