Until the first electric cake mixer was invented in 1908, womenfolk the world over tireless and painstakingly did all their batter and dough mixing in the kitchen by hand, powered by no more than sheer muscle strength and stamina. Today we have so many types and brands of cake mixers, the options can be confusing.Inside
1. What’s Out There
Hand, stand, planetary, spiral – do not let these terms faze you. There are really only two types of electric cake mixers: hand mixers and stand mixers. Hand mixers are, as their name suggests, hand-held mixers. They come in two forms: the immersion blender (also known as the stick mixer or stick blender) and the hand mixer itself. The immersion blender is a single shaft with beaters at the end.
The hand mixer features a handle mounted over an enclosed lightweight motor that powers the beaters.
Stand mixers are mixers where the motor driving the rotary action is mounted in a frame or stand allowing them to stand alone either on the counter top or floor. For home use, there are two popular types of stand mixers: spiral and planetary.
Spiral mixers have spiral-shaped agitators that remain stationary while the bowls rotate. With planetary mixers, the agitator moves around the static bowl.
2. What You Want to Make
What type of mixer you buy depends on what you want to do with the mixer. Immersion blenders are great for pureeing soups and baby food as well as emulsifying sauces. They are lightweight and handy but can only manage small amounts.
Hand mixers are like the whisks of old with an upgraded power source. What would once have taken 20 minutes to half an hour to achieve by hand can now be done in less than five minutes. They are as portable as the immersion blenders but more powerful, with more speed controls to choose from. Easy to store, easy to take out and clean, they are perfect for moderate baking done on occasion.
The stand mixer’s plus points are its power, size, and multiple functions. It comes with multiple beaters and special attachments that allow it to do different things. The spiral mixer, for example is particularly adept at kneading dough. Because its agitators remain stationery during the mixing, it can mix the dough without increasing its temperature, ensuring the dough will rise properly. Spiral mixers are, therefore, excellent for different types of bread dough and even pie dough, scones, and biscuits.
Planetary mixers have versatility on their side. Using the paddle attachment, the planetary mixer can blend and cream mixtures; the whip can be used to aerate ingredients to create meringue, sponge cake, whipped cream, and mousse; and the dough hook can be used to create bread and pizza bases. The spiral mixer can neither whip nor blend.
For the serious baker who intends to create different types of baked goods of a sizeable amount, the stand mixer is a must. On the minus side, they are larger and harder to clean than hand mixers.
3. How Much You Want to Make
What type of mixer you want also depends on how much you want to make. Hand mixers are great for making small batches of several things because you do not have to change bowls.
Stand mixers allow you to blend, whip, knead, and mix in large quantities for long periods of time. They are also excellent time-savers because you can simply leave the machine to mix on their own. They are only limited by the capacity of their bowls.
4. How Often You Want to Use It
If you are going to be baking regularly, invest in a planetary mixer. Go for one with a five- to six-quart bowl. A bowl that size can accommodate enough batter for 13 dozen cookies and eight loaves of bread. A locking-tilt feature is also important. This means that when the beaters are lifted, they remain in that position and will not crash into the bowl when weighed down by dough or batter. Look out also for stability so the mixer will not tilt easily at high speeds.
5. How Much You Want to Spend
The final consideration is, of course, cost. Electric mixers can cost anything between under S$50 to a few thousand dollars depending on the power and features offered. The Kenwood Kitchen Machine (S$1499), for example, has an electronic timer built and comes with an array of optional attachments that allow you to chop, grate, slice, whisk, knead, mince, mix, grind, mill, blend, and even squeeze.
In the end, the best mixer is the one that best fits your needs. And with all that you now know about the cake mixer, getting the right mix of things will be a synch!
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