This weekend, I watched several episodes of the show "Rachel Allen - Bake!" on Cooking Channel. Rachel Allen is an Irish celebrity chef. Her show has three segments - one where she teaches you a recipe, one where she teaches her cooking students and one where she goes out and learns about a certain type of baked good, ingredient or cooking method.
There was one thing I noted as I was watching her show - she didn't use an electric mixer. Instead, she creamed the butter and sugar by hand. The sound of the spoon hitting the bowl and the softened butter mixing with the sugar and then the egg and the flour - it was captivating for some reason.
I decided at that point that I would try to use my mixer as little as possible. The cookies I've made for this week were all made not using my beloved KitchenAide. I was amazed at how in touch you get with your ingredients when you cook this way. You get an entirely different feel for the batter. I think it really helped me not over mix the batters and cream the ingredients just right. The result: some of the best cookies I've ever baked.
So, I encourage you to get in touch with your inner baker. Unplug that mixer and grab a wooden spoon. You won't be sorry - just make sure your butter's softened!