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We're Havin' Us A Mixer Throwdown!

There are some classic big arguments among home bakers. Which flour is the best one? (The one I'm using, of course.) A close second is, "which mixer is the best one?" There are three contenders when American hobbyist bakers are talking. The KitchenAid, the Bosch Concept and the Electrolux DLX, now sold as the Ankarsum. I've used all of them, and presently own two of them, the KitchenAid K45SS and the Electrolux DLX, which was also marketed as the Electrolux Assistent (yes, that IS the way they spell it) and as the Magic Mill (which makes no sense at all, since it isn't a mill).

Since I no longer own a Bosch, I'll talk about it briefly and move on. We needed a mixer with more capacity than the KitchenAid for test bakes and to make icings and such for our bakery, and the Bosch was recommended to us. I wanted to like it. However, its whisks were very fragile - it REALLY couldn't handle even cool butter, and when making bread it overworked the dough. In less than two weeks, the bakery staff were begging me to get rid of it. eBay came to the rescue. Some people love the Bosch Concept series, I'm just not one of them.

I bought my KitchenAid K45SS in the late 1970's or early 1980's. I bought it on sale for $165.00 You can still buy it's descendant for about the same amount, even though the dollar is worth considerably less. Some people think that current KitchenAid mixers are poorly made as a result. I am not convinced. A friend bought a current KitchenAid and the motor sounded like it was ready to explode, but it kept going and going and going.

The KitchenAid mixers are great general purpose stand mixers. You can mix cake batters and beat egg whites all day long with them. However, their greatest limitations are their load and duty cycle. KitchenAid rates their mixers according to "Flour Power" or how many cups of flour you can mix at a time. They cut the load limits in half if you are using whole grain flours.

This is not good engineering since a cup of flour can vary from under 100 to over 200 grams depending on how the cups are filled. However, as long as Americans are married to cups, that is probably what they have to do.The largest mixers they make can handle 11 cups of flour, 5 1/2 for whole grains. Guessing how much bread this is can be tricky, since cups vary between bakers and different recipes call for more or less water. However, this is probably about 3 loaves of reasonably sized white bread. As you can see, you can't make very much bread in a KitchenAid at any one time, and, with most of them. you shouldn't make more than two batches in a row. If you have a KitchenAid and are a bread baker, READ THE MANUAL! Most of the sad stories about dead and dying KitchenAid mixers involve a large family gathering, a need to make a lot of bread, whole wheat bread, overloaded mixers and too many batches back to back. However, KitchenAid does stand behind their mixers while they are in warranty.

While I like my K45SS a lot, it is not approved for use in commercial kitchens. While KitchenAid calls a number of their mixers "Professional", only one of their mixers, the KSM8990ER Commercial mixer, is actually NSF certified. If something isn't NSF certified, kitchen inspectors most likely won't let you use it in a US commercial, or professional, kitchens. I think it is misleading, at best, to call something "Professional" when it can not legally be used in a professional setting. Still, the fact I still have and use my KitchenAid says a lot about how I feel about it.

Once we got rid of the Bosch, we still needed a mixer for test batches, frostings, icings, mixing starters and preferments and so on. Giselle, a good friend who owned Mountain Tops Milling suggested the Electrolux DLX. She had one I could play with, and taught me how she uses it. The Electrolux DLX, also called the Assistent (yes, that IS their spelling) and now the Ankarsum,  was also marketed as the Magic Mill. (I never understood that name since it isn't a mill.)

The Electrolux has a heavy duty motor and can make back to back batches of bread. It doesn't strain when I make large batches of bagels, and it has a timer which is very, very handy. I usually knead doughs for 5 minutes, let them rest for 5 minutes to allow the flour to absorb moisture, and then knead for 5 more minutes. I set the mixer's timer for 5 minutes and a kitchen timer for 10 and then go off and do other things. VERY handy!

However, the Electrolux Assistent has two weak spots. One is the manual which I jokingly say was written in Swedish, translated into Mandarin, and then translated into English by people who weren't cooks or bakers and weren't native speakers of any of the languages in question. As Opus the penguin once said in "Bloom County", "Maybe it wasn't that bad, but lordy, it wasn't good!"

The other weakness is that it works very differently from the planetary mixers, like the KitchenAid, that most people are used to, so there is a learning curve, which is extended by the poor manual. However, once people get used to them, they don't want to part with them. According to Mountain Tops Milling, it will make about 15 pounds of bread dough at a time, or about 9 good sized loaves of white bread.

In the videos, I set up my KitchenAid K45SS and Electrolux DLX with the same sized batch of ingredients in each. It was a classic French bread recipe, and at the upper range of the KitchenAid's capacity and considerably less than half the Electrolux's capacity. Both developed the dough well, and in about the same amount of time.

If you don't bake all that often or intensively, you might consider the KitchenAid - it is very good for general kitchen chores and is considerably cheaper than the Electrolux. If bread is your main focus, I'd go with the Electrolux. The larger capacity, the ability to make back to back batches and the timer carry the day for me. Like the KitchenAid, it is an excellent general purpose mixer, and you can find many attachments for it to grind grain, flake grain, make pasta, shred veggies, stuff sausages and so on. If I had neither and had to choose one, I'd pick the Electrolux.

One other option is to not use a mixer at all. If you look at my page on the Stretch and Fold method, you'll see an elegant way to not use a mixer. There's a link on that page to a photo essay of me preparing doughs for a bake at Mike's bread, where I routinely made and baked over 220 loaves of bread in a night. The advantage of a mixer is you can just walk away and do other things, however you get a lot of that advantage with the stretch and fold also.

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