The problem with recipe instructions for a process like creaming is that these are seldom very precise and often rely on subjective descriptors such as “light,” “fluffy,” or “bright.” This can lead to confusion on the cook’s part — just how bright is it supposed to be? Brighter than a thousand suns? Well, probably not that bright, or you managed to cream your butter into a nuclear chain reaction. Still, you don’t want to under-beat the butter or you won’t have a better batter.
So how can you avoid this rookie cookie-baking mistake and be sure your butter and sugar are adequately creamed? Well, it seems that once the mixture hits the optimal state of creaminess, it stops expanding. As soon as the butter and sugar start looking even slightly pillowy-soft and sunny-yellow or whatever your recipe’s chosen adjectives may be, take a look at where the mixture is in the bowl — 2 inches from the top? Maybe 3 inches? Beat it for another minute and then eyeball it once more. If it’s at the same level, stop beating. If it’s risen, give it another minute or two. Split-second timing is not required, since an extra few minutes won’t make too much difference