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Test: Kitchen machines
13 May, 2015

1/12 – Foodblooger Lutz Geissler tested with Bread enthusiasts six kitchen machines at Kochbar Berlin. Photo: © Bernhard Ludewig

Picture 1 of 12

 When it comes to baking bread, kneading is one of the biggest secrets. Which kitchen machine is best suited for this task? Six mixers reveal their strengths and weaknesses in a comparison test. The kneading machine of Häussler compared  against the food processors of  Ankarsrum, Bosch, Kenwood, Kitchenaid, Krups and Thermomix. 

By Joachim Schirrmacher

Deutsche Langfassung: Von Klebern, Krume und Knetern

Baking bread doesn’t require special equipment, but regular home bakers are known to seek help when it comes to kneading dough. In their search for the best food processors or kneading machines, they will often search for information on online forums, where each machines has its own personal advocate. And yet hardly anyone on those forums has tested all relevant mixers under the same conditions. We wanted to roll up our sleeves and get down to business. Together with Lutz Geissler, whose Ploetzblog.de and bread baking courses are a mecca for amateur bakers, we tested the most frequently talked-about machines.
We were interested in understanding the following: how well does the gluten develop during kneading? Do you have to spend 600 or even 1.100 euros to get good results? To help us create the same conditions for each mixer, we went to the Kochbar Berlin, which is fully equipped with eight ovens. We baked one of Geissler’s creations, which he calls Swiss bread – whose wheat dough needs to be kneaded so long as a small crumb of uniform pore structure is created. We then followed it with a rye bread. Because rye has no gluten, everything simply has to be mixed well enough so no lumps of flour make their way into the finished bread. This can even be done by hand.
 
Patience, not power
Contrary to what many people think, proper kneading has little to do with speed or the number of watts, but rather on persistent kneading. We used the lowest setting for mixing on each mixer and added cold water to the flour. At this stage the flour should only swell with the cold water. Kneading on the second lowest speed is crucial for developing a gluten framework – only then will you get a good crumb that is light on the inside. And the only factor that reliably indicates when the dough is properly kneaded is dough consistency, not the time indicated in the recipe. “The dough knows best,” says Geissler. We did not test manual kneading because it requires a lot of experience to master the correct rolling-stretching motion (here Geissler demonstrates how to do this). But even if you only ever use a mixer, it is recommended to get to know the dough and its properties.
 
All machines achieve a high level
Florian Schwitzke, chef at the Swiss embassy who also happened to apprentice at a bakery, evaluated the results with Lutz Geissler. First off: all breads turned out well and the differences between the machines were minor and smaller as the table may suggest. Nevertheless there was a 30 percent difference in volume between the lightest, airiest bread from Häussler and the two firmest ones from Bosch and Kitchenaid. There was also a significant difference when we pressed onto the bread to evaluate how soft and elastic the crumb is. Yet had you only ever kneaded dough with the Bosch MUM and knew nothing about any of the competitors, then you would clearly be happy with your results. This might explains why so many users of online forums are convinced of the merits of their machine.
The bread with the largest volume and the softest crumb was kneaded by the Häussler. No wonder: the machine was designed for especially kneading. The Kenwood Cooking Chef with its professional dough hook KW711659 (the Major model is identical up to the induction cooker) kneaded the dough the best in this test, yet the finished bread is less light and airy than the Häussler bread. The latter has a dough temperature of 26 °C, which is ideally suited for bread structure and volume. The Thermonix was surprising: One might think that the mixing blade only chopped the dough, yet the gluten framework was evenly formed after eight minutes. However, the dough was 4 to 6 °C warmer than any other. That might be a reason why many users are satisfied, rise the dough on this way well and fast, but the aroma and flavours are under developed. A good bread aroma develops only with little yeast, a lot of time and a low dough temperature. The Ankarsrum is a rarity that rotates the bowl. It is effective, but takes considerably more time than all the others. And while the finished bread is similarly light and airy to Häussler’s, it is not as voluminous. The Bosch MUM mixed the dough very well, coming close to that of the Kenwood, but it did not go beyond a moderately kneaded dough. The bread also rose the least and had the firmest crumb. The Kitchenaid worked solidly, but the dough climbed up the hook. While the finished bread is comparable to the Bosch bread, the Kitchenaid came in last place because it costs five times more than the Bosch MUM according to prices offered online.
 
Which machine is the right one?

The Häussler Alpha is ideal for amateur bakers, but with a volume for 3 kilograms of flour and a weight of 29 kilograms, it may be too large for many households. Our recommendation for household baking is the Kenwood Cooking Chef or Major, followed by the Ankarsrum. The small Bosch MUM is suitable for beginners, occasional users and small budgets. The Thermomix is not ideal for regular baking bread because of its high dough temperature. For the Kitchenaid, you spend too much for too little. There are other factors that play an important role when choosing a mixer: in addition to kneading dough, what else do you want to do with the mixer? How often will you use it? Which accessories are available and how good are they? Or: Can you beat egg whites and whip cream with it?

Published
NZZ am Sonntag, 10. May 2015, page 24 – 25: “Von Kleber, Krume und Knetern”

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