Okay, so you've got your shoes, and you've donned your apron. Now what? Well it's time to get baking of course!
As my Mum so astutely pointed out this week the header on this blog is somewhat misleading: it suggests that the Kenwood mixer is a bigger part of my baking than actually it is. Don't get me wrong, I adore the Kenwood (I wouldn't have gotten away with stealing it away from my Mum and asking N to drive it back down from my parent's house, cart it into our flat and help find storage space for it if I didn't) however, let's be honest, it's not the lightest or smallest of kitchen accoutrements. Now, I know that these two things are not what one should necessarily look for in a stand mixer, especially as I dream that one day (in a bigger kitchen) I will have my very own Arsenal-red Kitchenaid. However, since there is very little actual surface space in our kitchen the Kenwood must be stored in an overhead cupboard and being a the "shortass" that I am I have to either bat my eyelashes at N and whimper for help (quietly suggesting that whatever baking goodness I am contemplating won't happen otherwise) or, as in most cases, perilously stand on one of our wobbly dining chairs and heave it from above my head and onto the counter (whatever you do don't tell my father I do this, he'd have a fit!).
So, to cut a long story short, it doesn't get out much. It is amazing for whipping cream (as on this occasion), or getting perfectly smooth and blended cream cheese icing (as on this occasion), and I couldn't manage soups without it's fantastic blender attachment.
But for day-to-day baking, I am my Grandmother's grand-daughter and still, and will probably always, prefer the romance of mixing by hand. It's just nicer and more satisfying to see the sugar and butter cream together perfectly under your own power, to watch the swirls of marbled batter as the chocolate combines with the egg and flour. Okay, so it's not the fastest way to get things done, but it just feels right. Plus it (hopefully) burns off a few of those calories you're about consume whilst licking the spoon!
Now, to get down to the real business of this post. In order to enjoy mixing by hand there are two things you need. The first (and I would argue slightly less important) is a good spoon. I use one of three standard wooden spoons, depending on which I manage to grab from the pot first. The only real thing worth noting about the three spoons I use for mixing is that they are short and small. I somehow gravitate to using these rather than the longer larger ones I tend to use for hot sauces and general cooking. I don't know if there is a difference in ease of action between a long and short spoon, if anything I suspect a longer handle might make it easier. But I like short ones, they get me closer to the action!
BUT, the most vital piece of equipment for mixing by hand is the bowl.
I love my bowls. I seriously do. I grin every time I get one of them out of the draw. They are proper old school mixing bowls and take me back to watching my Nanna or Mum baking when I was a kid. For years I had a stainless steel bargain bowl that I picked up in a pound shop when mixing stuff in the studenty pasta bowls I had didn't cut it anymore. Then, this Christmas, finally being in a flat I love, with a great kitchen and oven and the person I love who happens to love my baking (which is a good job really since I do so darn much of it) I decided finally to ask for one of these bowl for Christmas.
Father Christmas clearly approves of my baking too as he delivered to me a lovely large bowl (needless to say I did leave him a mince pie so maybe that's what swung it!). I was so overjoyed by it and found it so perfect that I went out a few weeks later and treated myself to a slightly smaller one!
I know it might sound odd to rave on about how good a bowl is, but I wholeheartedly believe that these bowls have been one of the best additions to my kitchenware. They're just so satisfying that I think some of my smugness when I mix in them must make it into the cakes. In the immortal words of a very good friend of mine, these bowls "rock my world."