A whisk is a kitchen tool which may seem slightly frivolous, but is actually highly useful. A balloon whisk is a specific type of whisk, designed with a bulbous shape which is well suited to several kitchen tasks. Obtaining an assortment of whisks will make cooking some foods much easier and more pleasurable. Many cooking supply stores sell whisks in a range of styles and sizes, although if you can only buy one whisk, buy a medium sized balloon whisk, since it can be used in a number of applications. Another common type of whisk is the French whisk, which has a narrow elliptical shape.
A typical whisk is made from sturdy strands of metal looped inside a large handle. The strands are often separated with a metal plate to ensure that the whisk holds its shape. When a whisk is moved through foods, the strands introduce air into the mixture while also thoroughly integrating all of the ingredients. A balloon whisk is shaped like a balloon, in a loosely teardrop shape which has the capability of introducing a great deal of air to a batter or dough.
Some companies also make whisks from silicone or nylon, for use with nonstick pans and bakeware. Silicone has the added property of heat resistance, so it can be used on the stove with stocks and sauces. Not only will the silicone act as an insulator, preventing the heat from traveling to the handle and burning you, it will also not melt if left on the stove by accident.
One of the more obvious applications for a balloon whisk is beating ingredients like cream and egg whites. For classic dishes like angel food cake, a balloon whisk is a must, since it allows the cook to beat the egg whites to the perfect consistency, creating a lot of pockets of air which will improve the performance of the cake in the oven. A balloon whisk can also be used for emulsions such as mayonnaise, or to combine dry ingredients in a bowl as a substitute for sifting.
One of the more unusual uses for a balloon whisk is the early stages of bread dough. After large amounts of flour have been added, a balloon whisk is impractical. However, when the bread dough is still thin and runny, the balloon whisk can be used to thoroughly integrate the yeast, and to create air pockets which will enhance the flavor and texture of the bread. It can also be used to beat eggs and thin batters such as pancake batter.
Make sure to wash a balloon whisk thoroughly after use, to remove any traces of food, and if possible hang it to dry so that water can drain from the handle and all of the wires of the whisk. In some cases, a whisk may be dishwasher safe, but check the care directions before making that assumption. Store the whisk in a safe place where the wires are unlikely to be deformed through pressure.