Stand mixer recommendations/advice -- from general topics
ACm posted the following on the general topics board:
[I am a new (and young) baker looking for a recommendation for my first stand mixer. I've done some research about the various brands, the machine's functionality, and such. So far I've concluded that KitchenAid is the way to go. For my needs, I think that the Artisan or better will do. The KitchenAid Artisan series is $250 for a 5 quart bowl, a tilt back head, and 325 watts of power. William-Sonoma has their own version of the Artisan, which they call the "Accolade." For 30 dollars more, you get basically the same piece of equipment with more wattage. They also mention "an electronic speed sensor monitors operation to maintain precise mixer speed," a feature description I had yet to come across when I saw it.
KitchenAid also has a newer model called the Professional 5 Plus series, which is seemingly the most difficult to find (and, ironically, seemingly the best deal), which ups the Artisan in power (by 125 watts), is more sturdy bulk-wise, and has a sliding head (up and down). These seem to be popular in chef's kitchens (if not the much 6 series which is around 369 dollars). The Pro 5 plus is 290-300 dollars and seems to be the best deal, being on 50 dollars more than the Artisan, but packing some extra-punch and sturdiness.
Any advice or recommendations you could give would be very helpful indeed!
Oh! One last question. I am also trying to find the best patry tip set to purchase. One for decorating cakes cookies would be nice, but first and foremost, I would like one that has the ability to make eclairs and pate choux and such. Could you recommend me some as well (I think the ones with couplers are the best, no?).
Thanks in advance!!!]
Here's my response:
I can't speak to all the models of Kitchenaid, but I have the Artisan and I love it. I far prefer the tip-back head to the lift/lower bowl, mostly because getting the bowl on and off and changing attachments is quite difficult with the lift/lower bowl models -- to remove the bowl without losing its contents you must remove the beater, drop it into the bowl, take the bowl off, then replace the attachment. As for the different levels of power, 325 watts is plenty for me. Unless you are making heavy bread doughs (e.g. those using large amounts of whole wheat
flour) I doubt you will feel the need for more power.
I have the Pro 6, and I don't find it much of a hassle to remove the beater to take the bowl out. I sometimes want to stir with the beater by hand for a few final strokes anyway. Plus, since the head doesn't move, I can sit it on the counter under a cabinet.
I personally wouldn't spend the extra money for the WS version but a good deal of this is based on my opinion that they overprice anyway (yes, I'm cranky). However I wouldn't get anything but a Kitchenaid. We had a basic tilt-head Kitchenaid that worked for 20 years (and my wife used it a lot) before it started making some distressing noises (but still ran). So we gave it to my son and then bought a new stand model. As far as I know he's still using the old one!
My advice: more power really is better with the kitchen aid. My artisan model struggled yesterday with bread dough that included 6 cups of flour. Still did it, but a stronger motor would have helped.
Also, I don't like the tilt-back head. The way the bowl attaches is a kind of screw motion of the bowl to the base of the kitchen aid. I found that after doing some heavy mixing, that it gets extremely difficult to "screw" the bowl off the base. It's like heavy mixing tightens the sucker so it is nearly impossible to remove. I literally have to wrap one arm around the whole kitchen aid, then yank the handle of the bowl just to free it. with the larger models, you just raise the head of the model and lift to bowl off of those posts. Much preferred in my mind.
anyhow, to summarize. With a kitchen aid, bigger is better. And more powerful is too...
Buy a Kitchenaid. If you want a 5 qt, buy the Professional Plus. But if you do, as soon as you use a 6 qt you'll ask yourself why you didn't buy one in the 1st place. Once you buy the 6 qt., you'll wonder how you ever managed to make anything with the 5.
For pastry tips, buy Ateco's 10 piece pastry tube sets (one plain & one star). They'll cover all your needs. As for couplers, I've never used one.
You might want to take a look at the DeLonghi 5-quart stand mixer, 780 watts, for $299 at www.chefscatalog.com.
Delonghi bought Kenwood a few years ago. I have a 12-year old Kenwood that I bought at Williams Sonoma when I got married. At the time, I couldn't decide whether I wanted a Kitchen Aid or a Kenwood. Williams Sonoma carried both models. Since I am an avid bread baker, the saleswoman recommended the Kenwood because it had a 600 watt motor--more powerful than the Kitchen Aid they were selling at the time.
My mother and aunt, who are avid cooks, both have Kenwoods. My sister-in-law has a Kitchen Aid. When they have Christmas cookie-dough making sessions, my sister-in-law's Kitchen Aid has been known to conk out from overheating while the Kenwoods keep going strong.
I recently bought the 7-quart Delongi stand mixer because I needed more capacity than my Kenwood 5- quart could give. Delongi has made some design changes, most of which are definite improvements, and I am just as happy with the new Delonghi as I am with the old Kenwood.
I have never owned a Kitchenaid, so I cannot truly compare them. I know many people who love their Kitchen Aid. But based on wattage alone, I believe the Delongi mixers are more powerful than the KitchenAids. For me, this is important when mixing bread dough and stiff cookie dough--especially when I need to make large batches.
Regarding pastry tips, I bought a very nice 25-piece set (Ateco brand) at Smart & Final here in the Los Angeles area for about $25. I always use a coupler, especially when decorating cakes, because I can switch between different tips without having to change the bag. Also, when I pipe choux pastry dough for profiteroles, I use just the coupler with no tip and let the choux pile up into a little mound--it works very well. If you are looking for a Bismarck tip (a kind of long tip for filling eclairs and cream puffs) you might want to check out Sweet Celebrations/Maid of Scandinavia. That's where I bought mine.