Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dreaming of Stand Mixers

I have been baking by hand since ... forever.  We do have an old Betty Crocker hand mixer that I sometimes break out, and my Mom gifted me a Bamix that likely sees more use than the hand mixer.  But mostly I mix up ingredients with either a wooden spoon or with my own bare hands.  This has worked, but there are recipes I avoid because they would either be impossible or just too difficult.  Lately I've been lusting for a stand mixer.  You know, those contraptions that sit on your counter, taking up enormous counter real estate.  With a flip of a switch they stir your ingredients for you, usually much more efficiently and much quicker.  Of course, there's a price to having this luxury which has made me think about if I really need one.  While I ponder that, I started researching the various stand mixers available on the market.  You know, just in case.

What Do I Need a Stand Mixer to Do?

Since I'm capable of making cookies, cakes, muffins, pie and bread dough by hand, in these areas I'm looking to see a time savings.  Instead of working on dough for one loaf of bread I want a stand mixer that can let me do 3-4 loaves at once in a shorter time frame.  I want to be able to whip up egg whites or whipping cream without the walls around me (along with myself) getting splattered.  I'd like a stand mixer to have a shredder/slicer attachment so that I can make coleslaw, French fries, hash browns, slice vegetables and fruits for the dehydrator, and slice apples for pies.  It would be nice to have a machine that was strong enough to mix batters smooth - a velvety cheesecake would be a dream.

At the stores around my area I have access to Kitchenaid, Cuisinart, Breville, Hamilton Beach, Sunbeam, Bodum, Kenwood, and Ankarsrum stand mixers.  There is also a local distributor for Bosch stand mixers (although these must be ordered on-line).  A few of these stand mixers have fairly limited use - if all I want to do is whip some egg whites or mix a cake the Sunbeam, Hamilton Beach, or Bodum would work, but for more difficult tasks, such as heavy cookie batters and bread dough, they would fail.  So, I immediately excluded them.  The Breville should work, but several tests have shown they can't handle bread dough.  Another dropped from the list.  That leaves the Kitchenaid, Cuisinart, Kenwood, Ankarsrum, and Bosch to consider.


You see Kitchenaid stand mixers everywhere.  They have so many different models (and colours) that it can be difficult to know what you are seeing, and what each might be capable of doing.  I learned that the Costco Kitchenaid was a slightly different size and most of the extra attachments that Kitchenaid offers wouldn't work with it ... so even though it's a good price it wouldn't be a good choice.  I learned from the many articles and reviews I read that Kitchenaid stand mixers aren't great for lots of bread making - bread making really taxes the motor and often will shorten it's life considerably.  There are many stories of people fixing their KAs several times before moving on to different makes.  Price range:  $189.99 (on sale) for the Classic, a 4.5 quart 275 watt machine to $699.99 for the Professional, a 6 quart 575 watt machine.  All come with whips, paddle, and dough hook.  Some come with bowl shields.  Other attachments cost extra.


Another make you see a lot of in the stores is the Cuisinart stand mixers.  Not as much variety as Kitchenaid - there's a 5.5 quart and a 7 quart.  The 7 quart only comes in silver, the 5.5 quart comes in silver, white, and black (for some reason the white is always priced the highest).  Both provide 800 watts of power.  Although they seem to handle dough-making better than the Kitchenaid, some say it likes to dance across the counter while doing so.  Also, not as many attachments.  It does have a timer which many say is useful.  Price range:  $279.99 (on sale) for the 5.5 quart (silver) to $444.99 for the 7 quart.  Both come with whips, paddle, dough hook, and bowl shields.  Other attachments cost extra.


There are two models - the Chef (KMC010) and the Chef Major (KMM020).  The Chef is a 750 watt machine with a 4.6 litre bowl while the Chef Major is a 800 watt machine with a 6.7 litre bowl.  They come with a glass blender and a 5-cup food processor as standard.  There are additional attachments to get.  People who have them say they last.  Price range:  $499.99 (on sale) for the Chef to $799.99 for the Chef Major.  Both come with whips, paddle, dough hook, bowl shields, glass blender, and food processor.  Other attachments cost extra.


This is a Swedish made stand mixer that has been around since 1940.  They have that hip factor, but perhaps a bit too unique for North American sensibilities?  They come with 600 watts and a 7 litre bowl.  Price range:  $799.99 for the standard package which includes lid, dough roller, dough knife, scraper, spatula, cookie whips, dough hook, and a double beater/whisk with a 3.5 litre extra bowl; for $1,174.99 you also get a meat grinder, blender, citrus press, grater, strainer, cookie press, and pasta discs.  Other attachments cost extra.


This is a German engineered, built in Slovenia machine that has been around for a long time.  Although Europeans and Asians have access to a wider selection, we North American's only have two choices - The Universal Plus and the Compact.  The Universal Plus (model MUM6N10UC) is a 800 watt machine with a 6 1/2 quart bowl capable of handling 15 pounds of dough (this series has been in production since 1950).  The Compact (model MUM4405) is a 400 watt machine with a 4 quart bowl capable of handling 6 pounds of dough.  Price range:  $199.99 for the Compact and $439.99 for the Universal Plus.  Other attachments cost extra.

Which Would I Choose?

I'm drawn to the Ankarsrum and Bosch stand mixers.  Quality, longevity, and the hip factor are big drawing points for me.  The Ankarsrum is just too expensive ... which makes me lean towards the Bosch.  But which one - the Universal Plus or the Compact?  I've been reading lots of reviews and watching the videos.  I'm really struggling here.  I love the size factor of the Compact.  It would fit so easily on almost any counter top.  But the bowl size?  Slightly too small.  If it had been 5 quarts I'd buy it immediately.  4 quarts means doing more work for extra batches of baking.  I'd like to be able to get through more batches quickly so that I can have time with Walter and Manuel.  The Universal Plus is so big, but perhaps it's the more sensible choice?

And, of course, do I need one?  No, I don't.  I can bake with what I have.  My reasons for considering one are to let me make more healthy, homemade products for us to consume while freeing up more of my time.  I'm thinking I can save us money by making our own baked goods, and letting me process more of those fruits and vegetables we get in such abundance.  I think I could recover the cost of one of these machines within 1-2 years ... maybe even less time if I plan carefully.

Do you have a stand mixer?  Which one?  What made you choose it and would you choose it again?

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