Next to care in measuring comes the manner of mixing. The most accurate measurement of the best materials is often rendered useless by a neglect to put them together properly, and the blame is usually charged to the oven or the receipt. There are three distinct ways of mixing: Stirring, Beating, and Gutting or Folding.
Let the bowl of the spoon rest slightly on the bottom of the mixing-bowl; then move round and round in widening circles, without lifting the spoon out of the mixture, except to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Stir slowly at first, to avoid spattering; add the liquid gradually, and be sure the bowl of the spoon (not the edge nor the tip merely) touches the bottom and sides of the bowl. This is mashing as well as stirring, and the mixture soon becomes a paste. When perfectly smooth and free from lumps, add more liquid till you have the desired consistency. We stir flour and water together for a thickening, or butter and flour and milk for a 6auce. We stir when we rub butter to a cream, or when we make a batter or semi-dough. When we make a stiff dough we stir at first, and then turn the whole mass over, bringing the knife or spoon round the bowl and cutting up through the dough.
Tip the bowl slightly, and hold the spoon so that the edge scrapes the bowl, and bring it up through the mixture and over with a long quick stroke to the opposite side; under, and up through again, lifting the spoon out of the mass and cutting clear through, scraping from the bottom at every stroke. Keep the bowl of the spoon and the sides of the mixing-bowl well scraped out, that all the material may be equally beaten.
We stir simply to blend two or more materials; we beat to add all the air possible to the mixture. We beat eggs or batter or soft dough. The albumen of the eggs and the gluten of the flour, owing to their viscidity or glutinous properties, catch the air and hold it in the form of cells, something as we make soap bubbles by blowing air into soapy water. The faster we beat, and the more we bring the material up from the bowl into the air, the more bubbles we have; but one stirring motion will destroy them. Yolks of eggs should be beaten nearly as much as the whites, or till they are light or lemon-colored, and thicken perceptibly. The whites should be beaten till they are stiff and dry, or fly off in flakes, or can be turned upside down without spilling. When the two are to be put together, always plan to turn the whites into the yolks, as there is less waste than when the yolks are turned into the whites. Let the whites stand a minute, then run a palette knife round the edge close to the bowl; they will slip out easily, and leave the bowl almost clean. For beating eggs, for nearly all purposes the Dover egg-beater is the best. There should be two sizes, the larger one for the whites of eggs. Hold the beater lightly in the left hand, and move it round through the egg while turning the handle. For frosting, and snow pudding, and all beating of soft dough, use a perforated wooden spoon. Bowls with slightly flaring sides, and not too deep to be clasped from bottom to rim in the left hand, are most convenient. If tipped slightly toward the right, the beating is done more effectually.
Omelets, sponge cake, whipped cream, etc., should have the beaten white cut or folded in carefully to avoid breaking the air bubbles. Turn the mixture over with the spoon, cut through, lift up, and fold the materials together, lifting the part from below, up and over, and mixing very gently until just blended. Do not stir round and round, nor beat quickly.
All mixtures which are raised with eggs alone, should have the yolks and whites of the eggs thoroughly and separately beaten; any very thin batter, like pop-overs, pancakes, or gems made without eggs, should be beaten vigorously just before baking. And many persons are most successful when all the beating of the eggs is done in the batter.
Graham or whole-wheat flour is better than white flour for gems that are made without eggs, because it contains more gluten.
Shall we stir only one way? No; stir any way you please, so long as you blend or mix the materials. But after beating in air bubbles, don't break them by stirring, . unless you wish to keep up the game of cross purposes indefinitely. Always let the last motion, before turning into the pans, be one of quick, vigorous beating, except in those receipts where folding instead of beating is indicated.