Meet Matilda: The Mid-Century Mixmaster

 

There’s a new gal in the Vintage Kitchen and her name is Matilda. Traveling all the way from 1957, Matilda is part of the Sunbeam Mixmaster fleet that was all the rage back in mid-century America.  Like the popularity of today’s counter-top Kitchen-Aid mixers, if you didn’t have your very own Mixmaster in the 1950’s then you definitely wanted one. This 1956 Christmas ad shows just how drool-worthy they really were…

Pronouncing lighter cakes, fluffier mashed potatoes and more velvety textures, Mixmasters were scientifically tested for proper mixing speeds and outfitted with full coverage beaters which set them apart from other leading competitors of their day. This was ingenious because early mixers often got stuck just whipping up contents in the center of the bowl, but Mixmasters special over-sized beaters worked the entire rim of the bowl as well as the center eliminating the need for home cooks to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides.  It is so easy to take this simple step for granted today but to fully understand the novelty of this ingenious appliance, we have to first travel back to the early 1900’s.

Born from sweaty bread, the first standalone mixer was invented by Herbert Johnson after he witnessed an over-exerted baker with a drippy forehead hand mix a batch of bread dough.  Clearly there was a better, more hygienic way than this, he thought and so he got to tinkering.  Eventually Herbert came up with the Hobart – the first mixer for the commercial baking industry. That was in 1914.

Hobart! Photo courtesy of kitchenaid

A speedy savior for anyone mixing large batches of anything, the Hobart came to be an important helper in commercial kitchens and rapidly shortened the time spent preparing food products for retail markets. It was so effective even the military put them to work.  A decade later home-sized versions named Kitchen-Aids were introduced and women around the country marveled at the speed and efficiency with which they could whip stuff up.

Sunbeam Mixmasters came along in the 1930’s and offered an improvement upon both the Hobart and the Kitchen-Aid varieties – interlocking yet detachable beaters. This meant even mixing and easy clean-up. Early models like this Mixmaster from the 1930’s look squat and a little primitive but they were true engineering marvels in their day.

Photo courtesy of Decodan.

Originally Mixmasters were first offered in white with jadeite mixing bowls but soon  graduated to a range of pastel colors with matching or milk glass mixing bowls. Matilda’s chrome style was introduced in the mid-1950’s and came with two bowls – large and small.

1950s sunbeam mixmaster

Inspired by both the automobile industry and the airline industry the Sunbeam design engineers created attractive models with elegant lines, fin-shaped dials and stylized lettering reminiscent of the latest design trends in transportation.

You can definitely see the car influence on the Mix-Finder dial and front end medallion…

Twelve separate mixing speeds debuted the year Matilda was born which offered the following settings…

  1. Dry Ingredients, Folding
  2. Blend Ingredients, Cookies
  3. Muffins – Quick Breads
  4. One Bowl Cakes
  5. White Sauce – Puddings
  6. Prepared Cake Mixes
  7. Cream Butter – Sugar, Salad Dressings
  8. Whipping Potatoes, Juicing
  9. Whipping Cream
  10. Desserts – Custards, Etc
  11. Icings – Candies
  12. Beat Eggs – Egg Whites, Most Attachments

On the attachment front – Mixmasters also offered a bevy of functionalities. Everything from juicing to funneling, meat grinding to nut chopping could all be accomplished with one base unit and the appropriate attachment. Depending on the design and the decade that they were introduced, some of the attachments proved invaluable and were successfully continued for future designs. Others like the glass juicer were discontinued after a short run due to fragile composition.

But when it came to the main mechanics of the Mixmaster body itself, they proved incredibly well made, thanks to the powerful motors that still hold up to the competition today. Which is exciting news for Matilda. She may be approaching the senior side at 60 years old but she’s still just as capable as ever. As a top of the line lady, she’s worked in some pretty great places but none hopefully will be more exciting or inspiring than her newly attained instructor’s position here in the Vintage Kitchen with us.

New decals coming soon!

For her birthday this year, Matilda’s going to get a little refresher in the decal department as well as a set of replacement beaters. Then she’ll not only be practically brand new but also fully capable of whipping up a whole new century’s worth of recipes here in the Vintage Kitchen. When she’s all dressed up again, I’ll snap a photo so you can see!

Looks aside, lucky for us, Matilda is chatty. In the whirl of her motor she shares the world of past baking endeavors through decades of cakes and cookies, casseroles and creams.  She can’t wait to share her favorite mixtures with you, so stay tuned for some stories.

Cheers to Herbert and Hobert for mixing it all up in the beginning. And a big welcome to Matilda  – the new master of all our mixing here in the Vintage Kitchen.

CURIOUS which modern-day mixer brands come out on top? Check out what the team at Reviews.com found out after they tested 12 different contemporary models here. Unfortunately, Matilda’s Mixmaster family didn’t make an impact on their top-three list, but that’s okay because she will always reign supreme in our Vintage Kitchen. Vintage mixmasters can be elusive little gems, so in case you can’t find your own vintage Matilda, reviews.com recommends a new-but-looks-retro mixer, The Smeg, which they voted one of the top three stand mixers in both style and performance.

 

Wednesday in the Kitchen – Simple Tomato Basil Tart

Ms. Jeannie is thoroughly lucky to have come from a family of cooking adventurers. Her parents, her sisters, her husband all love to cook and enjoy experimenting with new flavors and diverse ingredients.

When she was small, Ms. Jeannie’s mother taught her the “old-fashioned” way of baking, with recipes handed down from generation to generation. Which meant everything, always, was made by scratch. Cookies, cakes, pies, puddings, chocolate sauce, whipped cream,  every decadent delight was made by our  hands with real, whole ingredients.

Ms. Jeannie’s great grandfather, William Earle aka Grandpa Bumpy, was an excellent baker. It’s his pie recipes that we still use today in our family.

As Ms. Jeannie grew and started her own experimenting, this love of building creations from the mixing bowl up stemmed out into other aspects of the palatte: homemade tomato sauce, chicken broth, pasta, salad dressings, soups, breads…it was thrilling to know that she could indeed make anything she wanted.

One of her most favorite things to make is pie crust. There is something about lumping a few, simple ingredients together in a bowl,  mixing it about and then rolling it out into a delightful sheet of smooth paper-like dough.

There are challenges still though – even after all these years… like that wonderful flip of the thumb that makes a beautiful scalloped edge around the rim of the pie crust.Ms. Jeannie cannot seem to master this for the life of her. Instead she opts for the more rustic, “provincial” style of folding over the extra dough, which creates a very humble look.

Gorgeous scalloped pie crust (not made by Ms. Jeannie!). You’ll see Ms. Jeannie’s rustic style further down the blog. Apple Pie photograph by Summer Owens.

Ms. Jeannie was consistently taught by her mother that  using good ingredients was just as important as using good equipment. Which meant having a good set of mixing bowls, rolling pins , flour sifters and a pastry cloth.  Necessities. Each and every one of them.

Vintage Kitchen Tool Collection from JodysVintage

When Ms. Jeannie was off to college and on her own, she tried to cut a few corners in the equipment department. Using an empty wine bottle as a rolling pin, the wooden cutting board as a pastry cloth and a fork in place of a dough cutter, Ms. Jeannie was off and baking to somewhat satisfactory results.  Sometimes the dough would be tough and difficult to work, flour would get all over everything (almost always on the floor!) and the dough never rolled out perfectly on the square cutting board – usually lopping off one side, making it thicker in that section then all the others.

For years she baked like this – improvising and substituting, working with what she had at hand instead of getting the proper tools.  A pastry cloth – that is really what Ms. Jeannie desperately needed. But she always seemed to overlook this one neccessity when she was out shopping.

Until…two months ago! When she FINALLY she purchased a pastry cloth at the kitchen supply store. It cost $5.00. What are on earth was she waiting for all this time? It was indeed a jubilant and monumental day:)

Ms. Jeanne’s new kitchen darling!

Now, whatever Ms. Jeannie rolls out onto this magic carpet comes out lighter, flakier and more evenly consistent. It is completely marvelous! As it turns out – pastry cloths have been in use for over a century. Because they are made usually from unbleached cotton and/or oilcloth they provide a wonderful non-stick work environment. Seasoned with a little flour and carefully stored, pastry cloths can last for years. Marvelous, says Ms. Jeannie, since it took her years to acquire!

Here is Ms. Jeannie’s latest creation using her lovely kitchen helper… (note the rustic crust!)

Ms. Jeannie’s Simple Tomato Basil Tart

Simple Tomato Basil Tart – Serves 4

1 cup flour

1/4 tsp. salt

6 tablespoons of vegetable shortening

1/4 cup ice cold water

1/2 lb. Farmer’s cheese

4 large handfuls of fresh basil, washed and torn in pieces

2 lbs. organic home-grown cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the halved tomatoes in a medium size bowl and toss in 3/4 of the fresh basil.  Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and mix to combine. Set bowl aside and let tomatoes marinate while you make the dough.

2.  Now onto the dough. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and shortening.  Using a dough cutter (or a fork – in Ms. Jeannie’s case)  mash the shortening into the flour until it forms small crumb-like bits. Add the cold water and combine until dough forms.  Knead it lightly into a ball with your hands. Just until it is no longer sticky. Be careful not to overwork the dough – then it will become tough.

3. Sprinkle a small handful of flour on your work surface (aka the pastry cloth!)  and roll the dough out  as thinly as possible. Place crust in a round cake pan and bake in oven just until the crust is firm but not brown. About 20-25 minutes.

4. Remove crust from oven, add the tomato/basil mixture. Take the farmers cheese and slice in thin chunks on top of the tomato mixture. Carefully mix cheese and tomatoes together with a spoon, making sure not to scrap a hole in the bottom crust. Top with the remaining 1/4 basil.

5. Return the tart to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Broil for an additional 5-6 minutes until the cheese starts bubbling and turns golden brown.

6. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve this with a simple side salad and a glass of white wine (Ms. Jeannie chose a Pinot Grigio) and you have a lovely, light, late-summer dinner!