Gear Essentials: Mixing

Of all the baking gear I have, my mixing equipment gets by far the most use. ‘Cause let’s face it, pretty much everything in pastry has to be mixed. Not necessarily by machine of course, but I myself would be lost without a stand mixer. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Mixing starts with measuring, so I use (mostly) a scale. A scale is essential for dry ingredients like flour which can vary quite a lot using dry measures and the ol’ dip-and-sweep method. A scale that does metric as well as imperial is handy when you’re converting a Continental recipe.

Liquids can be weighed as well, though most people prefer to use volume measures. Those are quite accurate though you want true liquid measures (not dry measures you’re pouring liquid into…that’s a no-no). I like this Perfect Beaker, plus that little shot glass thingie, which is fun. Of course when you’re down to that level of measurement, spoons are just fine.

For the actual mixing I stand behind stainless steel bowls which are nice and light (none of those infernal authentic-looking, ten-pound crockery things) durable and shallow for easy manipulation of contents. To operate those you’ll of course need implements: wooden spoons, whisks and scrapers (I like semi-rigid heat-resistant silicone the best).

Regarding machines, I keep meaning to get a hand mixer but I never do. I’m too accustomed to the stand mixer. However I must confess that I wish I had one since this big 7-quart beast of a Viking isn’t very good at subtlety. The implements don’t reach the very bottom of the bowl, so I find myself picking up the bowl every time I want to beat a very small quantity of something. That said it’s a powerhouse and will push through pretty much anything.

Now me, I don’t think everyone needs that kind of volume and torque. Almost every other serious baker in the world will do fine — more than fine, really — with a 5-quart KitchenAid. Those things were originally designed by Hobart, the #1 name in industrial mixers, so there’s no going wrong there. They were even re-engineered a few years ago with more powerful motors. So unless you have a backyard brick oven and want to make loads and loads of bread or pizza dough in one go, you really don’t need a Viking.

I should add that I’ve heard that Breville and Cuisinart make good stand mixers, but I’ve never used either. (That was a free product hint in case you didn’t pick it up, Breville and Cuisinart marketing teams).

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22 Responses to Gear Essentials: Mixing

  1. LOL you are a funny chap :p remember, if you get too many free samples from them, my address is always open!

    my kenwood stand mixer has been smashing everything I throw at it for the last decade and still goes strong. Just as an alternative to the good ‘ole kitchenaid.

    Chris

    • woo, replying to my own unpublished post!

      can you explain this further?

      “Those are quite accurate so long as they are true liquid measures (not dry measures you’re pouring liquid into…that’s a no-no).”

      I’ve always poured my milk/water/honey/maple syrup etc etc into the same cups as used for flour / sugar etc etc and never had any problems… now I just weigh everything because it’s easier, but why should one not use the dry measures? 1 cup is 1 cup, right?

      Chris

      • joepastry says:

        I should amend that a bit, but my admonition stands. Dry measures are the same volume, but where liquids are concerned they’re considered bad form because they frequently spill all over the place when you fill them up to the brim, then try to move them. Liquid measures are not only clear and graduated for easy reading, they have a spout for easy pouring.

        Get yourself some, CfDU, you’ll be glad you did.

        - Joe

    • joepastry says:

      Deal!

    • Bronwyn says:

      I second the Kenwood. Not as trendy as the Kitchen Aid, but just as functional. I love mine, and my mother loved hers.
      I use it for making everything from bread to sausages.
      A caveat though – I have the bench space to keep it out all the time – I’m not sure it would get so much use if I had to keep it in a cupboard and pull it out every time I wanted to use it. And I bought mine second hand but unused from someone who had received it as a wedding present 10 years previously. So if the putative gift-recipient has a small kitchen I would be very wary about presenting them with an expensive appliance like this.

      • joepastry says:

        Funny to think of a KitchenAid as trendy. Here in the States they’re the original home mixer. Everyone else is a late-comer by comparison. However I believe the Kenwoods are good! And that’s very true on the counter space issue. Kept in the closet, mixers tend to languish.

        - Joe

  2. rainey says:

    I so agree that a scale that can convert to metric and one of those universal shot glass or beaker units for liquids will get you through any recipe without even bothering to make nasty conversions.

    I see you’ve got stainless measuring spoons there in the pic as well, Joe. As tempting as all the cute matrioski-shaped and robot- and heart-shaped measures may be, as much as you may be seduced by silicone ones that measure one unit turned in one direction and another if you flip them upside down, nothing is as accurate has a heavy gauge set of no nonsense stainless that won’t get warped or shrunk in the dishwasher or change the relationship because you hold it too tight (like the tall silicone measuring beakers). I’d recommend the Endurance set though. They have a long thin profile that fits into a spice jar. http://www.chefscatalog.com/product/20068-endurance-spice-measuring-spoons.aspx?sourcecode=CW4GG4036&gclid=CPjR0uOKzLACFYQGRQodJDQSYg That’s a really handy feature! And it’s got a 3/4 tsp. unit too.

    While you’re mixing up dough don’t forget the flat dough whips. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/dough-whisk You can find them much cheaper than KAF but they’re handy little suckers!

    Got to have a pastry blender but skip the wire ones and look for the ones with vertical blades. They’re cheap and available and the bladed ones will last forever and not get bent out of shape even going through really cold butter. They make fast work of egg salad too. ;>

    If Ann gets a KA mixer the new style paddle with the silicone sweep is a wonderful thing. KA now makes one themselves (tho I think you have to buy it separately) but the original was made by a third party and it’s still available. http://www.amazon.com/Design-Beater-5-Quart-KitchenAid-Mixers/dp/B0015TMHSI/ref=pd_bxgy_k_text_b

  3. Naomi says:

    My mom married a Volkswagen mechanic, so he insisted that if she was going to get a kitchen machine, it was going to be a Bosch. When I moved out of the house, I asked if that meant they’d buy me one of my own. I was told they’d buy me one when I got married. I’ve had mine six years, my sister’s had hers eight years and although Mom’s very recently gave up the ghost after 33 years of service, she’s bought another one to replace it.

    My husband still jokes that if we had a big enough kitchen, we’d have a Kenwood Chef for him and the Bosch for me.

    He’s the kind of guy who uses dry measuring cups to measure liquids, despite years of me trying to convince him to do otherwise! ;)

    • joepastry says:

      Love those stories, Naomi!

      Lovers of German engineering have a.) good taste and b.) a stubborn resistance to other points of view. Long may they live!

      Men are also generally resistant to common sense kitchen tools like liquid measures. Forgive him silently, smile indulgently and let him have his pride.

      - Joe

  4. Ena says:

    As mentioned before, a hand mixer is very useful if you’re kitchen is small. But go with a heavy duty one! Most of the mixers out there don’t have enough power in them to mix more stiff batters, bread dough or even a big bowl of Italian meringue. They just get stuck in there and then break down because the motor blows up.
    My hand mixer is 450W, and even then I prefer to make bread by hand, because it is faster and less troublesome than doing it by mixer.

    And a gear essential: a good oven. Or a good oven thermometer. The internal thermostats of consumers ovens are generally quite inaccurate, deviations of 20-40C are not uncommon, but do make a big difference for baking results. Monitoring with a thermometer helped me a lot with getting better baking results.

  5. Kitty says:

    oh how I love a nice set of steel mixing bowls. unfortunately my beloved says they are too noisy, so I go with my second fav- glass. Heavy yes but they work. He would prefer I use plastic. Ughhhh nonononono! Light mebbe, but I don’t feel like I can get them clean, tend to hold onto grease.

    • rainey says:

      I collect nesting mixing bowls so I’ve got an inventory to choose from. I come down with your husband on the noisiness of stainless steel. Besides, you can’t put them in the microwave to melt things. They were the first ones I had but I finally got rid of them altogether. OTOH, I’m right with you on the “greasiness” of plastic and silicone. I’d never attempt to whip egg whites in either.

      Of the choices, I probably use a silicone set most. They’re lightweight, they fit in the crook of my arm when I want them to and, big plus, you can squish them into a spout any old time you need to pour a liquid or coax dry ingredients into the tight space of a bowl with the mixer paddle running.

      Next for me would be the simple Arcoroc type glass bowls because there’s always the right size for everything and they’re so cheap and durable and available individually at Sur la Table so I’ve always got what I need for a complicated mise en place or storage. Also, always one to fit in the top of a saucepan to double for the double boiler no one ever has anymore.

      Next and much beloved for me are the heavy (yes, Joe, I love the homey heavy crockery) stoneware bowls, chief among them the Mason Cash that has one bowl large enough to bathe a baby and another just large enough for a single egg. Those puppies stay planted like a rock when you’re working a heavy dough and want both hands in there pounding the dough into submission not fighting a moving bowl or keeping it from going over the edge of the counter. And they double as baking dishes.

      • Kitty says:

        I like my glass bowls well enough, and I’m not exactly a wimpy chick so it works out. I don’t think I’ve tried silicone bowls, but I think for now I will stick with the glass. Most of mine I got for a steal at a consignment store, and I keep an eye out for the same type whenever I go. I think they were(or are) a pretty vanilla set that nests pretty well. they look like these http://www.luminarc.org/UPLOAD/Produits/LU28.jpg (at the top) except mine are blue. I have a thing for blue glass…

      • Bronwyn says:

        I also have a collection, from a set of 6 nested stainless ones, to my aunt’s old crockery ones. What I tend to use when I want to melt something in the microwave is a large pyrex measuring jug thing. I have them ranging from a normal cup size to a couple of litres – you can melt and measure (liquids) and mix all in the same thing.
        like this: http://www.johnlewis.com/176001/Product.aspx

        • Bronwyn says:

          And particularly good if making pancakes or similar – you can pour straight from the mixing jug as well.

  6. Evan says:

    I can vouch for the Breville stand mixer; I decided to go with that one. Back when I cooked in my mother’s kitchen we used a KA 6-quart, which worked nicely. The Breville is a bit smaller but compares favorably. It’s got some quirks – notably that when beating at high speeds with the scraping blade, a thin ring of butter/cream/etc can form just above the blade’s reach. But I’ve found the machine to be durable and reliable and thoroughly well designed.

  7. Susan says:

    I am a kitchen gadget slut. I will have a fling with any new tool that strikes my fancy (and bank account) at the moment. Gawd, I’ve given myself over to so many gadgets only to throw them aside later, disappointed! I must admit, I’ve stayed with my KA mixer, though it’s only because it’s so expensive to replace and an unknown new mixer might be just as ordinary. I am eyeing a new one but it’s total overkill for my needs and is way too expensive. I still want to try it out, though! See what I mean? Kitchen gadget slut.

    • joepastry says:

      Hey, we all have our little (or not so little) indulgences. I’d love more machines and stuff…but to your point I find myself barely using the ones I have! Mrs. Pastry drops pointed comments to that effect regularly and I confess I rarely have an answer. It’s darn humiliating.

      - Joe

  8. Elle says:

    Your posts are bad for my bank account. I just want to go out and stock my kitchen with the “essentials”. :P

    • joepastry says:

      Hehe…my hope was to convey the idea that not terribly much was needed, Elle. I’m not sure I succeeded, however. Please relay my regrets to your portfolio manager!

      - Joe

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