The mixing bowl

Let's mix it up

Let's mix it up

In France they call a mixing bowl a “cul-de-poule” – a hen’s ass, believe it or not. The amusing name is thought to date from the Middle Ages, when this kind of receptacle was already used for beating eggs. When cooking – pastry, for example – only the freshest eggs would do. Fresh from the hen’s rear end: which is how the eggs lent their name to the vessel in which they could be safely prepared.

It’s an essential precision tool in cooking, especially in pastry making. Its perfect roundness accentuates the impact of the whisk, lending perfect centrifugal force to the act of beating. The ingredients can be added and blended without overflowing, with the maximum introduction of air, and in the most consistent way possible.

Best practices

The primary use of the mixing bowl is to whip up egg white and sponge cake mix. Placing it atop a second bowl, which is filled with ice cubes, allows us to make perfect whipped cream. Conversely, hold it over a pan of hot water in order to melt chocolate. This method is also ideal for making sauce, emulsifying a zabaglione or stirring custard with no risk of boiling. But be careful: the bottom of the bowl shouldn’t touch the boiling water!

In practice

It’s preferably made of stainless steel, robust and non-deformable. The brushed metal interior is resistant to both whisking and beating. It can feature calibrations. The exterior is generally polished and shiny. The rim, rounded so it can be held without injury, must also be wide enough to provide a good grip. It should be easy to clean. The classic French “cul-de-poule” has a perfectly rounded bottom, so it can’t stand up on its own. Hence you need to stabilize it, either by placing it on a base, like a stainless steel pastry ring, or a tea towel rolled up and formed into a circle.

The super bowl

Some stainless steel models come with a practical anti-slip base. There are also versions in aluminium, copper, brass or glass. All are harder to use, heavier and less safe. The smooth surface of mixing bowls makes them easy to clean. There’s no risk of ingredient residue or noxious odours. For the mixing bowl is destined for recipes that are delicate in taste and technique. Ideally you should own several, in stainless steel, of different sizes and stackable, so you can select the right one for the job each time.


Inventing the bain-marie

You may have heard of the bain-marie – the double boiler – a sort of bath for mixing bowls heated on the stove in French cooking. Because the French didn’t wait for molecular cuisine in order to practice and perfect the metamorphosis of ingredients. Far from it! A Latin text from the 14th century already mentions the Balneum Mariae.

Its name derives from that of Marie-la-Juive, a 3rd century BC alchemist who invented it to protect the contents of her glass tubes. The principle, simple and ingenious, consists of setting a bowl-type container in a pot of hot water placed over a: its delicate contents, kept away from any direct contact with the heat source, are no longer at risk of overheating or sticking. This is the culinary alchemy by which the reduction of sauce, custard, zabaglione or other delicate mixtures, which must in no circumstances boil, can take place.


The chef's tip


To be ensure that the bowl doesn’t touch the boiling water in the bain-marie, place a container upside down at the bottom of the saucepan, to serve as a base.


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