What’s the best way to mix?

Whenever I think about mixing techniques, I am reminded of a cartoon I once saw.
It depicted a man saying “The recipe said to fold in one egg, so I fried it first and then folded it in half!”
Funny, but clearly incorrect.
The technique used to mix two or more ingredients together will depend on what you are trying to accomplish. Mixing obviously will combine ingredients, but the procedure chosen also can incorporate air (such as beating or whisking) or minimize incorporated air from escaping (as in folding).
The following Q&A serves as a perfect example to the application of different mixing techniques:
Dear Chef Dez:
I have been having this problem for years. I make this wonderful Hungarian torte that is made of only eggs, sugar, ground hazel nuts, and two tablespoons of bread crumbs (which I may or may not include, depending on if I have them at hand).
But no matter how I bake it (slow heat or hot heat), it always falls flat.
I was thinking about trying to bake it in an angel food cake pan, without greasing the pan, the next time I make it. My husband says his mother always baked really thin cakes in several pans and layered it that way, instead of two cakes and then slicing them each in half to make layers.
The cake always tastes fantastic. And after the icing is on, no one can tell that it was flat until it is sliced and the layers are exposed.
British Columbia

Dear B.L.:
Your mother-in-law is correct. Traditional Hungarian torte always has its layers baked separately—mainly to prevent the exact problem you are having.
It is traditionally made anywhere from six-eight very thin layers and I have even seen ones with up to 12 layers!
Since there are no leaveners (like baking powder) other than eggs, one must take extra care in preparation. I don’t know exactly what your recipe says to do, but based on the ingredient information you have given me, I would prepare it as follows:
1. Separate the eggs and beat the whites to moist stiff peaks.
2. Make sure you are whisking the sugar and the egg yolks together until it is very pale yellow and the mixture trails off the whisk like ribbons. Whisking helps to incorporate air, and since eggs are the only leavener in this recipe, you’re going to need as much air in this recipe as possible.
3. Fold the ground nuts and the egg whites alternatively into the yolk/sugar mixture. Starting with the whites, I would add the whites in three parts and the nuts in two parts—but the “key” is to gently “fold them in.”
Proper folding techniques will ensure a proper mix while minimizing the deflation of the egg whites.
4. Depending on the amount of volume your recipe makes, I would divide the mixture equally between two or three pans (the pans should first be prepared as followed: line with wax paper or parchment paper and then spray with baking spray or buttered).
5. Make sure the oven is “preheated” to 350 degrees and bake on the centre rack until set. It is done when the cakes will leave no impression from your finger gently pressing the tops of them.
They should “spring back.”
6. Allow them to cool in their pans for at least 10 minutes, on cooling racks, before removing them to continue cooling on their own on the racks.
Send your food/cooking questions to dez@chefdez.com or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C., V2T 6R4
Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary instructor, and cooking show performer. Visit him at www.chefdez.com

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