Question regarding my first use of a stand mixer
I am an experienced cook and started baking breads seriously about 4 years ago. Whether by preference or prejudice I tend to avoid small appliances in my kitchen. I do use a hand mixer but, for example, we didn't have a microwave in the kitchen until a few years ago when we got one for our house sitter. We do use it now, but it's hardly a critical appliance, as it is for many people we know.
In any case, regarding bread, I have always mixed my breads by hand. My kneading technique has generally been stretch and fold, at least for my hearth breads. For relatively low hydration pan breads and pizza dough I will do a full board kneading following my mixing.
Recently I've been borrowing a neighbor's Kitchenaid Professional 6000 HD to mix my breads. It's a bulky, powerful bruiser and certainly can handle anything I throw at it. It's smooth and relatively quiet, too. I hope to get some experience with it before getting my own mixer - if indeed I decide to.
Which brings my to my questions. Up to now I have been somewhat nonplussed in using a stand mixer. When I hand mix I mix my leavening, autolysed dough, salt, and any other added ingredients (sugars, butter/oil, grains, herbs, etc.) for about 8 minutes. Then I let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes before beginning a 2 1/2 hour stretch and fold routine, excercising the dough every 30 minutes, before final rest, shaping and proofing. It's a reliable system that works for me and is adaptable to most high hydration breads I make. My sourdough whites, for example are 75% hydration. As I said, when I make relatively dry doughs, say 60% hydration, I might chose to do a full hand kneading as a time saver and because these are relatively fine crumbed breads.
But most of my bread baking involves sourdough hearth breads, I'm trying out the mixer in the hopes of either 1) improving my final product or 2) saving time and labor.
So far my impressions have been somewhat half and half with respect to these goals. Certainly the mixer is a labor saver, no doubt about it. No more hand mixing! Hurray! And I have the impression that my crumb is more consistently open in my sourdoughs with consistently good gluten development - perhaps more consistent that with hand mixing.
But I had hoped to eliminate the stretch and fold step, which would shorten my entire bread baking cycle by a couple of hours at least. Here's where I have been disappointed. When I watch videos of people using mixers the final product coming out of the mixer bowl looks like it's ready for a final rest and shaping. No further stretch and fold or kneading required. But with my doughs, even after 30 minutes of kneading (at 2 on the Kitchenaid per the users manual) it's still somewhat shaggy. The gluten formation is good, and the dough has definitely gained structure and volume, but it still requires several rests and stretch and folds.
So... Is this normal for high hydration doughs? Or am I missing something in my technique? I haven't tried a drier dough in the mixer to see if I get the characteristic gathered ball of dough I see in the videos. Right now, with my 75% hyrdration dough I don't get that.
I will say that after using the stand mixer the gluten development is well along and the dough responds immediately at the first stretch and fold with even a light dusting of flour on the bread board. So the mixer is working the dough. As I said, my crumb seems to have opened up slightly from introducing the mixer. But it's nothing I don't get with proper kneading and proofing.
Comments, advice, suggestions would be most welcome.