Old world cooking or using technology what do you prefer?

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by wyandotte, Apr 12, 2016.

  1. wyandotte

    wyandotte

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    I may have asked this years ago, but I still wonder about what other people do.

    Is there anyone here (excluding the professionals) who prefers to make pastries, cakes, cookies,  etc. using old fashioned tools, ie, no electric mixer of any kind; and only an old fashioned eggbeater?  Cuz that's me.  I cream the butter and sugar and flour the way I did 40 years ago at home as a kid,  with nothing more than a wooden spoon.

    I have a hand held electric mixer but just hate it.  And those giant automatic things are out of my league. I don't disrespect any home baker who wants to use these things, not criticizing anyone.

    http://ghk.h-cdn.co/assets/cm/15/11...d-ultra-power-stand-mixer-ksm95er-0411-xl.jpg

    Anyone? 
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 22, 2016
  2. rpooley

    rpooley

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    Me.  My family rents a big house in Michigan each year, 22-26 of us for a week and as is typical for most vacation homes, the kitchen tools are s***.  As such, I do use machines but also spend a lot of time using just my hands and the common stuff.  

    I started making my mom's yeast crescent rolls each December and the recipe calls for mixing a large amount of butter and flour.  For some reason, this past holiday I was annoyed/hurried and just started mashing it together with my hands.  They were far superior to anything I had every made previously, no idea why but it's mashing hands from here on out.

    Also, last night I had some leftover apple puree and an apple and decided to make a quick free form tart.  Didn't feel like measuring or hauling stuff out so just cut the butter in with fingertips (I've done this lots of times).  Turned out just fine, as usual.

    I am totally with you for doing stuff by "primitive" methods.
     
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  3. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    For many years there has been a controversy in woodworking between folks who use hand tools and folks who use power tools ("Normies"... named after Norm Abram I believe). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norm_Abram   I never thought I'd see that concept applied to cooking.

    But since you asked... I know how to do most cooking tasks by hand, but there are a lot that I now do with power tools. My major exceptions to power tools are:
    • Cutting, chopping, and dicing: Knives and mandolin, not food processor.
    • Mashing veg: masher or ricer, not food processor or mixer.
    • Whipping cream or beating egg whites: whisk, not power tools... with the one exception of letting my child make whipped cream in "The Magic Bullet"... but that is primarily for the entertainment value.
    Other than that I'm mostly a hand tool person. If I were to live in a camp with no power I'd easily conform to all hand tools... but would also probably limit the type of cooking I did.

    P.S. I couldn't exist without my stand mixer!
     
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  4. rpooley

    rpooley

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    This reminded me:

    Potato gratin for 15 is great for knife skills (I didn't have a mandolin), facing the challenge of even slices

    Grating potatoes for latkes is good for forearm strength

    Slight chunky leftover mashed potatoes make more interesting shepherds pie, breakfast potato fried with eggs

    Nothing like a big copper bowl for egg whites

    Whipped cream is pretty easy and you've only messed up a bowl and whisk

    However, I draw the line at genoise.  I make this a lot and thank the Maker for a standing mixer.
     
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  5. millionsknives

    millionsknives

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    I don't use my stand mixer at all anymore because baking makes you fat

    I do use a meatgrinder over double cleavers if it's more than two portions.  Spicer grinder is necessary to get certain harder spices started, but mostly I use a mortar and pestle
     
  6. rpooley

    rpooley

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    I would argue that eating the entire thing you just made in one sitting is probably more likely to make you fat.  :)
     
  7. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    My Hobart N50 mixer is a godsend at my age of 62.  Creaming butter or eggs + sugar or even making a meringue manually really does a number on my old shoulder.  Sooo sorry to have upset the boat!

    ...And later-on deep into the night when I step outside my front door for an evening stroll and look way down the street, I observe my shoulder rounding the corner never to be seen again....until I took possession of my N50. 

       /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lookaround.gif/img/vbsmilies/smilies/eek.gif/img/vbsmilies/smilies/lookaround.gif  
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2016
  8. jake t buds

    jake t buds

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    For 4, 6 or 8 people, I mostly use my hands. Sometimes a pastry knife, if needed. I think I might use the stand mixer for pizza dough, and nothing else mechanized other than a pasta machine. I have an electric spice grinder but I generally just grind what's needed in a particular dish, so I use a small full contact porcelain spice grinder. Oops! I use an electric coffee grinder.

    I can't see avoiding machines, mixers, etc, when preparing food for lots of people, but it depends entirely on the dish. 
     
  9. millionsknives

    millionsknives

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    Can't resist fresh bread
     
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  10. rpooley

    rpooley

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    OK, fair enough.  

    Which adds another thing - never a bread machine, ALWAYS by hand
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2016
  11. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    Let's be fair about it:  never a bread machine, ALWAYS by hand or stand mixer with a dough hook.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif
     
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  12. rpooley

    rpooley

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    Years ago, some well-meaning friends gave me a bread machine because they knew I "liked to cook".  I was appropriately surprised and effusive...and then gave it away.
     
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  13. wyandotte

    wyandotte

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    I really enjoyed reading all your replies and hearing of your experiences. 

    I think I might use the stand mixer for pizza dough, and nothing else mechanized other than a pasta machine.

    Do you mean a hand cranked pasta machine?  I never saw that as high tech and indeed, I use one, an oldie. Maybe I'm not so pure after all.  I remember how much work it was for my mother to roll out these giant sheets of egg noodle dough, then put them on the bed to dry out a bit, then rolling them up and slicing them into noodles.  Yipes.  Took all day just about.  Then we slurped the noodles down and that was it.

    Grating potatoes for latkes is good for forearm strength

    There's no other serious option, though, I don't think.  Grating the potatoes this way, manually, produces the best result.

    Anybody see the series Two Fat Ladies?  They were not always quick to rush to the electric devices; they mostly did things the old fashioned way.
     
  14. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    I can't see pizza dough as being any different from bread dough other than by using 100 bread flour which makes for a stiffer dough.  My pizza dough consists of 75% 00 Caputo (extra fine ground AP) and 25% semolina at 65-75% hydration; and, kneading it by hand requires little effort.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
  15. rpooley

    rpooley

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     "Non-cooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, well, so is the ballet." - Julia Child

    I think we can all relate to that quote.

    And I though the Two Fat Ladies were terrific.
     
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  16. chefross

    chefross

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    I'm a die hard, do it from scratch, by hand type of cook.

    My career took me to many kitchens that did not have electric anything, so I learned how to work with what I had from where I was.

    Boss's at work are always bringing in some new type of labor saving device. I just smile and go back to work.

    They bought a toy that is supposed to peel garlic faster, or a device to julienne carrots, cucumbers, or zucchini faster than a Mandoline or some new hand held mini food processor.

    In most cases, I can chop, slice, julienne, or brunoise, and be cleaned up and ready for the next job before the labor saving device is used, washed and put back.
     
  17. rpooley

    rpooley

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     There's s scene in "Witness for the Prosecution" where Tyrone Power's character is demonstrating an egg beating invention for a woman and her cook.  As soon as the Tyrone Power and the woman walk out, the cook flings it in the sink.

    /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif
     
  18. wyandotte

    wyandotte

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     I agree, but if you are preparing 10 different dishes for a holiday meal, well, getting the kids to operate some little grating machine is not a bad idea.  In general, though, if you are good with a knife, your last paragraph is oh-so-true.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif   They in general are not worth the trouble, except for situation previously noted.

    Re garlic, I see those thingies in the supermarket where you put the garlic inside and kind of twist it around.  I mean, really.  What happened to just flattening it with the side of a knife or wooden spatula! That removes the husk, too.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2016
  19. queequeg

    queequeg

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    I'm glad those gadgets and gizmos are on the market because they make food prep more accessible to people who have mobility or dexterity issues or folks who otherwise can't handle a knife safely or comfortably. I might not use them, but anything that makes it easier for people who might otherwise be dependent on packaged or delivered foods to prepare fresh food at home is aces in my book.

    When it comes to a home cook using old-fashioned methods, I think it depends on your motivation behind it.

    On one hand, I think there's something beautiful and deeply meaningful about doing something the same way your ancestors did. Food connects us to our past, and one of the ways it does that is by the way we prepare it. I always prepare Chinese dumplings in the same bowl my grandmother used not because it's better than any other vessel but because it connects me to her and reminds me of sitting around with four generations of women in my family, making potstickers before a big celebration. When I learned, I was the youngest at the table and my great-grandmother, born in 1898, was the oldest. Now I'm the oldest and my nephew is the youngest, born in 2004 and I hope when I'm gone he'll continue that tradition, using the same bowl.

    On the other hand, I think we can fall into the habit of fetishizing the past just because it's the past. There is absolutely nothing wrong with creaming butter and sugar by hand but I'd bet dollars to homemade doughnuts if Carême or Escoffier had had access to a modern stand mixer, they would've thanked their lucky stars and used it accordingly.

    As for me, it depends on what I'm making. When it comes to yeasted doughs, I do everything by hand except brioche because it's easier for me to feel for the right texture if I'm doing it manually. Same thing with pasta. If I'm doing buttermilk biscuits I will *always* use a food processor with a frozen blade because the minimal handling and heat transfer makes for a finer end product.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
  20. chefross

    chefross

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    Nicely said.....

    I am getting ready for Passover and am making my own Gefilte Fish.

    I had some Northern Pike frozen and just got some fresh Whitefish and will be starting on this later today.

    I too have my mother's original pot for simmering those babies in, and the platter she cooled them on sitting in the window sill with the window open a wee bit to help cool them.

    Memories are all we have when all is said and done.