A whisk is one of those indespensable tools in the kitchen, simple as it may appear -- essentially nothing more than long looped wires joined at the end with a handle. Sometimes called a whip, whisks come in a variety of shapes and sizes to handle the kitchen task at hand.
- Balloon whisks (pictured on top) have a very large, round head, and are used to whip or beat air into various ingredients, such as egg whites or cream, increasing their volume. Balloon whisks are perfectly suited for combining dry ingredients (such as flour, leavener and spices) in baking recipes; not only do they combine ingredients much more thoroughly than simply sifting, a whisk also helps to add air to the dry ingredients, lightening them before they are added to a batter.
- Straight whisks (pictured at center) have much more slender heads, with stiff, less flexible wires. While they're not built for incorporating air like balloon whisks, straight whisks are perfect for stirring and smoothing sauces, gravies and batters.
- Flat whisks (pictured at bottom) are also great for mixing sauces and scraping any flavoring from the bottom of a skillet or saute pan (the flat head makes the whisk ideal for scraping bits of flavoring from the corners of a pan). A flat whisk is also perfect for whisking flour into melted butter when making a roux.
Prices for whisks will vary depending on type and material, ranging from around $2 for a basic whisk to over $20. Whisks can generally be found at home and kitchen supply stores; specialized whisks can be foudn at cooking and baking supply stores, as well as online.
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Heilman's Key lime pie
Total time: 25 minutes, plus cooling and chilling times
Note: Adapted from Bob Heilman's Beachcomber Restaurant in Clearwater, Fla. The restaurant uses Eagle Brand condensed milk in the recipe and serves the pie topped with whipped cream, though meringue can be substituted. Make the pie using a prepared crust; the restaurant recommends a "short" pastry crust. As it says, "A graham cracker crust is inappropriate."
4 egg yolks, beaten
2 cups condensed milk
2/3 cup Key lime juice (from about 1 pound of Key limes)
Zest from 1 Key lime
1 pre-baked (8- to 9-inch) pie shell, preferably a short crust
Whipped cream or meringue, for topping
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and condensed milk until combined. Mix in the lime juice and zest until thoroughly combined. This makes a scant 3 cups of filling.
3. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and place the pie in the oven. Bake just until the filling is set and jiggles only slightly when tapped, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool on a rack, then refrigerate the pie, uncovered, until completely set, preferably overnight.
4. Top as desired and serve.
Each serving (without topping): 377 calories; 9 grams protein; 54 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 15 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 118 mg cholesterol; 42 grams sugar; 190 mg sodium.