November 23, 2008

Bad cake/good mandoline

I made an unfortunate cake. It doesn't look bad. And it was not so bad that WE wouldn't eat it, but too bad to post the recipe. (The bad photo matches the cake.) It was supposed to be a pear-apple-raisin up-side-down cake but the cake was hard, gummy and heavy — as if it had no leavening. And I know it had baking powder because I noted that we needed to buy more when I added it to the flour. I used my Japanese Benriner to slice the fruit, and the slices were so pretty that I was wishing I'd planned to make a fruit tart instead of an upsidedown cake so the slices wouldn't all be hidden. Since the cake turned out so poorly, this will be a post about helpful kitchen tools, instead of cake. In particular, my handy-dandy mandoline.

I have a Japanese Benriner purchased years ago at a local Asian market. I love the way it makes perfectly even slices of fruits and veggies. It shreds up a cabbage in nothing flat. (It's a little dangerous and will slice your finger if you're not careful and alert. But if you pay attention, keep your fingers out of the way and use the finger protector, everything will be fine.)

I was quite taken by the beautiful pear shapes I sliced up to hide under the cake, and when the cake failed, I decided to focus on the mandoline instead of the dessert. In addition to the straight blade, there are three other blades that look like combs with variously spaced very sharp little teeth. Unfortunately, I'd never tried them! So for this post, I decided to finally see what they could do.

First task was to get them inserted into the mandoline without the long-gone instructions. (Now I know what those two screws on the sides are for!) The main blade stays in place, and one of the "combs" inserts perpendicular to the blade. I was able to create three different cuts—very fine, medium and 1/4-inch matchstick. At first I thought the slices were just coming out as ... slices. But when I touched one, it divided into little strips. I did carrots, cucumber and zucchini.

The Benriner, purchased at an Asian supermarket rather than a kitchenware store, is just about the cheapest mandoline out there. But in spite of its low cost, it's really a great piece of equipment. It comes in several varieties including a "super Benriner" which is a bit wider than the regular one.

I recently sent my daughter-in-law a Borner V-slicer Pro as a gift. After doing a lot of internet research, I found myself influenced by all the stuff I'd read, and I wanted to get her something a little nicer than mine. This seemed to be the best choice for the cost and she seems to like it. However, for a basic, hard-working mandoline that is extremely reasonable in cost, the Benriner is not a bad choice.

9 comments:

  1. i was looking at a Japanese Benriner knockoff at BB&B yesterday and talked myself out of it. Now that I see your beautifully sliced pears and cut carrots, I regret not getting it. Maybe next time I have a coupon.

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  2. I have a saladachio or whatever it is and it's crap. I have a double bladed handheld mandolin that I like a lot, but it's small and dangerous. I may ask Santa for a gadget like you have.

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  3. I'm sorry I said *crap*. I'm still in a bad mood cuz I still don't kitchen lights.

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  4. I think the best route if you want to get a cheap mandoline is to get the "genuine" Japanese benriner. It works great. I kind of wish I had the wider one but this one is adequate. The best (and cheapest) place to get one is at an Asian grocery. If you ask, they will probably have it.

    Diann, I can't believe you still don't have lights. I'd be in a bad mood, too. I hope it gets sorted out soon. Good luck.

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  5. Also, I think my mandoline is a little dangerous, too. However, but I only cut myself once. I'm a fast learner.

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  6. Too bad the cake wasn't up to par--sure does look good! I don't have a mandoline. Hmm. . . I feel a Christmas present request coming on. . .!!

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  7. That is beautiful! Always wondered how people got those even little matchsticks.

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  8. Your julienne veggies look so good. i think i must be doing it wrong. are you supposed to julienne horizontally or vertically (when doing a long, thin veggie like a carrot or turnip)? i have been doing it horizonally (across the width of the veg) and that means i only get short little matchsticks. duh.

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  9. I cut diagonal slices and turn the vegetable every few cuts.

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