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Question regarding my first use of a stand mixer

Bernard Kron's picture
Bernard Kron

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.



foodforthought's picture

I almost always use a mixer for my pre-autolyze dough mix. After that everything’s by hand so not sure if my experience is exactly congruent to yours. My doughs are generally 75% hydration. I plan 4-5 hours for bulk including at least 4 stretch and folds in the first two hours. Lately I’ve added 100-200 French folds (slap and folds?) after autolyze so this might be roughly similar to machine kneading, not sure. It is definitely a workout. Anyway, while the dough does change through the slap and folds, it never seems close to fully developed. This seems logical since even with good gluten development early on, the levain yeast population has barely had time to consume (ferment?) all that autolyzed flour. So if you’re doing sourdough (actually unclear from your post) I think you absolutely have to wait for the levain yeast population to reach optimum development. To go faster, you might want to stick to commercial yeast.

Thinking about your question begs a fundamental question for me. Is gluten development independent of fermentation? I’m not sure that it matters that much to me since it’s clear that we need both to build bread with great flavor and texture. But it does get the gears grinding...

Hope this helps,


Bernard Kron's picture
Bernard Kron

Thanks for your comment, Phil.

Yes I am doing sourdough and I completely agree: with sourdough go slow. You routine and hydration are roughly in line with what I do. The time gain I'm reaching for by using a mixer is mainly in the "marginal gains" department. If I could get my bread baking cycle to mainly be concentrated in a single day, at least from assembly to baking, that would be a "home run" in my book. As it is I start my preferment the night before and do the "mechanical" stuff the following day, across a space of about 5 hours, and then proof to the morning of the next day, at which time I bake. There's some reason, based on my experiments in the past 48 hours to think I might gain enough time, using a stand mixer, to reach my goal. I'll answer further in my replies to Danni3ll3 and Ambimom below


Danni3ll3's picture

And to answer your question, it really doesn’t cut any time off from when I did it by hand. It is easier and I get a more consistent crumb though. Hydration is usually between 74 and 80% depending on add ins. 

1. Mix water and flour, autolyse 2 hours. 
2. Add salt and levain. Mix one minute on speed 1 and 9 minutes on speed 2. Don’t go above 2 as KitchenAid will not honour the warranty if making bread dough. 
3. Put add ins and mix on speed 2 until well distributed. 
4. Place dough in lightly oiled bucket and let rest 30 minutes. 
5. Do two sets of folds 30 minutes apart. 
6. Do two or three sets of coil folds 45 minutes apart. Number depends on dough strength. 
7. Let rise 30-40%. Lately I’ve been trying 50-75%. 
8. Preshape, rest 30 minutes, shape and into fridge for the night. 
Average time from beginning to end is about 8 hours when I make 4 batches of dough. I gain about an hour if just making one batch. 

Hope this helps!

Bernard Kron's picture
Bernard Kron

Thanks for your reply Danni. It's was very helpful.

Your routine is in line with my own with the exception that, after assembly, I currently hand mix for 8 minutes .As has always been the case in my experience baking sourdough earth breads, even seemingly small changes can dramatically impact one's routine. In this case, implicit in your reply is the fact that you don;t use the mixer to actually knead the bread, but rather to mix the ingredients thoroughly and prepare them for the kneading process.  The kneading process is the stretch and fold. My stretch and fold routine is fairly similar to yours in terms of time and mechanics - I do 5 stretch and folds across 2 1/2 hours after resting the mixed dough.

You mention that using a stand mixer appears to have improved the repeatability of your crumb. This has been my impression, too. It also appears that the machine mix may start the gluten formation along its way more effectively than my hand mixing and that it has the potentially to shorten overall proofing time. OIn my case I don;t retard my dough in the fridge - for most of the year our house is relatively cold (low to mid 60' Fs with the heat on, and in the mid 50's F at night with the heat off) so I do a slow proof overnight. As the weather warms up during the summer months the proofing time is trimmed down quite sharply. During the cooler months I proof 12-16 hours, whereas during warmer weather I proof on either side of 8 hours.

Yesterday was a bread day for me and I used the stand mixer. I did two double batches of white sourdough with 75% hydration and with a levain percentage of about 28%.  Each batch makes 2 loaves of about 1 1/2 lbs each. What I found was that the mechanical mixing shortened the proofing time substantially. Also, overmixing in the stand mixer creates a potential situation that resembles overproofing (and may indeed actual be such) by ultimately weakening the gluten structure.

Your timing numbers seem to have been confirmed by my experiences yesterday. It's critical to get your mix timing right, and not too long.

This morning I confirmed this impression by mixing and kneading a small batch (250 gm. flour) of 60% hydration pizza dough for dinner .tonight. This dough is so dry that I usually hand knead without the stretch and fold. Despite the gigantic bowl that the KA Professional 6000HD has, it picked up all the flour and kneaded the dough to a properly smooth plastic consistency ready for proofing. Using Ambimom's suggestion of adding dry ingredients to wet worked perfectly and the stand mixer probably saved me about 30 minutesover hand mixing and kneading.

What I got from your reply, and from my work over the last 24 hours is that I must accept the fact that for high hydration doughs I'll never get the sticky ball of thoroughly kneaded dough we see in the videos. This may be the case for drier doughs, but not for the wet stuff. But the possibility exists that machine mixing high hydration natural levain dough may yield significantly shortened proofing times. Further experimentation will establish whether this is true.

Your reply was very helpful.


Ambimom's picture

I, too, had always mixed my bread by hand until I received a stand mixer as a gift.  Here's the only advice I have.  I'd always measured dough and starter first, then added water.  Doesn't work well in stand mixer.  Add liquids first to stand mixer bowl (water, starter) start mixer at low (using dough hook) ....add flour scoop full at a time.  (I have a plastic shield thingy that allows me to add flour without it going all over the kitchen).  Mix until all liquid absorbed and dough winds around the hook.

Bernard Kron's picture
Bernard Kron

Thanks Ambimom. As I mentioned above, I followed your advice for machine mixing adding dry ingredients to wet, and it worked perfectly. See my comments to Danni3ll3 above regarding my results. I'll incorporate this in my further experiments with machine mixing and kneading.