Cookbooks are chock full of different words that describe how recipe ingredients are mixed together. Ever wonder how “stirring differs from beating? . . or how “creaming” differs from “rubbing”? Well, I found the answers in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook:
Methods of mixing are important, where several ingredients are combined. We seek for a way that will give the most complete mingling of all the substances with smoothness and lightness, at the same time saving time and strength.
Sifting, or putting materials through a fine mesh, is used to lighten flour that has been packed down, to remove coarse portions, or to mix thoroughly several dry ingredients.
Stirring is done with a spoon, and is a round and round motion, used for mixing a liquid and a dry ingredient.
Rubbing is used for combining a dry ingredient with a semi-solid substance like butter.
Creaming is a term used for the rubbing of butter until it becomes soft and creamy. A spoon should be used, not the hand.
“Cutting in” with a knife is used for combining butter with flour for biscuits and pastry where the butter should not be softened.
Beating with a spoon, or beater of the spoon type, is free over and over motion, the spoon being lifted from the mixture for the backward stroke. This is used for increasing the smoothness of the mixture after the first stirring, and for beating in air. It needs a strong free motion of the forearm. Beating is also accomplished by the rotary motion of a mechanical beater like the Dover.
Cutting and folding is the delicate process of mixing lightly beaten egg with a liquid or semi-liquid without losing out the air. The spoon is cut in, sidewise, a rotary motion carries it down and up again, and it folds in the beaten egg as it goes.
Kneading is an option used with dough, and is a combination of a rocking and pressing motion, accomplished by the hands. A good result can be obtained by some bread machines, and this is the cleaner method.
Rolling out is just what the term denotes, a rolling of a thick piece of dough by means of a cylindrical wooden “pin” to the thickness proper for cookies and crusts. Dry bread is also rolled to break it into fine crumbs.
Pounding and grindingare usually accomplished for us now in factories in breaking of spices and coffee. It is better to have a coffee mill at home.
Foods and Household Management: A Textbook of the Household Arts by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley (1915)