I'm approaching the age of sixty and I've been baking regularly for about ten years and doing it by hand. But a bug got in my soup more than two years ago when txfarmer posted the breathtaking blog "Sourdough Pan de Mie - how to make "shreddably" soft bread". She wrote and demonstrated about intensive kneading and how that was the secret to those amazing loaves. She showed different windowpane characteristics which developed as she cranked her mixer for rather long periods of time.
I was intrigued, to say the least. I even played around with long-time kneading by hand. I remember how I spent fifty minutes hand kneading a white dough until it finally showed signs of over-kneading. Not practical. A mixer is definitely needed for that kind of thing. But I never really liked the way home mixers appear to beat the hell out of the dough. It seems they spin way too fast, especially compared to commercial mixers, and especially compared to fork mixers and falling arm mixers. There were (are?) actual countertop falling arm mixers Artofex made. Santos still makes a fork mixer that gently turns the dough. It sells in the US, but $1,200? Not only couldn't I afford something like that, I'd rather use that kind of money to lie on a warm beach in Hawaii right now.
The truth, probably, is that these home mixers really aren't being harsh on the dough at all and I'm just clinging to my superstitious hand-knead ways. Temptation came when I saw a video on Youtube of somebody demonstrating a little Bosch MUM 4 Compact mixer, and when they turned it to speed one to incorporate the ingredients, it was slow — real slow. I loved that! I downloaded the manual for that machine to see if it is willing to operate on speed one indefinitely. It is!
Weird thing is, Bosch USA still doesn't admit they sell the things. All they feature on their website are the big MUM 6 Universals. But Pleasant Hill Grain happily sells them whenever they have some to sell. One ninety nine! You could get six MUM 4s for the price of one Santos fork mixer . . .
When it arrived I didn't have any flour milled or sourdough started for a big loaf, but I did have a sack of all-purpose white flour in the cupboard and yeast in the 'fridge. What could be more fun than a sandwich loaf? Haven't made a white sandwich loaf in years. I didn't do txfarmer's Pen de Mie, but I did a lean loaf at 65% hydration. I stood there and stared at the mixer for fifteen minutes as it gently, very gently kneaded the dough round and round on speed one. It was fun watching. Do you all stare at your mixer when it's kneading? Could have gone longer, but maybe next time. The dough felt and handled wonderful. Flour, water, salt & yeast. Why do supermarket bakeries refuse do make a simple sandwich loaf like this?