Mix It Up!
When you bake you spend a good portion of time mixing..........
So it makes good sense to know a little about your mixing tools so you can choose wisely and know why they are used for different tasks.
Here are my top five mixing tools:
An electric mixer is an indispensable appliance for the home baker as it allows you to beat, whisk and mix with great speed and efficiency. You can opt for hand-held beaters or stand mixers – or get both.
Hand-held electric mixers with detachable beaters also sometimes come with a whisk attachment and work at a number of different speeds. They are small, convenient to use and inexpensive. They are suitable for mixing, beating and whisking all mixtures except bread dough, which they don’t have the power to handle.
Hand-held electric mixers are perfect to use when whisking a mixture such as eggs and sugar over a saucepan of simmering water. They are a great choice if you are a beginner baker and don’t want to spend too much money on equipment to start with.
Stand mixers are mounted on a stand and therefore don’t need to be held while in use. They are larger and are more efficient than the hand-held variety, and can deal with larger quantities and thicker, firmer mixtures thanks to their powerful motors.
They are also more expensive than hand mixers but will generally last a lot longer. They usually come with a range of attachments including a paddle (used for beating and creaming mixtures), a whisk and a dough hook (to knead bread dough), and can be used on a range of speeds. If you do a lot of baking and you don’t already own one, this would be the appliance to put at the top of your shopping list. I would also recommend that you buy the best quality mixer you can afford.
A food processor is not an essential appliance when baking but it will make the process easier and more efficient. From making pastry and mixing cake batters to chopping nuts and pureeing fruit, a food processor basically allows you to take shortcuts.
When buying one, make sure it has a reasonable-sized bowl and is easy to clean. Mini food processors are also a good investment, especially if you are chopping nuts often.
Keep a couple of sturdy wooden spoons on hand for vigorous mixing and stirring. I also have several large metal spoons, which I use for their clean ‘slicing’ edge, and a couple of flexible spatulas, which I have to gently combine mixtures and to fold in whisked egg whites so that the incorporated air isn’t lost. Another of my favourite baking tools is a spoon spatula – basically a rubber or silicone spatula with a shallow bowl like a spoon – which makes light work of folding mixtures, transferring them to cake pans and then scraping the bowl. I would highly recommend you buying one (or three!) of these if you don’t have one already.
This handy tool is perfect for whisking, especially egg whites and cream, mixing liquid ingredients and gently combining and removing lumps from mixtures. When buying a balloon whisk make sure the handle sits comfortably in your hand. Remember the more wires it has the more efficient it will be at whisking and therefore the quicker your mixture will reach the desired consistency.
Stainless steel, glass and ceramic bowls are the best options. I never use plastic bowls when baking as they can trap fat and grease that will stop egg whites from foaming when they are whisked and can be easily tainted by smells.
Make sure you have enough bowls of varying sizes so you aren’t washing up constantly. In my home kitchen I have three each of four different-sized stainless steel bowls, plus a number of ceramic and glass ones.