Stand Mixer, Bread Maker, or Ice Cream/Sorbet Maker?
I have some birthday $$ which I want to use to buy a kitchen appliance.
I already have a Cuisinart which I don't use nearly as often as I should. For some reason, I still chop everything by hand -- just can't get used to the idea of automation in that arena -- and I haven't explored its other capabilities yet. (Tips and tricks welcome!)
I've narrowed my choices down to a stand mixer, a bread maker, and an ice cream maker. I'd love to hear people's experiences with all three of these things. The mixer, I can pretty much guess how well it will work. But what about bread makers & ice cream makers? Are you happy with what you end up with? Is it worth the $$? Any brand suggestions? Also, are a stand mixer & Cuisinart redundant?
This post may belong on Not About Food, though I'm really wanting people's comments on useful these items are in their home cooking.
I don't think that a stand mixer and a food processor are redundant - I use them both for different things - the former for making yeast doughs, cakes and cookies, as well as for whipping cream, and the latter to chop, slice etc. in bulk, as well as to make pesto and pastry doughs. I have a Krups ice cream maker that has been dented out of work, sadly, but I would go for a stand mixer before the other two items you mention. I've been very happy with my KitchenAid, and I believe it has an ice cream attachment (as well as many other attachments), though I don't know how well it works. But, the choice also depends on what you anticipate making - if you are dying to make a lot of ice creams, I'd go with an ice cream maker, for example. That said, I think a stand mixer is a good basic to have.
I would second the vote for the stand mixer, especially since all three of your choices will require about the same amount of counter/storage space. I have a cuisinart as well and use it all the time for making salad dressings and sauces, chopping, pastry doughs, and basic blending tasks (my roommate told me that her quality of life seriously improved after I received the cuisinart). That being said, there are many times and recipes that I wish "if only i had a nice mixer", so I don't think it would be redundant purchase. Good luck and happy birthday!
I have all three of these appliances, plus a food processor. The one I use the most, and would save in a fire, is my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. And I only bake about a dozen times a year - but it's wonderful when I do.
The poor bread maker sits abandoned on the counter after a brief flurry of use in its first year. Bread-machine bread tastes kinda steamed, not baked, and doesn't match the quality of the best baked bread. I find that I just go to my neighborhood bakery instead. (If I were a bread baker, I would use the dough hook on the Kitchen Aid to knead my own bread and pizza dough.)
And while an ice cream maker is nice, you can probably get away with a really inexpensive one - mine was about $35 - or use your Cuisinart to whizz up tray-frozen sorbet and ice cream.
I say go for a great stand mixer! I've had my Kitchen Aid for at least 15 years, and it's still as wonderful and reliable as ever.
Note that a stand mixer is not a substitute for a food processor. I'm like you; I hand chop most things when I'm cooking. But last weekend, I made an almond plum tart that required ground almonds and stiffly beaten egg whites - I had both the Cuisinart and the Kitchen Aid mixer going at the same time! The bread machine just looked on in lonely sadness...
I am not a huge fan of cooking gadgets. That being said, I really like having access to a stand mixer. I've used it more than I've thought to make nice doughs for breads, cakes and cookies. I also love making frostings as well! :)
In this order: stand mixer and ice cream maker. I just refuse to believe good bread can be made in a bread maker.