July 21, 2008
I recently told someone that I was totally over my phase of buying kitchen stuff all the time. With a straight face, I explained that I was content with my current equipment, and that I needed nothing more, really.
I'm afraid this is true in a distorted version of reality that exists only in my head.
I can delude myself all I want, but the fact remains that, over the past three months, I have acquired a little more than zero utensils. I will readily provide a set of indisputable reasons for buying each and every one of them, but still: a flour sifter, a frosting spatula, a set of madeleine molds (one that fits in my small oven), a bulb baster, a new piping bag with metal tips, a sesame mill, and now this.
This, for those of you who are not wholly acquainted with the perfect little baker's paraphernalia, this is a dough whisk, designed to succeed where the wire whisk and the wooden spoon fail.
I was completely unaware that the gods of baking had created such a utensil until I visited Portland last spring, for the release of my Paris book: I was to appear briefly on local television, to demo the recipe for chouquettes. I did no such thing, of course, since cooking on a set usually consists in pointing at various items placed on a counter, while talking the host through the recipe.
Local authors might prepare and bring in their own food, but since I was about 5,000 miles from my own kitchen, it is really Sandra, my media escort* and food stylist extraordinaire, who had prepared the choux pastry and the finished chouquettes for me. (And perhaps we can all remember, next time we watch a cooking segment on television, to mentally acknowledge the work done behind the scenes by food stylists.)
As Sandra unpacked all her gear in the station's kitchen, I noticed the uncanny tool with which she had mixed the choux pastry. She brandished it proudly and explained that she's had it for years and years, and could not think of a more adequate utensil for the mixing of thick batters and yeast doughs.
If you've dealt with thick batters and yeast doughs in the past, surely you've noticed that wooden spoons get all gunked up, and that wire whisks get balls of batter trapped inside. Maddening, I know. And this is where the dough whisk steps in: a long wooden handle mounted with a wire coil, cleverly designed to stir and whisk without clogging.
Sandra had gotten hers from a reputed flour company, but when I inquired about shipping charges to Europe, the quote was eye-popping. I'd have to find another solution.
And as it so often does, serendipity came to the rescue: I was in the Japantown area of Paris**, having sold a few dozen books at a second-hand bookstore, when I happened upon a small droguerie*** I'd never noticed before. I stepped in, looked around, and there it was, my dough whisk, sold at the unbelievable (read: "could this be a mislabeling?") price of 3.05 €.
I considered buying their stock and starting my own business, but decided that one would do for now.
[December 2008 update: the shop is all out now (the lady told me someone had written about it on a website somewhere -- ahem!) and it was from an old stock, so they won't have any more to sell.]
I have put it to the test several times by now, and I am fully satisfied by its performance, be it in dealing with the above-mentioned choux pastry, the shaggy dough necessary to make no-knead bread, or yogurt scone batter.
Its secondary, less obvious usage is in guessing games, during which participating friends might speculate that it is really, and I quote, a racket to beat the dust out of carpets, or the latest model of scalp massager.
* See here for more info on what a media escort is.
** Paris' (tiny) Japantown is located on and around rue Sainte-Anne, in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements.
*** Une droguerie, literally a drugstore, is a hardware shop that often sells kitchen tools and cleaning supplies as well.
Opéra Droguerie / map it!
16 rue Saint-Augustin, 75002 Paris
01 42 96 15 07
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