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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Toy: Cuisinart Stand Mixer

I've wanted a stand mixer for years. I put in a request with my mom, who trolls the garage sales every Saturday. No luck. People get rid of every other kind of kitchen item but apparently know better than to sell their stand mixers at garage sales. I made do with a small hand held electric mixer and lots of muscle. Last summer I trashed my electric mixer by using it for mixing grout and mortar, and I didn't replace it. I was holding out for my stand mixer.
After figuring out what kind I wanted (Cuisinart, 7 qt), finding a good excuse to buy it (my promotion) and waiting for a 20% off coupon, I was good to go. They didn't have it in stock, so I ordered it. The mixer showed up the other day. Then I put it though its paces.
Test #1: Whole Wheat Bread
As my first test, I wanted to test the dough hook and I wanted a fairly dense dough to really test the mixer, and I was craving some whole wheat bread. I dumped the ingredients in the bowl and turned it on. After a minute or so everything was blended. I then set the timer for 10 minutes and stood there watching it for 5 minutes, until Missy IM'ed me. The motor handled the dough no problem. The dough climbed up the hook a little bit but it stayed under control. When it was done, it beeped and turned itself off. The dough was firm and elastic. Unlike when I knead it by hand, it hadn't absorbed way too much flour. I let it rise. It rose so quickly that I just punched it down and let it rise an extra time. I then shaped it into two loaves, let it rise and baked it. The loaves turned out well. They browned nicely and had a nice texture and a good crumb (as the bread snobs would say) - tender, not too dense and not too fluffy. If I'd kneaded it myself I'm sure it would've been tougher and denser. I couldn't wait for it to cool all the way so I ate two pieces while it was warm. It was very tasty. At the farmer's market the next day, I saw similar looking loaves selling for $3.35. Score! My mom didn't realize that I had made the bread since it had such a uniform texture and shape.
Test #2: Biscotti
I made a batch of my world-famous biscotti to test the stand mixer's ability to do large batches of thick cookie dough. No wimpy doughs for me! The recipe calls for 6 cups of flour, 5 eggs, and a lot of almonds. Although it's a big recipe, it's not too hard to do by hand. I started by plopping two sticks of butter into the bowl and turning it on. one stick got stuck in the paddle and didn't really mix. Next time I'll cut it up into smaller pieces. I then added sugar. The mixture creamed well, but when I added the eggs I had to lift the top and scrape down the sides. According to the recipe book that came with the mixer, this is normal. I then added the flour/baking powder/salt alternating with the brandy. The dough mixed up well and the mixer didn't seem to have any difficulty. I then added the almonds. At the point the mixer started wiggling and making more noise but within a minute the nuts were fully mixed.
I tested a slight variation of the usual recipe. Since I'm going to be off my feet for the next two weeks, I used 25% less sugar and compensated by grinding the anise to bring out its flavor. I could taste the difference in the dough. The biscotti didn't spread as much as normal. So I can't really tell if the stand mixer changed the texture or it was just the lack of sugar that caused it. Fortunately, in cooking it's ok to change more than one variable.
In general, the mixer did a good job of handling the types of recipes that I make frequently. I'm looking forward to trying other recipes, particularly the type of recipes that I've been avoiding since I didn't have a stand mixer before.

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