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pastry with a hand mixer

i am a pastry chef going on a sort-of extended vacation; I'll be living in London for four months, and unless I find myself subletting from another pastry chef, i doubt the apartment will come fitted with a stand mixer.

here's the thing: i haven't used a hand mixer since i was about ten years old, mixing duncan hines cake with my mom. i have no idea what they're like these days.

can anyone tell me about their experiences making classic pastry items (tart doughs, choux, danish, meringues, etc etc) with hand mixers? is it possible? i've read through the boards and noticed that people need to uniformly recommend the kitchenaid hand mixer....do you guys think that would cut it for most pastry items?

i'm not going to be doing any large-scale production while i'm there; in fact, i may just be baking for fun/friends, or i may get a few catering jobs.

i'd like to avoid shipping a stand mixer to europe...if at all possible, and buying one there seems prohibitively expensive.

thanks!

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  1. A hand mixer will be fine for most things. Meringues might be a challenge, depends on the total amount & whether your hand mixer is worth a hoot. As for tart dough, I do this entirely by hand with no problems, so you can certainly do it with a hand mixer. Danish dough is also completely doable by hand....it's sticky, but not that sticky. And I make choux with nothing more than a wooden spoon.

    I wouldn't try to make royal icing or enough meringue for a multi-layered dacquoise with a hand mixer....

    1. Hi, I had a similar experience when I was separated from my moving boxes for a year. (Don't ask!) At first I felt like a pioneer woman doing everything by hand, but then I came to like it. Tart doughs, piecrusts, etc. I found easiest with a wire pastry blender. Choux and meringues were fine with a hand mixer. (I ended up getting a 3-speed KA hand mixer on sale.) The most difficult task was whipping cream. Everything takes longer with a hand mixer, so it runs the risk of becoming butter.

      But there's always a silver lining: My breads greatly improved! With hand kneading I became aware of even the slightest differences in hydration, and even now, several years later, I knead by hand.

      Enjoy your stay in London!

      5 Replies
      1. re: bakergal

        I'm puzzled about these claims of a stand mixer being superior for things like whipping cream and egg whites. Admittedly my only experience with a stand mixer is with the one my mom had years ago. But I am quite happy with the speed of my Braun hand mixer when whipping things. I wonder if it has something to do with the design of the beaters. The Braun ones are made from thick wire with a twist. RPMs of the mixer may also matter.

        I'm sure for heavy duty things like dough the stand is better, though my hand mixer does have dough hooks. And the stand is going to be better for large quantities. The plastic bowl that came with my mixer is only 6cups (to the brim).

        paulj

        1. re: paulj

          Your Braun sounds like a better hand mixer. My KA came with only one set of beaters, no dough hooks. Just as well, because it has nowhere near the power (torque?) to knead dough.

          1. re: paulj

            My braun died on me when I made one too many batches of biscotti. I like my KA hand mixer but I'd never use a hand mixer with bread dough. Doing it by hand seems so much easier to control. For a long time I made everything with a handmixer or two knives (for cutting pastry). I've gotten a food processor since and use that to make pastry but haven't gotten a stand mixer yet. I've been shamed by my mom who told me they'd use chopsticks to beat egg whites to stiffness for cake.

            1. re: chowser

              I'm always surprised what can be done with chopsticks, but this is the most amazing! Do you know the particulars? Were just two chopsticks used, or were, say, four held together in a whisk-like configuration? Do you have any idea how long it took? It sounds like great punishment for misbehaving children, lol.

              1. re: bakergal

                No, I've never seen it done. My mon was talking about those sponge cakes that you steam and how they used to beat the egg whites with chopsticks. I assume it's just with two. This was a LONG time ago, and before electric mixers were common. It was a big deal when we got that manual eggbeater.

        2. A friend of mine was shocked when I told her I mixed most of my baked goods by hand (not even with a hand mixer). She couldn't live without her stand mixer. I had to remind her that people have been baking for millenia without a Kitchenaid!

          1. thanks, everyone; this is very encouraging!

            hand mixer and pastry blender it is....

            i do enjoy doing stuff by hand, and i have to remind myself that i no longer have to prep for hundreds of servings. :)

            but even if there is a way to make italian meringue buttercream by hand, i don't think i want to know about it! :)

            1. Like most everyone else I also do most of my pastry related tasks by hand. Meringues only use a mixer if there are in excess of 4 egg whites! Anyway, I am in London, my hand mixer came from IKEA 6 years ago and is still going strong, I made stacks of marshmallows with it only 2 weeks ago so it can stand long usage. It's pretty basic, I'm not sure I've ever used the dough hooks so I can't vouch for them, I wouldn't swear that the two different speeds are at all different. All I know is that 6 years ago IKEA had a hand mixer for £10 and mine had just died. Now my magimix, that I could no longer live without. I hope you enjoy your stay and share your thoughts on all things food when you get here!