The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Spiral Mixer Headache

anglo-nubian's picture

Spiral Mixer Headache

Hi All,

I've been lurking (and learning) here for a couple of years, and all the while making bread that everyone seems to want to eat....... but a few months ago I decided to purchase a spiral mixer - I tend to bake batches for the freezer and on occasion large-ish batches for church sales etc and reckoned that a mixer would be labour saving and would bring some extra strength & volume to my dough. 

I purchased an Italian 'Prisma' mixer from one of the UK online catering wholesalers - I plumped for the 15kg model, primarily because the smaller models have bowl diameters so small that extracting the mixed dough is bound to be difficult. It's single speed and even has a timer.

The problem is that I cannot persuade it to develop the gluten to any significant degree - I've watched dough being mixed on youtube and the result is this wonderful silky, elastic, slightly glossy dough, but for me, this is completely unattainable.

Mr Hamelman recommends mixing for around 900 - 1000 revolutions which for my mixer equates to about 10 or 11 mins (90 rpm) but I could mix for half an hour and a window-pane test would still be a pipe-dream.

Flour-wise, I've used the locally (I'm in N. Ireland) available strong flour (of North American origin) which is about 12 % protein and I'm currently using a sack of Type 65 which I collected from a mill in Normandy while on holiday a couple of months ago, but the results are equally poor.

I typically use 65-70% hydration, but I've tried the bassinage technique of developing the gluten before adding the last of the water, but still no good.

Most of the time I'm running with the mixer only about 1/4 full, but yet again, youtube shows plenty of examples of this type of mixer dealing with very small amounts very effectively.

I'm at my wits' end - Help !










barryvabeach's picture

Glenn, I don't know anything about your mixer, but two things I can chime in on.  First, not sure which Hamelman recipe you are referring to.  He usually suggests that you don't knead to window pane - because it oxidizes the flour too much.   Second, it will probably help for you to diagnose the problem by trying to isolate it.  Have you used this recipe with this flour in a regular mixer to see how it performs?  

Janetcook's picture

When you say you are running the machine 1/4th full - how much does the dough weigh?  

I have a Haussler spiral and it handles doughs that weigh as little as 1000g.  I have not tried going lower than that simply because I don't mix smaller amts. of dough.

Wondering if you are mixing lean doughs or enriched doughs.  Lean doughs will develop more quickly.  With my Haussler a lean dough on low gear will be developed in about 3 minutes only.  If I go longer I will get a sticky mess.

Enriched doughs take longer to develop.  Depending on the amount of enrichments it can take 9-10 minutes.

I am not sure if you are setting your timer for 10 minutes and walking away until the kneading is done - but if you are maybe the dough is being over kneaded.  Spiral mixers are very powerful and over kneading can happen very quickly.  I set my timer for 3 minute intervals and I tend to stand over the mixer while a dough is mixing testing it all of the time. 



Liverpoolbaker's picture


Its quite hard to tell from your post, but I think we have a similar small mixer for small batches. First I'd say its hard to compare doughs from real life and youtube, they may not be as glossy as you think on the videos as you don't get a really close up look or get to feel it; they're also be using different flours and hydrations. 

Secondly you're giving your dough a good long mix and the gluten is probably well developed, sometimes it's hard to do the window pane test just as you've stopped the mixer, gluten may be too tight and not able to stretch. Try resting the dough for 5 mins after you've stopped the mixer and then try testing it. 

If you have got a similar mixer to us then it had quite a slow speed, this may mean that it takes a bit longer to mix than you think, so play about with times as well. However I'd be careful as you don't want to over mix, which is very easy in a spiral mixer. 

Finally you haven't said anything about the final bread results, has the mixer changed the quality of the final loaves? If so what's wrong with them? The could help with diagnosing the problem.

I  hope this helps


anglo-nubian's picture

Thanks for your replies - I realise that full 'window-pane' gluten development isn't what I'm after, but I should be able to reach that level of development quite easily if I wanted to.

Before getting this mixer I did all by hand, doing very little kneading but utilising autolyse,stretch & fold and plenty of time to give tasty, if not particularly high volume, loaves.

Now, when the dough comes out of the mixer, it's what my wife describes as being more like a cake mix than bread (it still has a 'thick wallpaper paste' granularity about it, rather than being elastic and glutenous)

A bit of stretch & fold recovers the situation, but the dough is still quite weak and in the end the loaves are pretty much identical to what they were when I was mixing by hand.

I think the best way to resolve this is to make a video and post it here for analysis - I'd be particularly keen to hear your comments, Sam, since you're familiar with a similar size & type of mixer (although from looking at your website, I don't know how you find time to keep an eye on the forums....  ;-)   )

I'll get a video done later in the week.

Thanks 'til then,



antuneza's picture

Hello Glenn.

I am having exactly the same problem as you. I bought my first spiral mixer, 10L for home usage, but I am not able to develop any gluten no matter how long I keep it running... 

I have check the RPMs and compare it with other spiral mixers to make sure Its running at the right speed, but no luck. I tried 2kg dough, when the docs claim 0.8kg is the minimum for this model.

How did you solve your problem back in the day?


anglo-nubian's picture

Hi there,

I'm afraid that due to work & family commitments I haven't had the time to bake regularly in the last few years, but I think I've diagnosed the problem more accurately and perhaps have a plan of action to solve it.... (when I get time to do it).

The fundamental problem is that the machine's speed of rotation is too slow.  This means that a small mix of dough just gets itself completely wound around the spiral, where it could spin aimlessly for hours without undergoing any actual development. If the speed of rotation were greater, the centrifugal (or centripetal ) force would be sufficient to dislodge the dough and fling it out towards the side of the bowl, where it would be kneaded more effectively.

I have, on a couple of occasions when mixing slightly larger batches, succeeded in achieving proper development - a larger mix can't all coagulate around the spiral - but it took maybe 45 mins and required a careful bassinage technique, where most of the mixing is done on quite a stiff dough, before adding more water towards the end (rather than just tipping more water into the bowl, I try to form pockets with my fingers, fill them with water and then close them over again, before re-starting the mixer). 

My mixer is single phase, single speed, so I plan to swap the (standard industrial type) motor for a 3-phase, higher RPM equivalent, controlled by a variable frequency drive (which allows the motor to run from the single phase supply and also gives continuously variable speed control), but of course I haven't had the time to get around to this as yet.

I think that it's important to reassure you that this is worth aiming for ....  the first time I actually achieved proper development was a real revelation - the dough is completely different. It's soft yet strong and has this amazing pearlescent / translucent appearance. If I may say so myself, the baguettes I made with it were undoubtedly the best I've tasted this side of La Manche, by quite some margin.

So, the goal is absolutely worth striving for....  Good Luck.