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Utensibility: Big Red and Baby White

29-Jun-2005

 

 

A couple weeks ago Sam, of Becks and Posh, announced a new meme (a rather self-serving meme, Sam!) :-) called Utensibility.  I think it will be really interesting to see what people come up with for this one and I can’t wait to see the round-up. Sam had received a sizable gift certificate to Sur la Table and needs to decide how to spend it, so she posed the question – “What tool or gadget do you love/can’t live without/would highly recommend”?  And there was a secondary question pertaining to “little things”. Sam wanted to also get recommendations for things under $25.  

Now I am a gadget and tool person. I love all kinds of toys! Over the years I’ve purchased a few things that turned out to be dogs – but that’s okay because along the way I’ve also made some wonderful discoveries. Some of my best tools are the simplest but I also love my “power tools” – the motorized, whirring, sometimes noisy gadgets that handle all kinds of processes in a quick and no nonsense manner. These things have made my life so much easier, especially when doing big batches of things. And they are just fun. Fun to look at, fun to use, fun to own.  

Over the years I’ve learned to prefer versatility in my tools: things that have multiple purposes, sort of like a good kitchen Swiss Army knife. I now stay away from things that are too singular in purpose – not because I don’t like them and appreciate them but because a kitchen, at least my kitchen, only has so much room and once you are out of room it’s hard to cram another thing in. Something old has to go to make room for something new.  

So when I read Sam’s blog entry I knew exactly what I would write about, Big Red. Big Red is my Kitchenaid Professional stand mixer. In bright red, of course. With a 6 quart mixing bowl, 525 watts of power, a paddle, dough hook and whisk the things you can do with this tool are limitless. Add to this the possibility of attachments and you can see how a girl could go crazy over this big, powerful hunk of a machine!

During the holiday season I make about a hundred dozen cookies – maybe more – sweet breads, fruitcakes (thank you very much, Kate!), have a big Holiday party and sometimes host other big dinners. I’d say from October through December this baby is used nearly every day. And it is just so happy when it’s used! It’s noisy but that’s okay. In the two plus years I’ve had it; it’s never let me down. I make several types of cookies that are recipes from my Grandma W and I could not make them without this mixer. I guess I’m a wimp – a really big wimp, since my grandmother used to make these things by hand, but I really don’t know how she got the eggs whipped like they need to be. Even with Big Red at top speed I have a couple recipes that need 10 or more solid minutes with the whisk. And of course I use it for all kinds of things throughout the year, but the holiday season is when it really shines.  

However, Big Red would not have been possible without Baby White. Baby White is my original Kitchenaid Mixer; a KSM90.  I still love Baby White, too. In fact, my plan was to sell it or give it away after bringing Big Red home but I held onto it that first season as a backup – just in case Big Red failed for some reason. I then found that for some tasks Big Red is, well, a little too big. Some things can almost get lost in that giant stainless steel mixing bowl. So I hang onto Baby White and bring it out now and then so that it doesn’t feel too lonely in storage. And it feels better that way.

You see Baby White and I go way back! I bought Baby White in 1988. Except for a couple scratches I put in it (I have no idea how I did that…) it is as good as the day I first brought it home. If I’d never had Baby White I wouldn’t have known how wonderful these guys are. And while Baby White filled nearly all my needs the bowl was just a little too small for a few things, and now and then the motor would really have to work as I overloaded it with huge batches of stiff cookie dough. But it never complained and it always came through. I just knew it was time to trade up.   

As for recommendations under $25 there are a couple of categories of things that I really can’t do without (or at least don’t want to do without!). 

  

Spatulas!

Okay, if you look closely you may see that "one item is not like the others".  We’ll get to that in a minute.  All the other tools can be loosely grouped in the "spatula" category.  However, I call some of them flippers or turners; others are bowl scrapers; and finally one I only call spatula. 

No matter what you call these things it’s amazing how useful they are.  I love the new brightly colored, high-heat resistant materials they make these with today.  Not only are they heat resistant but the turners are amazingly thin when made from those materials!  The red one is my primary egg and crepe tool.  It never catches the edges of my fried eggs and mucks ’em up.  It slides right under as if the egg and it had a special relationship! 

The bowl scrapers come in different sizes and shapes.  They can be used for scraping stuff out of jars, gently folding egg whites into batters, stirring up your scrambled eggs, etc, etc, etc!  As an added bonus the company that makes these (at least the company whose products I buy), Chef’N, is also a big supporter of local organizations like Farestart, and if you’ve read much of my blog you’ll know that I also support them.  So it’s a match made in heaven – I get something I like from a company that supports the same organizations as I do! 

The last spatula in the photo is a small offset spatula and I’ve talked about these before so I won’t go into detail except to say they are really great!

The last item in the photo above (or actually the first item) is  really great ice-cream scoop.  I actually bought it because I loved the color so much. :-)  In the meantime I’ve learned to love it because it’s a great scoop.  Sometimes impetuosity pays off! :-) 

Most of these items are in the $5 – $7 range, so for $25 Sam (or you!) might be able to get almost all of them! 

 

Graters/Zesters

And finally, last but certainly not least are my Microplanes.  These are really wonderful tools.  You don’t need to go overboard as I tend to do but having one or two of these tools will change your entire way of thinking about grating! :-)  And I don’t have any of the ribbon style yet…

As you can see I have several sizes and I actually do use all of them for various projects.  Freshly grated nutmeg has never tasted so good and it’s a pleasure to remove the zest from citrus fruits or to grate a few cups of cheese!  I use them for garlic, ginger, chocolate and sometimes for things like almond paste.  Once you have them you’ll find new uses. 

I have one little complaint and that is about the slider attachment.  It works beautifully with the two paddle types on either end.  For some reason, though, when they made the extra large grater (second from left) they made it a slightly different size and the slider doesn’t fit!  I have no idea why they did that.  And I guess my problem isn’t with the slider but with the extra-large grater.  But mostly that slider saves my fingers when working with small things, like garlic.  Love it! 

You can find these for about $12 a piece, sometimes less. 

Well, that ends my Utensibility information for today!  I can’t wait to see what everyone else picks – I’m sure I’ll find some new ideas for things I have to have! :-)  People will be writing about this topic all week, so look for the round up sometime the week of the 4th. 

 

 

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4 Comments
  1. Unknown permalink
    29-Jun-2005 4:52 pm

    I put my Chef\’n spatula in the category of "can\’t live without." My Le Crueset spatula has sparkles in the silicone which is very festive but the shape makes it less multi-functional than the Chef\’n.

  2. Culinary permalink
    29-Jun-2005 9:45 pm

    Well, you know e – Pretty is as pretty does… :-) ~ B

  3. Unknown permalink
    21-Feb-2008 7:04 am

    Great post. I have to seriously ask … 100 dozen cookies … is that for real? I know you can make about 10 dozen at a time, but that means you made at least 10 batches. I can only imagine what your kitchen smelled like. By the way, there is a problem with your "Kitchenaid Professional stand mixer" link in the post. It goes to a not found page on the KitchenAid site.

  4. Culinary permalink
    21-Feb-2008 2:56 pm

    Hi!  Glad you enjoyed the post and I can see why!  :-) 
     
    Yes, I actually do make about 100 dozen cookies over the holidays.  I normally make 12 – 15 varieties and most kinds I bake make 8 – 12 dozen.  It doesn\’t take long to hit 100 dozen, even though the number sounds pretty amazing, even to me!  Thanks for the info on the link.  I\’ll need to get that fixed. 
    ~ B

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