March 15, 2013

Dough-flinging kitchen monster | Kitchen toys


I started out writing a "kitchen toys" post about my new hand mixer and bowl, but I started reminiscing about a mixer mayhem from the past, and couldn't resist sharing. (The new stuff is at the bottom of the post.)

It was 1976 — before many of you were born — and I was young and newly transplanted to Wisconsin. I was living in a lakefront cottage in a rural town about five miles from a small city of 6,000 people, and about 20 miles from Madison. It was the first and only time in my life that I lived outside a city. I'd lived in big and medium-sized cities, and I wanted to see what it was like to live in a small town. Behind our house was a narrow road, and on the other side of the road was a state park. I could cross the street, climb a hill, and be on the prairie trail. It was peaceful and somewhat isolated. Our house was part of a ring of homes around a lake, but don't start picturing lakeside mansions — the homes were mostly very modest. Many, including ours, had been built as summer homes but were now "winterized."  The reason I put "winterized" in quotes, by the way, might have something to do with the fact that in our cottage the heat vents were on the ceiling, and heat rises, you know. We were on the floor where it was cold, and the crepe soles of my shoes were always frozen solid in the morning. Also, the uninsulated water pipes froze, giving us the opportunity to learn that the plumber was also the town's mayor. There were many other features that made us unwilling to spend two Wisconsin winters in the house, but I'll save that for another time.



I was subbing in Madison, but no one had called me to work one day so I decided it would be a perfect day to bake bread. The plan was to get the dough rising, then shower and dress. I got the great idea to mix the dough in my old stand mixer, and with all the ingredients added and the mixer churning away, I turned my back for just a minute to clean up some of the kitchen clutter. When I looked back at the mixer, the gluten had obviously been activated and anarchy was unfolding as dough flew in every direction, and at the same time was also being sucked up the beaters into the machine. I raced over to stop it, and was attacked by wads of glutenous dough. I unplugged the dough-flinging  monster, and desperately tried to pull the sucked-up dough from the machine. It was awful; the stuff I was able to pull out was covered with black grease from the motor, and there was so much dough on everything in the room and on me, I started to wonder if I'd somehow been transported to an episode of I Love Lucy. I wasn't laughing, however.


Then someone knocked at the kitchen door. Holy crap. I was pretty sure it was my next-door neighbor, Lois, and while I didn't look forward to having her see me in the state I was in, I didn't want to be rude, so I reluctantly, with dough-covered hands, opened the door. But it wasn't Lois, it was the pastor of the Lutheran Church, welcoming me to the neighborhood and inviting me to come to church on Sunday. Remember, my kitchen and I were covered in bread dough, I was wearing pajamas, my hair was wild, and I was very agitated. The pastor looked worried. "This isn't a good time ," I said, gesturing towards the kitchen. "The mixer just sucked up my bread dough and I can't seem to get it out." He went on with his talk, though he seemed a bit nervous, and kept eying the kitchen.


I really needed him to leave. I was wearing pajamas, for heaven's sake. "I'm not a Christian," I said. The look on his face told me I'd made a mistake, but it was too late to take it back, and besides, it was true. I needed something more definitive but maybe less confrontational, and like I said,  I needed him to leave. I told him I was Jewish.

"Oh. Well. That's OK," he said. "The Jews have accomplished some really good things. I was afraid you were a heathen." He may have used a word other than heathen — maybe he said nonbeliever — but that's what he meant. Mercifully, he prepared to leave. I thanked him for coming, took all his literature, promised to read it, then went back to the disaster zone to pick gluey dough from every surface. It was a scene I never want to be in again.

I eventually got a new stand mixer, but I really didn't use it much. When I was a vegetarian I may have whipped cream once, and perhaps beat egg whites for meringue once, but  I pretty much mixed everything by hand. I didn't bake a lot except for bread. There was a fabulous cake icing I made with maple syrup and egg whites that required the mixer, but once I became vegan, that wasn't an issue.



Lately, though, I found myself wanting a hand mixer. And so I bought myself a gift. I have to say I love it, and have already used it several times. I wish it were a little more powerful, but I think it will be OK — it's so lightweight, quiet  and easy to use, and it has a true low-speed setting so it doesn't throw ingredients around the room like some mixers. I really wanted a red one but I think the mixer may be a discontinued model, and black was all I could find. It's a KitchenAid Ultra Power 5 speed hand mixer. I haven't tried it on cookie dough, yet, but I'm hoping it will be up to the task.


As I was using the mixer, I couldn't help but notice that none of my mixing bowls were exactly right. The one that was large enough was too wide, and the one that was shaped right was too small. So, the second kitchen toy I bought myself was a five-quart mixing bowl with a silicon, non-slip bottom. It makes using the mixer so much easier. It is an ExcelSteel 298 5-Quart Stainless Steel Non Skid Base Mixing Bowl.

I really do try not to accumulate too much stuff, including kitchen stuff, and I try to buy second-hand whenever feasible, but every so often, I just can't resist getting something I want. Have you bought any new kitchen accessories lately?  Do you have a weakness for kitchen tools and gadgets?

P.S. The banana bread pictured throughout the post was made with my new mixer and is gluten-free and xanthan gum-free. I thought it was really great, but I'm not finished getting the spices just right. Also, the chocolate chips sunk to the bottom and I've got to fix that before I share the recipe. Any thoughts on that? This is a mildly sweet muffin-like bread that I'm really enjoying. Today it was my breakfast.

31 comments:

  1. I *definitely* have a weakness for kitchen tools and gadgets! I love them :-) How do you like your new mixing bowl? I really really need one! I am currently using a cheap plastic bowl I got years ago for about $1 and knew was junk then, but have somehow not gotten rid of...

    Courtney

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    1. I've only used the mixing bowl once, but I loved it. It didn't move around and it was just the right size and shape. Got it on Amazon. It was $10. I always feel bad ordering on Amazon instead of shopping locally, but Amazon is a local company in Seattle!

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    2. $10 bucks is totally worth a good mixing bowl! I was thinking about mine and I honestly think I got it at the $1 store in college. Pathetic!

      Courtney

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  2. Hi Andrea,
    To stop the chocolate chips from sinking, toss them with 1 tablespoon (or so) of whatever flour before mixing them into the batter.

    Laurie

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    1. Thanks! I usually mix them into the flour before I add the wet ingredients for this very reason, but I was using my electric mixer and didn't want to mash them up. Maybe my fear was ungrounded but I wasn't sure what the mixer blades would do.

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    2. I always do them last. So for example, I would do the wet, add the dry to the wet, then stir in (by hand) the chocolate chips (that have been tossed with the flour) manually! I do the same with fruit, as well, to avoid it getting into the blades and causing potential issues.

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    3. That's exactly what I did with my second trial and they still sunk! Maybe I should toss them with arrowroot because the flour didn't seem to cling very well.

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  3. Where's the part where the minister offers to help you clean up??

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    1. I think he was as anxious to leave as I was to have him gone. The whole thing was intensely embarrassing. When I think about it now, I'm just relieved he was an actual minister and not an axe murderer. At least I think he was. Maybe he was an axe murderer and I scared him off.

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  4. Hmmmm..... can't comment on my favorite toys, although I do like my year-ago-purchased food processor... after 30 years of my old one, this actually blends the hummus!

    When we first lived out in the country, in 1981, we would buy eggs from our neighbors who farmed about a mile away. They were in their 80's, and as was quite common at the time, had only been to Madison a few times in their lives despite living within 20 miles of the place. These dear people were both fascinated and confused by our being both Jewish and vegetarians (they had never met any others in either category), and would pepper us with questions. My favorite one was, "WHY don't they let you eat meat?" As if Jewish doctrine dictated vegetarianism. Another great one: "Now, WHY don't you believe in the Resurrection?" At which point, my husband would point to me and say, "You should ask her; she knows a lot more about it than me." :)

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    1. I wish I had gotten the same processor as you did. Mine seems weak. It even squeaks and squeals.

      When we lived in Pleasant Springs, we used to buy eggs from a nearby farm where we left money in a basket and took a dozen eggs. I think I was more into the delivery system than I was the eggs. We never saw the farmers!

      Tell Alan I would have pointed to you, too. :)

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  5. Oh, no! What a funny story about meeting the pastor. That's so funny that you went to the door anyway, even though you were still in pajamas and covered in dough. It sounds like his "bedside manner" could have used some tweaks. When he sputtered, "Oh, well. That's okay. The Jews have accomplished some really good things," it would have taken all of my strength not to remind him that Jesus was Jewish. I would hope that he of all people would think the Jews have accomplished some good things! With conversion techniques like that, I have to wonder if they worked on anyone! ;)

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    1. I went to the door because I figured the visitor had already seen me through the window, and though my first impulse was to hide, at that point hiding seemed lame. :)

      You know, he WAS sputtering. And no, I didn't convert.

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  6. Great story! I was around then living in Appleton, but was just a wee one.

    I never got why they put heater vents at the top of the room in some houses. A co-worker of mine has that in her house, so they use a pellet stove instead for heat.

    People always seem to drop in on us at the worst times. I'm a big fan of calling before stopping over.

    I've been wondering how the Kitchenaid hand mixers were. Our hand mixer is so old that it's gotta be ready to die on us soon, so I might get one once it does. Like you, we don't collect many kitchen things but I would like to get a Tribest personal blender. Ours just died a few weeks ago and even though we have a Vita Mix, I miss it.

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    1. Maybe those stupid ceiling vents work for really TALL people, but they sure didn't work for me.

      I read a gazillion reviews before I bought my mixer, and I changed my mind several times before finally settling. Probably none of them are perfect. I'll have a better idea about it when I try cookie dough, but it worked great on the cake. The cake had wonderful texture and rise.

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  7. I'm pathologically allergic to adding any more stuff to my already tiny and stuff filled flat, but I've always had my eye on a proper food mixer. I just won't take my eye off it if it's making bread!

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    1. I'm not exactly allergic but I am ultra restrained when it comes to adding stuff to my little house. The hand mixer takes up a surprisingly small amount of space, and just by organizing my cupboard a bit I was able to fit it in. It's not a stand mixer — those take up a considerable amount of real estate.

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  8. I'm sorry to hear about your terrible kitchen mess story, ha. I think we all have one of those. Mine was Christmas day and avocado nog in a blender which exploded. But I didn't have the religious right knocking on my door ;).

    Your gluten free banana bread looks like it has excellent texture.. Yum!

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    1. Too bad the avocado nog didn't explode on St. Patrick's Day. I think we've both had one sticky mess too many! But the minister ... did make my situation even stickier.

      The texture and rise were just what I'd hoped. Now I just have to get it even better.

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  9. Great story! So far, I've been able to resist getting any new kitchen toys. But it's so hard especially when I see all the cool stuff on various blogs. :-)

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    1. It's been a particularly hard week as far as resisting kitchen stuff goes. I didn't admit to everything ...

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  10. Great story about the visiting minister! I love it.

    I have a hand mixer but I almost never use it. Maybe once every two years. They just seem too unwieldy. It's hard to get the stuff on the sides and I'd rather just use a fork and make it happen. I don't even like whisks. But a bowl with a silicon bottom sounds brilliant and might make the mixer much more usable.

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    1. You do have to scrape down the sides a bit, but I read that beating a GF batter makes it rise better and that sure turned out to be true. The cake rose like a champ instead of sinking a little in the middle, and had a better texture. We'll see how much I use it, since I'm not much of a baker anyway. The bowl helps.

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  11. I'm thinking 37 years is enough glutenous dough under the bridge that it's okay to laugh out loud at this story. Right? It's not still too soon? :-) Because you tell it so well, it really cracked me up! Felt like I was right there, dodging flying dough and rude Lutherans with you. LOL

    I'm not sure which would have upset me more, the ruined batch of bread & mixer, the mess, or the intrusive, tactless minister. You did an amazing job of keeping your composure - but then, that's probably one of the good accomplishments the Jews are known for, right? SHEESH! I'd have lost it.

    Sorry to monopolize your comments, but I thought you'd appreciate this story... When my mom was 8½ months pregnant with me and living just outside DC, she and my dad ("heathens" both) decided to bake a cake one Sunday morning. Mom in her pregnancy extremis had slept on the sofa (which she hadn't made up that morning), and was wearing old sweats with mustard stains on the sweatshirt, now also covered in bread flour. Dad looked only slightly less unkempt. The doorbell rang. It was a couple who were complete strangers to my parents but were acquaintances of my mom's parents back in Montana! They'd just come from church and so were, of course, clean, coifed, perfumed and dressed in their best. Mom, who gets nervous even over invited houseguests, would have empathized with you completely. She sat on the sofa and tried her best to make it up behind her at the same time, while trying to cover her mustard stains with a dish towel she'd had over her shoulder, such a nervous wreck that she remembered nothing of any conversation. That incident so upset her that she raised me with the oft-repeated admonishment that people who drop by unannounced never look like the wrath of gods, and are coming not to see you but to be seen. After they left, my mother called her parents and chewed their asses for giving their friends Mom's address and telling them to just drop by anytime!

    When I was born, I had crooked ankles and had to wear casts on my legs for 3 months, plus I was so colicky that Mom gave up even putting diapers on me or putting me in a crib. Instead, I slept in a cardboard Schlitz beer case (I'm NOT making this up) with my little rashy, nekkid behind exposed to all the world. Another Sunday morning, the house messier than ever (my mother was a very stressed and rattled new mom), me in my casts and beer carton in the living room, my parents in the middle of making lunch - you guessed it. "Ding Dong!" Same couple, on their way by from church to "see the new baby." Mom didn't even care this time, she just pointed to me in my beer carton bed and said, "Well, there she is." LOL

    Speaking of bottoms, love your new silicon-bottomed mixing bowl! What a great idea! And the hand mixer was a great idea. We have one of those little Braun combo chopper/beater/whisk thingies, and we use it more than we do our expensive KitchenAid mixer. Haven't bought any new gadgets lately, though we did get a spiffy rechargeable wine bottle opener for Christmas! And we have our eye on a Brevel Juicer. Love kitchen gadgets, hate accumulating. It's a conundrum!

    The banana bread looks wonderful! I wish I knew the answer to the sinking chips, but I'm sure you'll figure it out!

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    1. Wow, I think your comment is at least as long as my post! But, I loved both stories and am so glad you shared them! Now I'm wondering, did the visitors ever dare come back? You seem so calm and organized now, it's hard to picture you colicky and sleeping in a beer carton! :D

      I actually left my Kitchenaid stand mixer for the renters in the Wis. house, and on the one hand I wish I had brought it here, but on the other hand, where would I put it? I rarely, if ever, used it, but now I'm finding all sorts of uses for it. When we sell the house, I'll be up a creek making decisions about what to keep.

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    2. Yeah, I know, and I felt guilty about that so I'm glad you enjoyed my stories. I should probably use my own Blogger space for telling my stories, but it just went too perfectly with your story to resist. :-) I did manage to refrain from telling you about the time I got my long hair caught in an operating mixer, though... :-)

      I think I may have fallen asleep with my face in a beer carton a couple of times during college. Does that count?

      I know, those what to keep decisions can be difficult. Hopefully when the time comes you'll have a better handle on what you'll need and want and have room for. We're going to be in a similar position, I'm sure!

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    3. Oh, and no - those people never came back. Guess they'd gotten their fill by that second visit. :-)

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  12. I love that the solution was so simple all-along: to buy a bowl of perfect height. I always put my bowl in the sink to mix (I have a habit of mixing on too high a speed) and simply rest the hand-mixer so the beaters hover over the bowl in the sink.

    PS part of me really thought the pastor would have come to the rescue in some way...

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    1. I'm finding the bowl more useful than I thought. I just used it to grate carrots into and it made the process so much easier. The right tool for the job and all that, I guess.

      I think the pastor needed rescuing himself — I'm sure he wasn't expecting to walk into a kitchen scene quite like he found. :)

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  13. Oh, and I can't help it; I have a soft spot for my Magic Bullet. maybe one of these days I'll spring for a VitaMix (probably not), but in the meantime my Magic Bullet has served me well with only minor incidents!

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    1. I've always been attracted to the magic bullet, but of course can't possible justify having one. Still, it seems so perfect for small quantities.

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