The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough, a Stand Mixer, and Expectations

Ryan Blackwell's picture
Ryan Blackwell

Sourdough, a Stand Mixer, and Expectations

Hello all, 

So I've recently graduated with an MFA, and my girlfriend's father sent me an extremely generous gift--the Kitchen Aid Professional 550 Series. I mean, wow, really. 
I've read on this site the good bad and ugly about this, and alternative mixers--and that's all good and well. But this is my mixer, and I'm sticken with it. 
Anyway, I think my question might be the result of an unmet expectation, but I'll throw it out there--I'd like to hear other's experiences using a stand mixer with a sourdough bread. 

I've been a serious baker for about 15 months--when I started a starter. Until last month, I've been doing the process by hand--but now I'm excited about throwing a mixer, well, in the mix and learning a new technique. 

So, the expectation was that the mixer would do the initial mixing and kneading. 
So far, I have not been able to achieve the dough ball cleaning the sides of the bowl. Instead, after some trial and error, it seems my stand mixer achieves a great start to gluten formation, which I then transfer to the work surface to finish by hand. Here is my schedule.

Mix starter (100% hydration) with water and flour (using Sir Lancelot), mixing until shaggy and letting sit for thirty minutes. (at this point the dough is roughly at 73% hydration. 

Add salt, and mix on two (this is what the mixer manual says it has to be on) for 10 minutes.

Let sit for 10 minutes.

Mix in the mixer for another 5 (at this point the dough is silken but nowhere near cleaning the sides of the bowl.) 

Turn onto surface, and knead by hand, usually about 5 more minutes.

Turn into an oiled bowl. 

Do the stretch and fold routine at thirty minute intervals for an hour and a half. 

Bulk ferment for another hour, hour and a half.

Shape dough. 

Proof (anywhere from 30 minutes two an hour thirty). 

Bake around 475, for however long (thirty minutes or so).

I'm getting good results, but of course I always can do better. 

Any thoughts about the dough not cleaning the sides of the bowl. 

Just for some more information, I did a sourdough pizza dough yesterday (65%) and it didn't clean the sides of the bowl either. Although I would say it got closer to it than my 73% bread.  

Any experience with the stand mixer and sourdough is greatly appreciated! I'm baking now actually, so I will try and post images later of the final product.

Thanks in advance,



mini_maggie's picture

I'll admit I haven't used my KA for bread dough (my breadmaker kneads for me) but have read of people recommending initial mix with paddle then switching to dough hook after.   Hopefully someone with first-hand knowledge will chime in...

Ryan Blackwell's picture
Ryan Blackwell

Oh good point. I should have specified. I mix with a rubber spatula by hand initially--then move on to the the dough hook. I was using the hook to mix initially, but wasn't getting the results I was looking for, and the Mixer instructions say not to use paddle with bread doughs. 

mini_maggie's picture

you do by hand with spatula what others do with paddle before dough hook.

So what happens if instead of turning out and kneading the last 5 min by hand you leave it in the mixer and use dough hook another 5+ min?  Do you just need to let the hook work longer and raise dough temp a bit?   Just speculating based on what I've read - I'm sure someone out there has actual experience!

Ryan Blackwell's picture
Ryan Blackwell

Well I've found that another five minutes isn't enough time. I've, at this point, have tried kneading just over 20 minutes with the dough hook, but it still wasn't cleaning the sides of the bowl. 

Now as for temperature, I have to admit I haven't checked that--which would be a good thing to check. But, I am afraid of over kneading it in the mixer and loosing flavor. 


Windischgirl's picture

and I use it almost entirely for kneading, using only the dough hook. (I do the autolyse with a spatula like you do).  I have not had a problem with the doughs clearing the sides of the bowl at between 60-75% hydration, but I do stop the machine at least twice to scrape down the sides and push the dough off the dough hook.  Amazingly, that really seems to make all the difference.  The dough seems to improve texture after scraping.  I suppose it works like a fold?

I've also noticed flour will sometimes pool at the bottom of the bowl, just below the dough, so scraping down and pushing the dough around to incorporate that flour avoids any streaking.

I also cheat a bit (don't tell the KAM folks) and kick up the speed to 3 or even 4, depending on the hydration.  Daniel Leader has a couple of recipes that suggest a long beating at 8 or even 10.  The risk with turning the speed past 3 or 4 is the machine can bounce around, especially with a stiff dough, and I've had the bowl dislodge (it wasn't at fast speed but it was a stiff dough in a large batch--still within mixer capacity but at the edge, I guess).  If I turn up the speed I hang out right next to the mixer.  Just in case...

Ryan Blackwell's picture
Ryan Blackwell

Ok Windischgirl, that sounds really helpful. 

Next time I'll give the bowl an couple good scrapes and see if that helps. I have noticed at times extra flour streaking at the bottom as well. 

Could I ask you how long your total knead time comes out to be?

tgrayson's picture

As long as the dough is being adequately worked, I don't care whether the dough clears the sides of the bowl. When I intend to do the full development in the mixer, I mix until I can form a gluten window. For the more artisan type breads, I don't mix more than a couple of minutes and use folding for the rest of the dough development. I never knead by hand, as a matter of principle.

Felila's picture

I have been making sourdough bread with my old Kitchenaid for years. I use Peter Reinhart's Pain au Levain recipe from Artisan Bread Every Day. I make a biga the previous day. To make the dough, I mix the biga with water using the paddle. Add the salt and yeast. Add the flour slowly, until the dough thickens. Switch to the dough hook. Mix, let stand for five or ten minutes, knead, three rounds of stretch and fold (10 minutes between), and put in the refrigerator to retard. Bake the next day. It always turns out great! I wish I could visit the OP and we could bake together. 

Ryan Blackwell's picture
Ryan Blackwell

Thank you all for your replies. 

I over proofed this last batch, so no pictures :). Poor carmalization and that drab shape. But the gluten formation is still decent. Fairly open crumb and good flavor. 

There are a lot of new factors going on. Just moved, new oven, the stand mixer, and I haven't used a proper autolyze before now. So I am figuring out this all. 

Tgrayson, that is interesting about not worrying about it cleaning the sides. I'll keep you all posted on my next try. I'm going to try less kneading, and more stopping and scraping the bowl. Looks like it'll be the weekend when I wake the starter back up and give it another go. 

Beloz's picture

I scored an original 70s Kenwood Chef a while back (I know it doesn't sound flash compared to a KA, but it rocks! ) and I knead with dough hook from the start on 3.5-4 for 13-15 mins. No scraping or stopping. I did end up putting the mixer onto the (carpeted) floor because it kept walking towards the edge of the surface it was on. So now I just set a timer and walk away. With a high hydration dough, it does cling to the sides a bit still when I stop the mixer. But it passes the window pane test. So I just transfer it to a bowl and then follow a similar process to yours and it works beautifully.