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Kitchenaid Woes

Melodramatic title notwithstanding, here's what's happening with our Kitchenaid mixer. We were given an "Artisan" for Christmas last year. In addition to the mixer, we also got the pasta roller set.

The first idiosyncrasy I noticed was that when using the hook to make a thick pasta dough in accordance with the recipe helpfully included inside the pasta roller book, the Kitchenaid began to moan and stall like a union steward the day before a strike. "RRR-rrr-R---Rr---RR-r"

The hook would pin the stiff dough against the side of the bowl and the machine would stall. A couple of times since then, making similar doughs, the thing has actually stalled out completely. Though tempted to let it sit there and decide its own fate, I have intervened, shutting it off and rearranging stuff before immolation commenced.

Then, the other day, I start the thing up to make a batter and next thing I know, the whole powerhead is knocking up and down and the mixer blade is banging the bottom of the bowl like a steel drum. Turned out that the hinge pin in the back of the thing had worked its way out and the weight of the powerhead was being supported entirely by the mad dancing of the mixer paddle.

So I fixed that by shoving the pin back in, but now, there's this:

Dough is no longer content to remain in the bowl. I have lately taken a shine to baking basic sourdough bread. Sourdough has only flour, water, salt, and starter culture. It does not use, according to the recipes I am using, any sort of fats or oils. I am trying to remain true to that notion at this stage of experimentation, but I am having trouble doing so. My recipe starts with a sponge, a mixture of starter culture, flour, and enough water to make what is really a thick batter. You let that sit until it begins to bubble like crazy, then you add more flour and salt and knead it until you get a nice, elastic, dough.

Well, the raison dêtre for this thing is that it knead the dough for its lazy master. It doesn't. What it does do is turn the beautiful dough into a snarling cobra whose only goal is to climb the hook and eat the grease issuing from the gears. Yup, the dough jumps right over the guard and climbs the maypole.

Panic stop. Pull the greasy dough off the spindle and shove the rest of the mix back in the bowl, reset, and the whole thing happens again. Today I tried lifting the powerhead up a bit to see if it might help. It does, but then the machine doesn't knead, it just spins the cobra by its head.

I am beginning to find this machine annoying. Is there a basic weakness of the design when it comes to handling fat-poor/absent doughs or am I an idiot?

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  1. Call 'em. Complain. Ask what they can do to fix it?
    Don't hesitate to start a forceful dialog with the people there in Customer Service.

    1. Did you try "calibrating" the bowl setting? I wonder if that could be the source of the problem.

      1. On the Kitchenaid forum there were several complaints about mixing pasta which sound much like your experience. I do my pasta dough in my processor which is much faster and more efficient. To get the right texture for pasta, the dough is very hard, it feels almost like cement with no give. That's hard for any mixer to work. The processor with the slicing blade gets the dough nicely blended with little fuss and I finish it by hand.

        As for soft bread dough climbing the dough hook, that is fairly common. I don't know if the Artisan has the bowl lifter or not. If it does, you can lower the bowl while mixing which usually will pull the dough off the hook. I saw Steve Sullivan (Acme Bread) demonstrate this when he was a guest on Baking with Julia. It works like a charm. If you have the hinged powerhead, I guess you have to stop the motor and pull the dough off.

        1. I had that problem with the dough climbing the hook. I solved it by dividing the batch in half and doing it twice. I hope that's a possibility.

          1. >am I an idiot?

            No. You can't write like that and be an idiot. I'm diggin' your handle.

            1. My first KA was an Accolade model. The salesperson at Williams-Sonoma advised me to get that model, so I did, and I had a similar problem with making pasta. The motor sounded like it was working very hard, would slow way down, and got very very hot. I think that it was just plain not powerful enough. I took it back to WS and exchanged it for the Professional 600 and now I'm so happy, and churn out pasta and bread with ease!

              1. I've had mine 30 years and I think I've managed to get it to stall out once. And I regularly do double batches of cookies and 8-cups-of-flour bread doughs in my 5qt model.

                I also use the pasta roller and I L-O-V-E it! I stir the eggs and whatever oil/liquid together with a fork and then use the dough hook to mix the pasta dough.

                When someone mentioned having the bowl calibrated that sounds like a good idea to me. So does letting them know how unhappy you are. People buy KitchenAid because of the reputation of the older machines like mine. If they don't build the same quality, it won't take very long to build a *new* reputation that could dog them for years to come.

                But — here's the good news — when I had a problem with a KA blender I bought in the last 5 years, I called and they sent me a rebuilt upgrade. It's been whirlin' away and doing a great job for somewhere between 3-4 years. And I've never forgotten the rapid, helpful response I got. And now that I'm replacing all the appliances in my kitchen I will probably go KA based on that experience.

                1. I too use the processor for pizza dough, it is great.

                  The couple of times I used the KA for dough I had the riding up problem.

                  The calibrating idea is a good one.

                  I have heard good things about KA customer service, so yes give them a call.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: hummingbird

                    With respect to the calibrating - even though it seems like a simple thing that shouldn't cause the problems you are having, if it isn't set properly, it causes everything to be "off kilter" and the machine therefore does not operate properly.

                  2. I wish to thank all respondents for their helpful suggestions. Calling the company is something I will probably do if the KA ever manages to chew itself to death on a hunk of stiff dough. But it will probably have to come to that for me to ever return it. It was a gift from our sweet daughters, you see, and though it may have "issues", it is also a lovely green color and it fits under the counter and my wife is pretty sentimental about it.

                    I agree wholeheartedly with the comments on the pasta roller set. They are great quality and make perfect fresh pasta. My youngest daughter has the ravioli maker and with the whole set of attachments we have been able to knock out some really great dishes. Last batch was a crab-spinach-cheese ravioli. Yum.

                    So anyway, I have searched in vain for mention of how to "calibrate" the bowl. There is only one adjustment mentioned in the owners manual and that is setting the beater clearance which is accomplished by use of an adjusting screw nestled at the joint of the power head. Does adjusting that equal "bowl calibration" or is there something else to tweak?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: axesbowledaslove

                      Yes - that's what I mean - sorry for my confusing terminology - obviously I've not done it for awhile!

                      1. re: axesbowledaslove

                        Can you tell me more about how the ravioli maker works? After the joy that the pasta roller is compared with trying to crank pasta on one end of a traditional roller while catching and handling an ever-longer piece on the business end, I seriously thought about adding the ravioli maker to my pantry. But I can't imagine what the coordination of feeding pasta and bits of filling at speed would be like.

                        Meanwhile, have you tried mixing your pasta dough with the dough hook? I have good success with it. OTOH, I never tried doing it with the paddle since pasta dough is so much more similar to a bread dough than a batter.

                      2. Thank you for the clarification, MMRuth. I will try it!

                        Rainey, to answer you last question first, I only use the paddle for mixing the dry ingredients. Once I begin to add the eggs and small amount of water required for pasta dough I switch to the hook.

                        The ravioli maker is not really powered by the machine at all. It has a hand crank and is powered strictly with careful turning of the handle. You use the pasta roller (powered, as you know) to roll your sheets of dough. Once these are suitably thin, you pull the roller out and stick the ravioli attachment into the machine. At this point, all the machine is really doing is acting as a stand for the ravioli gizmo. There is a removable plastic hopper on top of the ravioli maker. You remove it, take a sheet of pasta and holding it by the ends, place the midpoint of the dough into the ravioli rollers. Then, you fold one flap towards the rear and the other to the front. This allows you to replace the hopper and load it with filling.

                        Now, you just spoon in the filling, pressing it down into the hopper to feed it while the rollers drive the sheet of ravioli out of the bottom of the device. You turn the crank slowly, a little at a time, while you work the filling down.

                        You have to guage how much filling to continue to put in by how much of that particular sheet of dough is left. When you get it just right, the last of that batch of filling is used up in the last row of ravioli!

                        It works pretty well and the fresh pasta/filling really beats the frozen stuff hands down.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: axesbowledaslove

                          So, if I'm understanding you, I could really do the job just as well by kneading and rolling out my pasta with the KA pasta roller and then sandwich the filling between 2 sheets of dough on my own cutting board and, using one of those Italian plastic templates, crimp and separate 6 raviolis at a time with pressure applied with a rolling pin to the template?

                          No matter: the fresh pasta and fresh filling combined with the ease of kneading and rolling is the big deal.

                          Don't forget to make fresh egg noodles for chicken soup! Mmmmm, mmmmm good like Campbell's never even thought about! ;->

                          1. re: rainey

                            Pretty much yes, except for I don't know one blasted thing about ravioli templates, rainey. I am something of a Philistine when it comes to ravioli. I had never made it before we tried it with the ravioli maker! I suppose if the width of the template is about the right size to match the sheets of dough and waste is minimized then it ought to be great just doing it that way. Better possibly, as you have to remove the pasta roller from the machine in order to mount the ravioli maker. Using your method you can have one person cranking out sheets of pasta and another making the ravioli at the same time.

                            Funny you should mention the great noodles. I use it make perfect egg noodles for soup, but my wife thinks they look too nice! They come out so perfect they remind her of a can of Progresso or something. Without putting too fine a point on it, she's a rustic sort.

                            1. re: axesbowledaslove

                              Mabbee they *look* too perfect, but there's no comparison to the flavor! Hot, fresh noodles feel just like "love" in my stomach! ;->

                              That could be why they're found all around the globe...