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.