A mixing technique that is used to gently combine two mixtures or ingredients without deflating them or losing their volume. This technique is often used when incorporating whipped egg whites, whipped cream, or other light and fluffy ingredients into a heavier mixture.
The goal of folding is to gently incorporate the two mixtures without losing their volume or creating too much mixing. This technique is often used in baking, where it is important to maintain the light and airy texture of the final product. It is also commonly used in dishes like soufflés, mousses, and other dishes that rely on light and fluffy ingredients for their texture and structure.
How to Fold
Start by pouring / placing the lighter mixture on top of the heavier mixture in a mixing bowl. Then, using a rubber spatula or a large spoon, gently cut down through the center of the bowl and scrape along the bottom of the bowl to lift the heavier mixture up and over the lighter mixture. Rotate the bowl slightly and repeat this process until the two mixtures are well-combined.
Common Folding Errors
Mixing Too Aggressively / Over Mixing
When folding, it is important to use a gentle touch and to avoid over-mixing the ingredients. If you mix too aggressively, you can deflate the lighter mixture. You may also develop gluten in recipes that need minimal gluten. Both problems will create a dense, tough, and unappealing final product.
Not Folding Thoroughly / Under Mixing
Conversely, it can be tempting to stop folding once you see that the two mixtures are partially combined. However, it is important to continue folding until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth and uniform. Pay close attention when cutting down through the center, as well as when lifting, looking for a uniform texture and (often) color.
Not rotating the bowl
When folding, it is important to rotate the bowl slightly after each fold. This will help to ensure that all of the ingredients are well-combined and that you are not leaving any pockets of unincorporated mixture in the bowl.
Equipment Concerns for Folding
Using the right equipment is important to fold effectively. A rubber spatula is the best choice for folding, as they are flexible and gentle, and less likely to deflate the lighter mixture. For heavier mixtures, such as folding chips and nuts into cookie dough, a large spoon may work better.