Fans of the show Schitt’s Creek know which scene I’m talking about.
“You just…fold it in!”
For the uninitiated: Down-on-their-luck socialites David and his mother Moira are trying to cook enchiladas—or as Moira, with her inimitable pronunciation of words, calls them, "ahn-chiladas." When they get to the instruction to “fold in the cheese,” everyone’s confused.
Watch for yourselves:
So what is the difference between “folding in” an ingredient and just, you know, adding it and stirring?
Bakers will tell you that it means to very gently incorporate an ingredient by sweeping the spatula around the mixing bowl and then turning it lightly, as if folding the mixture in on itself. You do it tenderly so that you won’t deflate the batter.
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Often it’s used when incorporating whipped egg whites or whipped cream; you add a small portion first to lighten up the batter before—yup, folding in the rest. It keeps the whole thing light and airy.
When cooking, you fold in ingredients–like that cheese–when you don’t want to overmix. In our recipe for Cheesy Mashed Potatoes, the goal is to add the two cups of shredded cheddar very gently to keep the potatoes light and not gluey. If you fold in ingredients, everything stays fluffy.
So next time a recipe says to “fold it in,” keep things gentle. Unlike Moira and David, now you know just what to do.