Stand Mixers And Bread Baking In the 20th & 21st Centuries
Yesterday's resurrection of a year old thread regarding advice on the purchase of a Viking 7 quart stand mixer brings to light several very critical factors that MUST be taken into account when one is considering the purchase of a stand mixer that will be regularly used to knead bread..
1. How many people do I need to feed bread to on a weekly basis??..
2. How many loaves of bread, on average, will this number of people eat on a weekly basis??..
3. What type(s) of bread(s) do these people enjoy??..
4. Do I ONLY want to, or need to, knead simple, basic white bread doughs on this machine??.. Or............,
5. Do I want to knead ALL types of doughs, from barely sticky to very sticky doughs, and from very slack to very firm doughs, on this machine??..
6. How often, on a times-per-week basis, will I need to use the stand mixer to knead bread in order to feed this number of people the types, and quantities, of bread that they (and I) enjoy??..
7. Even if I feel that at present that I ONLY wish to make white sandwich breads, is there even the REMOTEST chance that I will develop an interest in baking other types of breads that will impose far greater demands upon a stand mixer than will kneading basic white sandwich bread doughs??..
8. Even if I feel that at the present I will ONLY need to bake 1-2 standard size 5"x9"x3" (or smaller) loaves of bread at a time, is there even the REMOTEST chance that I will need to knead, and bake, a greater number of loaves at a time at ANY point in the future??..
9. When I am factoring in all of the data in order to make an informed decision, AM I taking into account NOT just my daily / weekly needs as regards to bread baking; but also my HOLIDAY needs as regards to bread doughs??..
10. Considering my special occasion, and my holiday needs, how many TIMES per year will the demands upon my stand mixer exceed my regular weekly demands??..
11. What increase, percentage wise, over and beyond my weekly needs, will my special occasion and holiday needs place upon my stand mixer??..
12. MUST my stand mixer do triple duty as a tool that prepares cookie doughs and cake batters??..
13. If my stand mixer must perform triple duty, MUST it perform all three tasks equally well??.. Or..............,
14. Will a stand mixer that EXCELS at kneading bread doughs, but that is LESS convenient at working cookie doughs and cake batters be acceptable??..
15. Is there ANY chance that I would consider owning more than one stand mixer; one mixer that excels at bread doughs, and a second mixer that excels at cookie doughs and cake batters??..
16. If desserts play an important role in my baking needs, am I willing to ACCEPT the limitations that stand mixers which excel at cookie doughs and cake batters will have when it comes to kneading bread doughs??..
17. How much money do I realistically have to spend on a stand mixer(s)??..
Before Hobart brought the first Kitchen Aid stand mixer to market virtually ALL American home cooks kneaded their bread doughs by hand..It was not until the 1980's and 1990's that stand mixers capable of kneading bread doughs other than standard white sandwich breads became commonly available; and began to show up in the average American home kitchen..Serious bread bakers have been purchasing the Magic Mill Electrolux DLX mixer since the 1960's..This was especially true within the Mormon community, which was where I first saw a Magic Mill mixer and a Vita-Mix blender sometime in the late 1970's..
Kneading bread doughs imposes a far greater demand on the mixer's electric motor, and it's drive mechanism, than does making most cookie doughs or cake batters..Very stiff cookie doughs demand almost as much from a stand mixer as do bread doughs..
AS I have stated before here at TFL, most electric kitchen appliance failures that I have witnessed during my 54 years on this planet are due to the ignorance, and or willful stupidity, of the user..NOT knowing (or not caring) when to STOP, and to turn the appliance off before it overheats and incurs damage is the reason that 99% of all electrical kitchen appliances fail..In only 1% of all cases is a manufacturing defect responsible for these failures..
If I was going to pass along a recommendation for what mixer to purchase for a baker that wanted the best of both worlds, I would recommend the following..
Used primarily for bread doughs, but works OK for other tasks--- the Electrolux DLX 8-qt. stand mixer--(SS 8-qt. mixing bowl, fluted roller, scraper, dough hook, spatula, seperate white plastic bowl, drive spindle, and twin wire whisks)..
Used primarily for cookie doughs and cake batters, but works well with 1-2 loaves of breads, especially the less sticky doughs---a used, in good shape, Hobart-era, Kitchen Aid 5-qt. stand mixer (with new SS 5-qt. mixing bowl, paddle, whisk, and dough hook)..
Based on my experiences with 5 different Hobart-era KA stand mixers in various restaurant settings; I feel that a used Hobart-era KA stand mixer is a better choice than the newer models..Both era KA mixers are loud, but the post-Hobart mixers are much louder than ther Hobart-era counterparts..The machined metal gears in the Hobart-era mixers far exceed the reliability, and durability, of the plastic gears and housing in the current KA mixers..
If one is not going to regulary exceed 2-3 loaves of bread doughs, then all of the other mixers other than the DLX will do a bang up job..It is when they exceed the 2-3 loaves amount of doughs that bakers start to incur trouble with the majority of these mixers..Even the Bosch, which in theory should perform nearly as well as the DLX mixer, seems to have some quality control issues..The mixer with the fewest complaints, hands down, is the Electrolux DLX..Which kinda stands to reason when one takes a look at the prices for the other stand mixers compatred to the DLX..
Below is a rundown of most of the various stand mixers available for purchase here in the United States..This is by NO MEANS a complete list..Fairly complete, but not fully so..
Kitchen Aid Stand Mixers These prices are taken off the KA Web Store, lower prices may be out there to be found..
4.5 Qt. Tilt-Head Mixers--Classic, 250w motor, $199.99 (white)
Ultra Power, 300w motor, $269.99 (3 colors)
Cook for the Cure Ultra Power, 300w motor, $249.99 (pink)
4.5 Qt. Pro 450 Bowl-Lift Mixer, 300w motor, $289.99 (black)
5 Qt. Tilt-Head Mixers--Artisan, 325w motor, $299.99 (24 colors)
Artisan, 325w motor, $229.99 (Mango color only at this price)
Custom Metallic, 325w motor, $499.99 (3 finishes)
Cook for the Cure Artisan, 325w motor, $299.99 (pink)
5 Qt. Bowl-Lift Mixers--Professional 500, 325w motor, $299.99
Professional 5 Plus, 450w motor, $319.99 (7 colors)
Professional 5 Plus, 450w motor, $289.99 (Caviar brown color only at this price)
Commercial 5, 450w high-torque motor, $429.99
6 Qt. Bolw-Lift Mixers--Professional 600, 575w motor, $399.99 (12 colors)
Pro Line, 575w motor, $399.99
Blendtec 5 Qt. Stand Mixer, 1000w motor, $299.99
Bosch New Universal Plus 6.5 Qt. Stand Mixer, 800w motor, $439.99-$469.99 (depending which accessories one decides to purchase w/ the mixer)
Bosch Compact 4 Qt. Stand Mixer, 400w motor, $149.99
Cuisinart 5.5 Qt. Stand Mixer, 800w motor, $299.99
Cuisinart 7 Qt. Stand Mixer, 1000w motor, $399.99
DeLonghi 5 Qt. Stand Mixer, 780w motor, $349.99
Electrolux DLX Assistant 2000 8 Qt. Stand Mixer, 600w, $599.99
Hamilton Beach Commercial 7 Qt. Stand Mixer, 800w motor, $429.99 (machined gears)
Viking Pro 5 Qt. Stand Mixer, 800w motor, $444.99
Viking Pro 7 Qt. Stand Mixer, 1000w motor, $549.99
Waring Commercial 7 Qt. Stand Mixer, 850w motor, $454.99
As the above list indicates, to the uneducated consumer with little to no knowledge of electric motors, and or engineering, there is a WIDELY varying difference in the specs for what appears to the casual glance to be fairly similar appliances..One could take 10 electric motors all rated for 1000 watts (approximately 1 horsepower), and if those 10 motors were all installed in the exact same appliance, and if that appliance were used to perform the exact same task 10 successive times; then 10 widely varying results would in all likelihood be obtained..The prices for those 10 electric motors could vary by as much as 10 times the cost from the least expensive to the most expensive..This is why it is so very difficult for the home bread baker to decide how much they are going to spend on a stand mixer..
Going strictly by the specs listed above, the fairly obvious conclusion would be that the Blendtec 5 Qt. stand mixer with its 1000 watt, claimed 1.4 horsepower, electric motor would be the hands down pick for any discriminating consumer..However, the specs for the Blendtec mixer are misleading..It is by no means as powerful and efficient as the 600w motor powering the Electrolux DLX mixer..
Two things to keep in mind are the QUALITY of the electric motor in the appliance taken in conjunction with it's wattage rating..A 1000 watt motor is fully capable of being out-performed by a 500w-600w motor that is of much higher quality..The price of the motor is often the determining factor in what motor is chosen by a manufacturer when designing the appliance..
Another thing to keep in mind is the means by which the power and torque of the motor is transfered to the tool that actually kneads the bread..The Bosch and Electrolux mixers transfer their motor's power to a short spindle that the bowls of these mixers interface onto..The Bosch mixer uses a drive belt to transfer the power from the motor to the drive spindle..I believe that the Electrolux DLX also uses a belt to drive the spindle, although I cannot find any reference on the net to confirm this..A call to Pleasant Hill Grain, where I purchased my DLX, could neither confirm, nor deny, the existence of a drive belt in the DLX, although their tech person suspected that the DLX is driven by a drive belt..This contradicts my earlier beliefs that the DLX was a direct-drive connection from the motor to the drive spindle..I believe that I hay have been incorrectly stating things as regards to the DLX's power transmission methodology..
Most other stand mixers use less efficient means of transfering the power of the motor to the tool(s) doing the actual work..This is why so many of these mixers need more powerful motors in order to compete against the Bosch and Electrolux mixers with their much higher ratios of power transmission..