Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's On: The Bread Machine vs. The KitchenAid Stand Mixer

(I drew this myself! Which probably explains why I've switched creative outlets, from drawing and painting to writing and baking.)

After a recent Facebook discussion about the relative merits of making homemade bread with a bread machine vs. a KitchenAid stand mixer, I--a firm advocate of the KitchenAid mixer method--became curious about exactly how much hands-on time it requires to make a loaf of bread in one.

The Timed Experiment

I started making a two-loaf batch of oatmeal bread at 1:40 this afternoon, and took it out of the oven at 3:55. That's two hours and 15 minutes (which is actually less time than I expected; I always tell people that making homemade bread takes "three or four hours," but maybe I'm just trying to add to the home bread-baker's reputation and mystique, and garner the awe and respect of non-bread-bakers [kind of like that Rice Krispies Treats commercial where the mom throws flour on herself before emerging from the kitchen to make her family believe that making RKTs is a Really Big Deal]), BUT while I was making it, I kept track of all the actual hands-on time it required, and you may be surprised at the total: 14 minutes. That's right, 14 minutes. And I ended up with two loaves of bread, not one. And this oatmeal bread recipe is one that requires cooking the oatmeal and letting it cool before mixing the bread; using my other oatmeal bread recipe, in which I throw the oats into the bowl with the flour, would probably have saved me two whole minutes.

Here's how it broke down:

Put water on to boil; add oats, salt, and butter (actually, the recipe only calls for a tablespoon of butter and I usually substitute canola oil in case I end up freezing one loaf and taking it out when Vegan Daughter happens to visit) and stir--2 minutes. (While it was cooking, then cooling, I washed some dishes and cleaned the kitchen a little, so that time doesn't count; I was going to have to wash those dishes eventually anyway, and they had nothing to do with the bread-making.)

Mix yeast, warm water, and a little sugar in my KitchenAid bowl--1 minute. (Back to cleaning the kitchen for five minutes while it proofed.)

Add the oat mixture, brown sugar, molasses, and flour to the bowl while mixing; turn out on the counter and knead for a few seconds by hand (I think this step is totally unnecessary. I just do it so I can feel At One With The Bread; it's a holdover from the days when I kneaded all my bread by hand and considered it something akin to a religious experience); put in a greased bowl and set someplace warm to rise--6 minutes. (Yes, that's all. When I used to knead by hand, I never kneaded for less than 10 minutes, but the mixer is more efficient and five minutes will do it.)

After about 40 minutes, punch dough down, divide in half, and place in greased pans--2 minutes. (I used the rising time to tear the house apart looking for the pencil drawing I did of my KitchenAid mixer seven years ago when I was taking a drawing class, and to scan it so I could use it here.)

After about 25 more minutes, turn on the oven to preheat--1 minute. (It doesn't take that long, of course, but I had to walk from the computer to the kitchen and back.)

After about 10 minutes, put the loaves in the oven--1 minute.

After 30 minutes, take them out--1 minute.

So that's it--14 minutes of hands-on time for two loaves of "real" bread.

You can buy a cheap bread machine for around $50 or $60 now, and a fairly good one (I'm making an assumption about quality here--it's a Cuisinart, so it should be fairly good, right?) for a little over $100. Or, if you want to, you can spend over $200 for something called a Zojirushi Home Baker that makes a 2-pound loaf and brags that it can also be used to make several other things, among them quick breads, cake, and jam. (Seriously, jam? In a bread machine?)

A quick, unscientific review of information about bread machines available on line seems to indicate that they only last a couple of years with regular use. I got my KitchenAid mixer for Christmas in 1986 and it's still going strong after what I calculate to be somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 loaves of bread. That number doesn't include the estimated 5,000 loaves I made during the two years when I ran the bakery, because I mixed those in this awesome 12-quart mixer, which still lives in a corner of the former bakery kitchen, and which I refuse to part with because it's handy when I get the urge to make 6 or 8 loaves of bread at a time (something that happens more often than you might think).

I don't want a bread machine, partly because of the cost, but mostly because I don't have room in my kitchen to house an appliance that, let's be honest here, only does one thing well. (I would love to know just what percentage of Zojirushi Home Baker owners have actually used the thing to make jam.) A KitchenAid stand mixer takes up about the same amount of counterspace, and I use mine just about every time I bake--for bread, cakes, cookie dough--and I bake a lot. (Way too much. Way, way too much. Weigh, weigh, weigh too much.)

Also, should you be so inclined (surprisingly, I never have been, but someday I might), you can buy attachments for your KitchenAid that will enable you to do some pretty diverse things with food: slice, shred, and grind everything from veggies to meat; stuff sausage; mix, roll, and cut pasta (even ravioli!); juice citrus fruits; make ice cream; and open cans. (Yes, a $50 can-opener attachment is one of the optional accessories listed on the KitchenAid site. Who knew?)

C'mon, bread machine...show me what you got. Yeah...I didn't think so.

8 comments:

  1. Wow! Perfect timing for this post. I'm just in the middle of deciding between a KitchenAid mixer and a bread machine. This helps a lot. Thanks!

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  2. My mom's Kitchen Aid mixer is collecting dust on top of my refrigerator. Now I feel obligated to think about using it, but I expect the feeling will pass pretty quickly. I love your "weigh, weigh too much" observation. When we got our cow last year, I was making lots of cheese with the extra milk and instantly put on 7 pounds which are with me today. Then we got a couple of pigs to feed the milk to. Next project: how to make bacon.

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  3. C'mon "Harriet", that's a GREAT drawing of a mixer! Me, I can only "draw" things that look ok when made with a straight-edge, and which are exactly 1 color: white.

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  4. Wow, I totally need to get your bread recipe. The one I tried (for 100% whole wheat bread) needed to rise twice, for like an hour each time (once for a "sponge" before adding the flour) before being put in the pans (then an additional hour), and ended up taking a LOT longer than yours. 'Course that could just be the hazards of whole wheat, I don't know. But to compensate, the bread was WAY yummier than anything my stupid dead machine (which is 9.5 years old) has made in a long time, plus I had a great feeling of satisfaction (and plenty of flour on my front, no worries about looking industrious here!)

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  5. Nice blog post, just ordered my KitchenAid instead of a bread machine.

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