Mixing and Kneading? By hand, by stand mixer or by machine?
Whenever I work through a recipe, I'm always conscious of the fact that there will be those of you who work by hand, those who employ the services of a bread machine and those of you who turn to your trusty stand mixer.
In truth, as long as it does the job, however you approach the task is up to you and the resources within your kitchen.
But there are pros and cons...
I know that the Paul Hollywoods, Dan Lepards or Carina Lepores of this world will strongly support manual mixing and kneading. It's the 'Artisan Faff', as far as I'm concerned. There is also the issue of the alternative. "If we recommend the use of a mixer or a machine, which one do I recommend?"
If that's the case, it's easier and safer to go with the 'hands on' method. But, go 'back stage' into any Artisan bakery in any trendy part of any city and I'll guarantee they're using a large, industrial-standard, machine to make the dough. It's only then that they'll form it by hand and the artistry creeps in.
Now, for the everyday home baker, purchasing a commercial dough maker - the Italinox, for example - will set you back the best part of £1000. That's a lot of machine for the corner of the kitchen and far too much dough unless you're feeding all the neighbours. Still, it does what it does remarkably well. It mixes ingredients and kneads into dough.
So, we have to look at scaling down to what becomes a manageable alternative in the domestic kitchen. And that means a choice of three approaches.
Mixing by hand.
The advantage of mixing by hand is obvious - you are engaging with the flour and the water, the oil or butter, the salt and the sugar and the yeast. Hands-on is exactly that. Hands-in, on and around.
- It's meditative and probably very good for your well-being or to relieve stress.
- You'll begin to have a real feel for the formation of gluten strands as the sticky mess gradually turns into a soft and silky dough.
- It also means that it's highly unlikely that you'll over-knead. You can sense, see and feel when the dough does exactly what you want it to do.
- It's extremely time consuming if you intend to do it properly.
- Sometimes, patience wears thin and you can end up with dough that has not had sufficient kneading.
- There's more to life .....
There's a very good guide to hand mixing at:
Mixing by Stand Mixer
There are so many stand mixers on the market and and at such a wide range of prices. For as little as £100, you'll be able to pick up a perfectly serviceable 1000w machine or you can push the boat out and purchase a Kitchen Aid top-of-the-line machine for anything up to £500. The choice is yours.
- It becomes part of your kitchen. It will do much more than simply knead bread. It's likely to be a friend and kitchen assistant for all manner of cooking and baking.
- They look lovely and your visitors or guests will make suitable appreciative noises.
- They tend to take up a lot of room. If they are to be 'in sight and in mind' they need to have their own posiiton in the kitchen.
- They tend to come with a wide array of gadgets; for which storage needs to be found.
- The motors of the cheaper models tend to be over-worked by the heaviness of a decent quantity of dough. Motors burn out and bearings fail rather quickly. You also have to ask yourself if you want to push a very expensive machine and ask it to work that hard on a regular basis.
- Running the machine for just long enough to generate the correct consistency of dough in the kneading stage is a 'trial and error' process.
Mixing by Machine
The first thing to realise is that bread machines are not only for mixing, kneading, resting and baking - to achieve the final product. They are also very good at simply mixing dough.
I swear by Panasonic. Yes, I'm bias and I have two machines. There are other makes, of course, and some start for as little as £40 and go to to £150. Mine are middle range machines.
If you want a machine to prepare and bake for you, do your homework. Read comparison sites. Read consumer sites and read what other people think. I did, which is why I bought the brand I have.
If you simply want a machine to make dough, you might get away with something a little cheaper. Just don't expect it to make a good and tasty loaf, time after time, with a high degree of consistency. You get what you pay for. But then again, isn't that always the case?
- A machine will make your loaf from beginning to end. It will produce a loaf at the time you want it and offer a high degree of consistency.
- The machine has infinite patience. It will wait, mix, knead, allow the dough to rise, knead it again and so on...all while you get on with doing something more useful.
- The programmes are generated to do what needs to be done for the right length of time and at the right temperature.
- There are some poor machines on the market. You get what you pay for. You need to do your homework and make an informed purchase.
- If you bake in the machine, loaves come out a uniform shape. There is no control over this.
|My machine of choice - the Panasonic SD2500|
So, the choice is yours. If you bake very, very infrequently, you'll probably be happy to work by hand. However, if you want variety or need a regular supply of loaves, then a mechanised approach might be worth the investment.