Sunday, November 11, 2012

3-1/2 Minute Frosting

Some of you may have noticed that Geraldine, my KitchenAid Heavy Duty 5 Qt stand mixer, is often an uncredited star in this blog.  However, after 16 years of faithful service, the wear and tear took their toll on her.  Since she was a graduation present from my parents, it is with no small degree of sentimentality that I say good-bye and usher in her replacement.

That said, because I want to help you all out, I'm going to share here a review of that mixer.  This week, I received a 7-Qt KitchenAid stand mixer, purchased directly from KitchenAid's outlet store as a refurbished model.  I introduce you to Mary Margaret:



Now, I'm no stranger to KitchenAid.  Geraldine and I had been together many years.  And, before that, I was well-acquainted with my mother's 5-qt Heavy Duty model (Geraldine's doppelganger, and the reason I'd wanted one to start with).  These days, my mother owns a 6-qt professional model.  I'll do a little compare/contrast as we go.  Note:  This is an un-influenced review - nobody sent me a free mixer to review (I wish!), nor has offered me anything to say nice stuff.

In order to determine the ins and outs of Mary Margaret, I put her through three little "tests" today:  bread, cake, and icing.  Here we go:

Bread

The fact that my children are on a gluten free diet and therefore I MUST make bread every week is the main reason that I honestly need a stand mixer.  Gluten free bread is nearer a heavy batter than a dough - hand-kneading is NOT gonna happen.  Hand stirring is exhausting.  And less useful.  In my more honest moments, I must admit that Geraldine made heavy weather of bread.  At least a 3-loaf batch, which is my usual method.  On more than one occasion, bits of dough would climb out over the sides or up the beater and onto the stem to which it attaches.  Messy.  I also suspect that the wear from doing this weekly is one of the things that eventually took it's toll.  So... how did Mary Margaret do?

The first thing I noticed is that the dry ingredients for a batch of bread fit much more comfortably in the 7-qt bowl.
  On placing the bowl in the mixer, and starting it up, I got my first real taste of Mary Margaret's "soft start" feature - the beater begins slowly, so there is no cloud of flour thrown up.  Another bonus?  All that extra room in the bowl meant that the eggs were less likely to be thrown back out as the dough moved around the bowl.  (Yep, that happened more than once with Geraldine).  Quiet?  Not especially, though no more noisy than the Heavy Duty.  I did notice that the 7-qt model does seem to shake and shimmy around the countertop just a little when turned up to medium speed.  The batter blended quite evenly, and in a shorter time than I'm used to:

The capacity again was a nice change of pace.  Even when fully risen, the dough is well inside the bowl, with plenty of room to stir it down.  I'll have to adjust my "eye" for when it IS fully risen - because in the 5-qt bowl that was just level with the upper edge!

As I poured the batter into the loaf pans, I also noticed that the consistency is uniform throughout, with no denser material being left along the walls.  (I didn't scrape it down because I wanted to check this.)

So, for bread, a fair success.  (At some point, I'll probably stir up a batch of wheat flour-based pizza dough for my husband and I, and get a chance to check the dough hook.  I have yet to be able to really come up with a gluten free recipe that acts as a real dough, rather than as a heavy batter.).

Cake

The cake test was brief and to the point, mixing up a batch of cake batter.  I went with a relatively small batch, to see how Mary Margaret handled the little jobs.  This batch made about 24 cupcakes.  From the start, it was clear that the extra width of the bowl aids the "planetary action" in mixing.

In other words, ingredients are more thoroughly combined, and more quickly, than in my former mixer.  Again, I used the batter from the bowl without doing any "scrape downs".  There was a thin layer of darker batter along the sides of the bowl that hadn't been completely incorporated, but not very much.  Certainly, there was much less at the bottom of the bowl than I'm accustomed to with the 5-qt Heavy Duty.  I'd call this a success as well.  Smooth operation, a little loud, but quick and efficient.

Icing

And, in fact, 7 minute icing.  I wanted to see how Mary Margaret did with soft, delicate egg whites.  My recipe for this classic icing involves pouring sugar syrup into the mixer while beating egg whites.  I never turned her up above "4" on the power setting, and still nearly overbeat my egg whites due to a moment's inattention.  The wider bowl again proved useful, as I had enough room to pour the syrup in easily without getting it caught in the whisk at speed and flinging hot sugar syrup around the bowl or even creating cotton candy.


I admit that I'd had some trepidation about replacing Geraldine.  She was such a work horse, for so long.  And, to be truthful, I've had some very negative experiences with a couple of KitchenAid blenders, one of which died after only a year of very light usage.  Thus far, however, Mary Margaret appears ready and willing to take on the challenge of being an integral part of my kitchen.

So I'll end with some advice, if you're in the market for a mixer:

Those little stand mixers where the bowl spins around?  Don't bother.  They don't have nearly enough power nor a decent design.  You'd be better off with a KitchenAid hand mixer and well-developed biceps.

The KitchenAid Artisan mixer is nice, but small.  It's also not really powered for doing a LOT of bread/bagels/pizza crust.  If you're a casual maker of baked goods, primarily of the cake-and-icing variety, you'll be fine.

The Professional models are a pretty nice middle-of-the-road option.  Mom's 6-qt is certainly adequate to her needs (and she taught me, so I wouldn't call her a "casual" baker by any stretch).  Give some real thought to checking KitchenAid's outlet site for one of these.  They're an excellent mixer and an excellent deal.

The 7-qt model is definitely worth the extra outlay if you can possibly swing it.  The extra capacity is really the main reason.  I have no idea what I'm even going to DO with the other 6 speed settings on Mary Margaret.  There's probably a lot of power there that I'll never use.  But the increased bowl width and ability to maneuver things around more easily are certainly worthwhile.  Again, if you're not wound up about "new", getting a refurbished model (which looks pretty darned new to ME) is a steal of a deal.

I was pleased with how quickly my order shipped and how well packed it was.  And, since I was expecting bare metal beaters, I was pleasantly surprised that these were coated - I just think they're easier to keep clean that way.

In all, I think Mary Margaret and I at the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

No comments:

Post a Comment