The Fresh Loaf

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Mixer musings

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Floydm's picture
Floydm

Mixer musings

I baked for many years without using a mixer or any special gear. I really enjoy mixing and kneading by hand, and think it is a great way to get to know about dough.

But after a while it became clear a mixer would be helpful.  Not so much because there were things I couldn't do without a mixer, but because I could do much more of it with the help of a mixer.  Three or four batches of bread in an afternoon barehanded is exhausting; with a decent mixer it just becomes challenging to schedule everything so that it is ready to go into the oven at the right time.  A good mixer is a tremendous labour saver.

My first mixer was an entry level KitchenAid, something like this.  I found it on super duper sale and was very pleased with it.  I've put a lot of mileage on it and never had a breakdown, though there definitely were times I had to divide a batch or take a break from mixing because I could tell I was putting too much strain on it.

Last spring I decided it was time for an upgrade.  I think it was the Milk Bread with Tangzhong that finally did it: that dough was so sticky it would climb up the hook and get into the head of the mixer in a matter of seconds.  For every second spent mixing, I think I spent five scraping down the dough.  I'd had it.

After much research, including reading many of your threads here, I set my sights on an Ankarsrum Original mixer (aka Assistent, DLX, Electrolux, Verona, or Magic Mill).  It is a pricy machine, but given the amount of time and energy I spend baking, it seemed like a worthy investment that would pay off over the years. 

I've been using this mixer since September and really enjoying it.  Super sturdy build with a much larger capacity.   My KitchenAid used to walk all over the counter when it was mixing and I always had to stop it and scrape the dough back down into the bowl, whereas this thing barely moves and rarely does the dough get stuck on hook. This is the most I've ever seen it budge:




So while it has a bigger footprint than my KitchenAid, I don't have to give it as much clearance since it isn't whipping all over the place and bumping around like my old machine was. 

I'm still getting adjusted to using a spiral mixer -- meaning the bowl spins and the hook stays still -- rather than a planetary mixer where the hook moves and the bowl is stationary.  My preliminary impression is that while it takes a bit longer to knead the doughs in the spiral mixer with the dough hook, it does a better job, something much more akin to a hand kneading than the serious beating that my dough would get in the KitchenAid.  

Also, it may be completely irrational but I've always been scared of getting injured by a planetary mixer. I saw a colleague of mine get his hand caught in a large planetary mixer the first week I worked at a bakery.  That was a much more powerful and dangerous machine than my little countertop mixer, for certain.  But I like that my new mixer has a large, open bowl that makes it easy to watch the dough develop or poke it while the mixer is running (which I'm certain the instructions tell you never to do) without fear of having the hook swing around and catch a finger. Make of that what you will.

What else?  Yes, I actually feel like I am learning a lot more about dough development since it so easy to watch it now.  That's a pretty big deal, actually. 

The two attachments I use a lot are this heavy beater thing for getting ingredients incorporated:




And then the dough hook once my dough is together:




There also is a plastic bowl and attachments that allow you to use this as a standard mixer/beater, which we've used to beat eggs, make whipping cream and cake with.   See?




My favourite accessory that comes with it?  Very silly, but the plastic lid that fits the bowl just so.  For things like autolyze it is so handy to have.  I'm sure you can buy something similar for a KitchenAid, but I never did.

I've been in touch with both the US Ankarsrum distributor and the Canadian Ankarsrum distributor. They seem like good folks who thoroughly believe in the quality of these mixers.  

This mixer is a huge step forward for me.  I think is both going to make baking easier (and less frustrating) for me and, ultimately, make me a better baker, which is a very good thing!  :)

I know some other folks have been considering getting one and asking questions about them.  Let me know if there are any questions I can answer or particular features you want me to demo.  I should note though that I've never used the Bosch mixer or a higher end KitchenAid so I don't think I can offer a meaningful comparison.

Comments

Skibum's picture
Skibum

I cast a question out here a couple of weeks back on why I might want to buy a mixer. I don't need production, but find your comment, "Yes, I actually feel like I am learning a lot more about dough development since it so easy to watch it now.  That's a pretty big deal, actually." Very interesting comment Floyd! I love baking bread and if a tool can help a baker of your skill a better baker, well my ears are perked up.

Thanks for sharing your experience! Brian

Floydm's picture
Floydm

That part of it really surprised me too.  I've never been able to watch gluten develop the way I can now.  It made me realize how badly I've been underkneading my doughs. 

On a total side note: did you just get that sweater from the Bay?  I was eyeballing one like that that they had on sale but they sold out before I could pick one up.  Super styling!

Floydm's picture
Floydm

What I should do is post another video with a dough with good gluten development so you can see what I'm talking about.  The dough I captured here was still really tight and shaggy.

Skibum's picture
Skibum

about a week ago, on sale. I got the last one in my size. It is the official Canadian Olympic team sweater for Sochi and I had to have it. We have a lot of winter Olympians who live and train here in Canmore and it has been amusing seeing some wide eyed looks from people who don't know me, wearing this to the grocery store. Anyhow Floyd,, a very nice sweater! Scoop one up if you can, they are a hot item apparently. 

I think it would be awesome if you would do a video showing the gluten development happening in your mixer! This would be most educational for a lot of us TFLers. But darn it Floyd, I am probably going to have to buy a mixer now . . .

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Floyd,
Thanks for the videos showing how this mixer works. I'd been curious.
Have you mixed a stiff dough, like a bagel dough, with this mixer?
I am glad you're happy with your new tool.
:^) breadsong

Floydm's picture
Floydm

No, I haven't yet made bagels with it.  I think this dough, Reinhart's American style pizza dough, is about as stiff as I've gone so far.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Floyd,

Great write up.  One thing I would add is how easy it is to clean the DLX - both the bowl and the machine itself.  Roller can be a bit tricky with sticky doughs but still they take very little scrubbing.

Another thing worth mentioning is that ingredients don't fly out and hit you in the face when begin added to the bowl when it is turned on.  Everything stays neatly in place :)

So glad to know yours is working out for you.  I totally love mine.  Have been using it daily since purchasing it a couple of years ago.  Handles everything I put into it.

Love your video attachments.  I know when I was researching mixers before I settled on the DLX  there were only a few videos showing one in action.  Mike Avery had the most informative by far.  Yours now add to that 'collection'.

Take Care,

Janet

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Hi Janet,

Agreed that clean up is super simple and that it doesn't make much of a mess in the first place.  

Mike Avery's Mixer Throwdown, including his videos, is great.  He knows enough about the Bosch to be able to do a comparison too.  His recommendation of Electrolux (Ankarsrum) definitely helped sway my decision. 

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

It appears to me that you're running the mixer too fast and/or the roller is too close to the bowl. The hardest thing for me to get my mind around was that the DLX is a gentle giant. I mix and knead with the roller, Usually at 1in/2.5cm spacing and at a low to medium low speed, for up to 1.5kg/3lbs of dough. Move the arm out another half inch/1.3cm for 1.5kg to 3kg. I take the slapping of the arm to be the mixer's way of telling me to slow down, or maybe to just space out. Even so, compared to kneading times recommended for KAs, I always get a matching gluten strength in less time.

Isn't it a fascinating machine?

cheers,

gary

Floydm's picture
Floydm

It is! And thanks for the tips.  I'm definitely still learning which to use when and what settings to have things at.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

I agree with what Gary has said about speed.  When I first got my DLX it seemed that most people liked using the hook so I didn't use the roller much but I wasn't pleased with the results I was getting with the hook so I began to use the roller more and more and now it is the attachment I use most of the time because of how it kneads.

I do use the hook on larger amounts of dough with lower hydration - the doughs that won't form the classic donut shape that the roller produces when it is in full swing.

What I find nice about this machine is that it 'tells' me how to make adjustments merely by the noises it is making and how the dough is behaving.  I absolutely love that I have so much control over speed and distance when adjusting the roller.  That is one of the things that makes it so versatile with so many different types of doughs….in my opinion *- }  Very clever machine :)  

Take Care,

Janet

Skibum's picture
Skibum

Your thoughts have convinced me a mixer would be a valuable kitchen tool. I do mostly small batch bakes - 300g flour and certianly don't need a mixer like the beauty you have. You are obviously baking in much larger production than I and a kitchen tool like this is most suitable for you. I will be buying a mixer and am beginning research, including searching this site for opinions.

I have also noted your mixer prices on your .ca store are pretty sharp. I will be ordering a 7" banneton shortly -- thanks for making it more affordable than I could find anywhere else.

Anyhow I found this interesting mixer for $399 with a 750 watt motor. Nice styling too:

http://www.bodum.com/gb/en-us/shop/detail/11381-01UK/

If you are able to add this item you the TFL .ca store, I would probably buy one.  It looks like a really nice unit! Let me know what you think. I haven't found much out there yet, so it must be new, but 750W!

The .ca link is a brilliant way to build commerce for your site with your Canadian loafers. I can buy brotforms and bannetons cheap on US sites, but by the time you do the shipping and customs brokerage, they are not cheap any more. Anyhow Floyd, I spent 30 years of my life selling stuff and smell an opportunity for you here. Go for it man! Expand the items list on your .ca store. I for one will be a buyer.

I will wait to buy the banneton until I see if you can add the mixer -- free shipping.

While I am on about you building the .ca store, I also found these guys:

http://brotform.com/zencart/

I nearly ordered 2 forms. Anyhow another idea, if you have not already gone down this road. Sales and marketing are right in my wheelhouse and when I saw your store, the old wheels began to turn, slowly, but they turned

Best regards, Brian

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Wow!  They've got that mixer on sale for about half price in the US Amazon right now.  Free shipping to a US address.  

How about Canada?  It doesn't look like it is even distributed or available through Amazon.ca. :(

With shipping to Canada and estimated customs Amazon comes up with a price of $360.21 USD, which actually is very close to the $399 you were mentioning.

Skibum's picture
Skibum

I almost ordered one, but I got  Canadian Tire flyer in the e-mail today and they have a Kitchenaid 225W mixer on for $229. For another $30 I can get the 300W model.

Now I will reiterate, I am a single skibum and mix mostly doughs using only 300 grams of flour and prefer higher hydration dough's. I note that many of the posters on this thread are doing some production baking or at least baking larger volume dough's than myself and I am interested in your opinions. I enjoy hand working dough, but the point Floyd brought up about better gluten development is what interests me about getting a mixer -- better gluten development, better dough and better bread. Floyds' post today on the one day yeasted baguette showed excellent crumb.

Okay stand mixer Zenmasters, based on what I normally bake will the lower cost Kitchenaid deliver the improved gluten development I am looking for in a mixer? Keep in mind, I am a retired skibum on fixed income.

TIA and happy baking! Brian