If you are just starting out with bread baking you are probably thinking whether you need to buy bread machine or a kitchen mixer to help you with your new hobby.
I certainly get asked this question nearly every time I run my Introduction to Bread Baking Course and I usually answer: Well, it depends!
For a start, you really don't need any mixer or bread maker to bake a delicious bread. Your hands are the best kneading machine you can have in your kitchen!
But if you wanted to make your load a little lighter and still needed to decide whether to buy bread machine or a kitchen mixer to help with your bread baking, here is what I think:
That depends on what you want to do. Some people have both, because they use them both for two very different things. There is nothing like waking up to freshly baked bread when you use the delay function on your bread maker, but there is also nothing like a mixer for complicated cake or biscuits recipes that would leave your arms worn out without a mixer.
Easy to use - just add ingredients, set the bread maker to the right programme and forget about it! Perfect for busy families and when you want to bake your own bread, but simply don't have the time to do hand kneading, prooving, shaping and baking in the traditional oven.
Most makers have a 'delayed button' which means that you can get your bread dough ready in the evening and wake up to a freshly baked bread.
You can use the bread maker to mix and knead your dough and then take it out to shape and finish your bread in the normal oven.
If you have a good model, you can also use it for jam making. In fact a lot of people I know gave up making their bread in the bread maker and just use it now for marmalade & jam making. It's much more reliable then on a hob, no mess and easy to use.
Very affordable to buy. Of course you can buy top of the range bread maker for over £200, but you can also pick one up from £20.
You can only make one bread shape - obviously...
The bread is being baked 'from inside' (the mixing paddles act as heating mechanism when the bread bakes), which means that you can't achieve as good crust as with oven bake.
Most bread makers are quite bulky, so check your kitchen space and plan where you are going to keep your kitchen maker.
More versatile then bread maker - useful for cake mixes, light egg mixtures etc. You will definitely get more use out of your kitchen mixer as there are many attachments you can use for bread and cake making.
Great for sticky doughs like sweat bread doughs or italian ciabatta.
Make sure you do a proper research before you buy your kitchen mixer. Most modern mixers and especially the fancy looking ones, are not actually made for regular use. This might surprise you, but if you use your mixer once or twice a week, then you are probably fine. If you use your kitchen mixer every single day to knead bread dough, the chances are that the mixer mechanism will break really quickly. Unfortunately some mixers are made with plastic parts or not particually quality metals, which are simply not strong enough to knead bread dough all the time.
Most new kitchen mixers, especially in the cheaper range have plastic gears. Older models have metal gears, but even the most expensive kitchen mixers that have metal gears have them often attached to plastic parts.
Older mixers are actually really good, especially if you can get hold of one with all metal parts. An old kitchen mixer in a good condition will last you probably longer then brand new one. I've had many people telling me that their kitchen mixer made 25 years ago is still working perfectly and were surprised when somebody else mentioned that they have the same make kitchen mixer bought recently which broke just after the warranty expired.
But if you are buying a new kitchen mixer, just use it for lighter doughts (like ciabattas, sweet dough etc.) rather then just normal bread all the time.
As you are doing your kitchen mixer research make sure that your check the engine strength and the wattage output. The stronger the better, especially if you mainly want to use it for bread baking.
The other thing to bear in mind, is that you can only make one (maximum) two batches of dough in one go. If you try to mix much more than that, you might again find that the mixer is struggling and after while the mixer gears might give up. When I bake for the whole week, I usually triple my bread dough recipe (about 1.8 kg flour) which is a dough that's about 3 kg in weight. Kneading this by hand is certainly a good workout, but it's not impossible. It also takes about the same time as it would take to knead just one batch. I've not come across a domestic kitchen mixer that could take more than about 2 kg in weight and that's one the main reasons why I don't actually have one.
Kitchen Mixer can be fairly expensive investment. Whilst I've seen kitchen mixers for £50 I'm really not sure how long such model would last (especially if you are thinking of using it for bread baking). Most decent models start from £150, but if you are serious about your baking you'd be probably looking at the £400 range.
I'm sure that by now you've realised that such a simple question as 'should I buy bread maker or a kitchen mixer for my bread baking', is not as easy to answers as it seems.
So, If your recently bought bread maker or kitchen mixer, how did you get on? Why one would you recommend? Do let me know in the comments below.
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