Post # 339 Mix It Up!

February 4, 2015 at 12:19 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 339 Mix It Up!

Last week, I ran into a problem in my kitchen.  My trusty, reliable electric hand mixer finally gave up the ghost.  I was making chocolate chip cookies and the dough was fairly stiff.  The mixer started slowing down, so I pushed up the speed button.  It sped up for a moment, then slowed down, then the mixer started smoking.  I unplugged it immediately.  It continued to smoke for a moment or two more.  I released the beaters and set the machine to the side.  After it cooled off, I tossed it away.  No sense in keeping something that could turn into a fire hazard.  The cookies were pretty well mixed, anyway.  And that old mixer didn’t owe me anything.  I’d bought it for about $20 in 2006 when I moved into my condo, and it had made a bazillion cookies, cakes, etc.   Eight years later, it had probably outlasted its projected lifespan by five years.  So now I was in mixer-buying-mode and wanting to get one similar in power, and similar in lifespan, hopefully.

It got me thinking about hand mixers in general.  I’ve probably used them all.  Of course, the first one was a stick, and when I’ve been hiking or camping, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up using handy sticks while cooking.  There’s even one type of bread I’ve made where the dough gets wrapped around a debarked stick and set high over the embers to cook.

But really, the first mixer was likely this:

hand mixer 04

The good ole wooden spoon.  I keep them around by the dozen.  I like big one, little ones, forked ones, holey ones.  I’ve got some that are merely decorative, and I’ve got some that are merely utilitarian.  I’ve got some that I bought by the dozen, and others that were gaspingly expensive for just one.  They’re made to be used, used up, and tossed in the fire when they break.  And they do break.  Always at the worst possible moment, too.

My mom had an old timey electric mixer in a terrible avocado color that could connect to whatever bowl you were using and make a stand mixer.  It must have been a novelty kind of thing because I couldn’t even find a picture of one on the whole internet.  I only ever used it by holding it and it was a diesel engine of a mixer.  Not sure whatever happened to it.  The last time I remember using it, the beaters were rusted where they hooked into the body.  It likely got tossed after that.

Mom had another mixer that I never used, and to my memory neither did she.

hand mixer 01hand mixer 02

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one on the right is the one she had.  I’ve seen many of these in antique stores and flea markets.  I’ve also seen them on period shows like “Downton Abbey” and the like.  I imagine it takes a load of practice to use.  The best thing I could see them making is butter.  The one on the left, I’ve seen at Walmart and Target.  Someone is still using them, though I can’t think why.  It just seems a more difficult way of getting the job done, particularly when for a few dollars more you can get:

hand mixer 06

But more on that in a minute.  Over the weekend, we were out and about looking at antiques (we bought a wingback chair from the 1920s for a song!) and I saw something I’d never seen before.

hand mixer 03

The one I saw wasn’t nearly as shiny, but I recognized it immediately.  It’s a hand-crank dough mixer, designed to fit over large bowls to make large amounts of dough.  Basically, it’s the pre-electric version of this:

hand mixer 07

I constantly wonder about things.  I wonder who was the first person to look at an oyster and say, “Yeah, I’m hungry enough to eat that thing that looks like snot.”  I wonder who was the first person to put sugar and eggs and extra milk or water into bread dough and make a cake.  So whenever I’m making bread with all my electric devices designed to take the muscle out of it, I wonder about how people used to make it by hand.  I consider the patience they had and the creativity.  Baking was a specialized branch of cooking much more so than today.

So mixing things as efficiently and easily as possible was key to the success of any dish.  “In olden days” they sifted flour and other dry ingredients together using a device like this:

flour-sifter-5-cup-10b_1ac

Now, I put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and sift it using this:

hand mixer 05

And I feel like I’m doing something very professional because I’m actually sifting the dry ingredients together.

So, I chose my new electric hand-held mixer.  It’s from Hamilton Beach, and is similar to what I had last week.  It came with a storage case.  It came with two beaters, a whisk, and two dough hooks.  It was only slightly over $20.  I’ve been promising a friend and blog-reader that I’m going to make pretzel rolls so I’m going to use the dough hooks on my hand mixer.  I’m not going to use my stand mixer because I need to try this puppy out.  BUT, I’m going to use the bowl from my stand mixer just in case I don’t have the muscular forbearance of our ancestors and I need to switch back to the stand mixer.

It’s dough, after all, just what the stand mixer was designed for.

Enjoy

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