Are you one of those cooks who has stashed away your electric blender in some cupboard for lack of counter space in the kitchen? For some people, the machine stands the chance of becoming glued to that shelf forever because of its heavy, tall and bulky nature.
However, if you miss the speed of the blender in making smooth purees, soups, sauces, baby food, frothy drinks, cocktails and shakes, the hand blender (also called immersion blender) may bring you back to the blending kick.
A refinement of a steel-shaft blending gadget that has been around in Europe for more than 20 years, Braun's Multipractic Hand Blender has the multiple uses of the traditional blender with a few pluses for the harried cook. Slim and light in weight, the German-made blender has an unbreakable plastic housing, which is sealed to keep out moisture.
Braun carries two major types of hand blender: the basic model and the heavy-duty model. The basic unit, which has a single speed, is equipped with a 100-watt motor. It is packaged with either one plastic beaker (model MR 30) or two beakers, one of which has a strainer in the base (model MR 40).
The deluxe heavy-duty model has a more powerful motor of 150 watts plus a variable speed. The slow speed is practical for making soups and creamy sauces as well as whisking eggs, whereas the faster speed is needed for drinks and purees. This larger model also comes in two selections: The complete set (MR 7) comes with a whisk attachment, an egg separator, two beakers (one of which has a strainer), a spatula and a small bowl. The second set (MR 72) comes with only one beaker.
Although it has all the functions of the average blender, the large immersion blender should not be used for processing heavy batters and doughs.
We were pleased with the convenience and fast blending capabilities of the hand blenders. The 12-inch-long basic unit was very satisfactory for small to average size quantities. The first test was a simple milkshake made in the plastic beaker. In the next test we made a thicker shake of fresh strawberries, milk and ice cream right in a drinking glass instead of the beaker.
To make the milkshake, ingredients were placed in the container, leaving a couple of inches of head space at the top (you would leave less space for foods that don't expand in volume). Then the blade end of the blender was put into the bottom of the container. In less than a minute, we had a smooth and delicious shake.
Canned vegetables (we tried whole tomatoes) and fruits (we used apricots and mangoes), after draining off a small amount of the liquid, pureed wonderfully right in the can. Mayonnaise was a cinch, becoming smooth and flawless in about two minutes. As the manufacturer cautions, the switch should be pressed continuously for no longer than one minute to prevent overheating. Creamy soups and sauces were blended directly in the saucepan, but the pan was removed from the stove to protect the machine from overheating.
You may be wondering about splashing and spattering. This messy situation can be easily avoided if the following tip is observed: the blade end of the blender should go down into the food before pressing the switch on. Made with slits around the cone-shape tip, the blender has some suction movement in addition to the super fast agitation of the blades, which draws food down for even processing.
A flying mass of food can be prevented by never lifting the blending stick out of the mixture while the motor is on. In some cases, like making mayonnaise where the oil doesn't emulsify instantly with the other ingredients, the blender may be slowly raised while turned on to allow the blades to blend in the unprocessed oil above. However, make certain that the running blades are kept in the mayonnaise. For smoother finish, the machine may be pulsed off and lifted out, then plunged right back into the mayonnaise and pulsed on again, repeating if necessary.
Surprisingly, the electric device is rather quiet . . . remember your old noisy countertop one? Another plus is the convenient storage feature. The tool comes with a wall holder, which holds both blender and cord, or if preferred, it tucks away nicely inside a kitchen drawer. With no parts to disassemble or scour, the hand blender cleans easily by simply holding the blade end (never the motor part) under running water, then drying. For safety, always unplug before cleaning, never immerse entirely in water and keep out of reach of children.
The Braun Multipractic Hand Blender has a suggested retail price of $29.95 to $32.95 for the basic models and $44.95 to $49.95 for the deluxe models. Both basic and deluxe models are available at Bullock's, Robinson's and the Broadway. The basic models alone are available at J. C. Penney and K mart stores.