I never baked much before lockdown, but unlike every person on Instagram proofing and scoring copious loaves of sourdough bread for the first time, I didn’t pick it up because I needed something to cure my boredom — the beginning of the pandemic just happened to coincide with the news that I could no longer eat gluten.
That would be a devastating blow for anyone who loves food, but because I’m Jewish and consider bagels and lox to be part of my religion — and, at the time, couldn’t go a week without eating my dad’s homemade spaghetti — it felt especially difficult. I found some great products (Quinn Pretzels, Partake cookies, King Arthur Measure for Measure flour), but mostly, I tried a lot of truly terrible things like golf-ball-hard bread that somehow also easily crumbled. Fed up with the disappointment, I took matters into my own hands by buying dozens of cookbooks and baking my own. I learned that with the proper balance of tapioca starch and alternative flours, I could re-create the exact flavor wheat-based bread has. But I’ve found that the most important ingredient of all is air because without gluten, everything baked struggles to rise. The best way to do this? A good whisk.
I’ve owned many whisks in my life, but I never felt passionately about any one in particular until I tried Material Kitchen’s Air Whisk, which was kindly gifted to me by the brand. A combination of a ball- and a balloon-style whisk, the hybrid design features 12 stainless-steel loops instead of a web of metal, which allows for maximum aeration when you have to separately mix almost every component in gluten-free baking. For example, the best bread recipe I’ve tried tells me to incorporate yeast into sugar and water until it foams before adding it to a separate flour-and-psyllium-husk mixture. Many recipes that require eggs instruct you to whip the whites because those extra air bubbles give you a moist, fluffy texture you might not achieve otherwise. Because of the Air Whisk, my bread rises just as well as its gluten-filled counterpart, and anything cakelike tastes identical to flour-based goods.
I use this whisk so much that instead of allowing my non-Material ones to collect dust, I decided to get rid of them. This one may have been created for aeration specifically, but I found it perfectly suitable for everything else I could possibly need it for: fluffier-than-ever omelets, perfectly smooth stracciatella alla romana, and unbelievably consistent red sauce. The whisk feels weighted, so I can move it smoothly through any kind of batter, including thick and clumpy ones, but it still feels light enough to speedily whip egg whites to a peak. It mixes more consistently than anything I’ve tried before. And because of its narrow shape, I can slide the whisk into any sort of container, like a measuring cup, and still comfortably use it. Plus the whisk cleans easily because the batter doesn’t need to drip through multiple levels of metal tines to be released. (And it is dishwasher safe for those who don’t want to get in there with a sponge at all.)
After four months of consistent use, I decided to buy another and a third for my dad, a hard-to-please guy when it comes to kitchen utensils. He fell in love with it after just a couple uses and plans to buy a second for himself and maybe one for my sister too. Even though he doesn’t bake gluten free (unless it’s for me), he says the whisk is the best he’s ever tried, especially for sauces. The whisk quickly became indispensable in both our kitchens, and we even compare notes on things we’ve had great success with using our prized utensil. I’ll send photos to him of rolls and cookies I’ve baked, and he’ll respond, “Did you use the whisk?” The answer is always yes.
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