Sweating, similar to sautéeing, is a French technique of cooking food (usually vegetables) in a little fat, over low heat, in a covered pan. Sweating causes the food to release its juices and cook without browning which in turn, concentrates the flavor of the food. This technique is often used in recipes where the vegeatables/aromatics are not the main ingredients of the dish but rather the background flavor base.
Creaming means beating a fat (such as butter) with another ingredient (usually sugar) until it becomes soft and smooth. Creaming butter and sugar together creates tiny little air bubbles which help to expand the overall volume of the mixture. When adding other ingredients into the creamed batter be sure to not overwork it otherwise the air bubbles will be destroyed thus ruining the effect of the creaming.
When creaming, whip or beat the softened (NOT melted) butter alone until it expands, lightens in color, and sightly expands. This will take about 3-4 minutes in a stand mixer. Do not rush this step, thoroughly creaming the butter aerates it which adds to the lightness of the finished product. Once the butter is nicely creamed, add in the sugar and beat until well combined, light, and fluffy. At this point, the mixture may be referred to as a “batter“.
Scalding means to heat a liquid, usually milk, until it almost simmers. Milk specifically will easily boil over and scorch so recipes will generally call for scalding to avoid overcooking.
To scald milk:
- Choose a pan large enough to allow for a few inches of rising.
- Fill the pan with a little cold water, swirl it around, and pour out. The thin layer of water will help to keep the milk from sticking.
- Pour in the milk and cook over medium heat, stir occasionally to avoid scorching.
- Heat just until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, remove from heat. Watch the milk carefully at this stage, it can boil over easily.
Blanching is a technique that is used to soften the texture of food to a nice “tender crisp”, set its color, and in some cases make them easier to peel. When blanching, food is submerged in boiling water for just a few seconds and then it’s removed and immediately plunged into very cold ice water. The hot water serves to soften the texture of the fruit or vegetable and the ice-cold water bath not only stops the cooking process but also sets its bright color.
For thin-skinned fruits such as peaches or tomatoes blanching makes it easier to peel their skin off while leaving the inner flesh nice and firm.
To blanch for peeling purposes:
- Cut out the stem and then score (shallowly cut) an “X” in the blossom end of the fruit.
- Plunge the fruit into boiling water for 30-60 seconds or until the skin begins to wrinkle.
- Transfer the fruit to an ice-cold water bath.
- Once the fruit is cooled, remove from the water, and peel away the skin using a small paring knife.