Ever seen a recipe that says “fold in” a specific ingredient, like egg whites or flour? If you’ve ever wondered what on earth that means- this is the article for you. Read on for more information on what folding is, how to do it, and tips to make the best baked goods ever.
What does “folding” mean?
You probably will encounter the “fold in” direction sometime while baking. “Fold in flour,” or “Fold in whip cream.” You may wonder what that means. If so, you’re not alone. It’s kind of a weird term- and not as self explanatory as other cooking or baking techniques may be.
“Folding” is a baking term that means adding and mixing something light and airy into something heavier.
For example, if you had to add egg whites or whipped cream to cake batter, you would want to fold them in so you don’t ruin their light consistency or get rid of any of the air bubbles inside. Folding is a gentle way to mix the different ingredients together without damaging what you are baking, or without changing the consistency.
Folding the right way will ensure that all your baked goods (at least the ones that require folding) will rise properly, taste delicious, and cook evenly.
Recipes that call for folding
A lot of baked good recipes use folding. Many breakfast items like waffles, biscuits, and pastries require it, as well as others. Souffles, cakes, brownies, fudge, cookies and more also require folding.
A chocolate chip cookie recipe may instruct you to fold in the chocolate chips, a cake may require folding in flour, or egg whites, etc. Or a chocolate waffle recipe may ask you to fold in cocoa powder. When a recipe says to fold in something it is talking about the specific folding technique explained below.
How to fold ingredients
In recipes there are a lot of terms. Beating, whipping, stirring, and folding all mean different things and it’s essential to follow the instructions to get the perfect baked good. The recipe writer didn’t use the word “folding” as a fancier way of saying “stir.” They want you to fold and you need to do just that.
1. Figure out your light ingredients and your heavy ingredients
Maybe you’ve beaten egg whites and are adding them to batter for an angel food cake, or you’re folding whipped cream into pudding, whatever you are doing make sure you know the lighter ingredient from the heavier one. In the first example the egg whites are lighter than the rest of the cake batter and you will be folding the egg whites into the batter.
2. Using the rule of thirds add the light ingredient into the heavier one
While mixing, make sure the heavier ingredient is in a big enough bowl to be able to fit the lighter ingredient as well. Gently add the lighter ingredient into the heavier one with a spatula or spoon. It will go easier if you slowly add in the lighter ingredient a third at a time.
Folding might be compared to stirring but it is not the same. Folding is a specific motion you do in order to mix the lighter and heavier ingredients together. Here is a video for a more visual representation. Practicing this technique will make you a pro in no time.
To fold, gently move your spatula across the middle of the bowl, around the sides of the bowl, at the bottom of the bowl and back on the top. You are turning (or “folding” the bottom parts of the batter on to the top.) This will incorporate all of the ingredients, but keeping the air bubbles in and the consistency the same.
The key with folding is going gently.
4. Rotate the bowl and fold until combined
Keep folding slowly and gently, rotate the bowl if needed.
5. Repeat steps 2-4
Repeat steps 2-4 until all the lighter ingredient is folded into the heavier.
Going with the egg white example, you took a third of the egg white mix to add to your cake batter in step 2. Now, continue to add your egg whites in thirds, and fold until all the egg whites are incorporated into the batter.
Once everything is combined you are good to go.
Tips for folding
Follow the recipe
Typically folding involves either mixing wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately and then folding them together, or folding in a specific ingredient at a specific time. It is important to read and follow your recipe carefully. While it might add to your dishes load and take more time it is very important in order for the recipe to work and have a great taste.
Use a large bowl
Since you are folding in ingredients to other ingredients things can get a little messy. In order to make sure you have enough room for the folding technique you need a wide, larger bowl.
Use a Rubber Spatula or Spoon
Rubber spatulas or shallow metal spoons are great for folding. They’re flexible, thin, and have a flat surface and that makes them really helpful to folding. They gently fold in the ingredients and can scrape the bowl clean. Silicone spatulas work really well. Whisks are also helpful in folding.
Add lighter ingredients to heavier ingredients
You want to add the lighter ingredients to the heavier ingredients so that you can gently mix up and lighten all ingredients. If you add heavier ingredients to the lighter ones than you could end up with a deflated and not as tasty result.
Go slow. Gently fold.
It might take a few minutes. But it is worth it. Slow and steady wins the race.
Don’t over fold
It can be really tempting to over mix (or under mix) but don’t. You don’t want tons of flour pockets in whatever recipe you are making, but there is such a thing as too much mixing. Folding the batter too much will prevent it from rising in the oven and it won’t turn out as you hope. Fold the ingredients until they are just barely combined together, no more and no less.