Bake Better: Hand Mixers for Great Cakes, Cookies and Breads
The secret to featherlight cakes with perfect crust and crumb? It’s all in the mixer.
Somewhere between a stick blender and one of those enormous food processors sits the humble hand mixer. If you’re a devotee of cakes, breads, meringues and cookies, you need one in your life. They take almost all of the heavy lifting out of baking. Depending on which model you opt for—many come with additional attachments—you can go from basic beating to whisking egg whites into stiff peaks, kneading bread dough, creating light and airy pancake batters and whipping cream.
When you’re picking a hand mixer, several factors will come into play. Your budget is one of them, but you also need to think about what you need to use it for. Like most electric kitchen tools, hand mixers are available in a range of different powers, from around 150 watts and upwards. The more power in your motor, the more likely it is to be able to deal with stiff mixtures without grinding to a halt. You’ll also want to check out how many speeds it has. Not everything requires max power—sometimes you might want to turn a lighter hand to your work to, say, avoid over whipping cream, so look for something that offers you these options.
While a couple of regular beaters will take you through an awful lot of cookery tasks, if you regularly make bread and want to shortcut the kneading process, look for a dough hook attachment. If light-as-air meringues are your thing, you might want to switch out those beaters for a whisk that will incorporate more air. Some mixers will come with all the attachments you need, while some will require you buy them separately so make sure you know what’s in the box when you purchase.
If you’re only ever going to use your mixer to make things in a metal, plastic or china mixing bowl, you probably don’t need to worry about what your accessories are made from. But if you’re looking for something that can help blend a custard in a non-stick pan, then it pays to think about investing in a product that uses nylon beaters, rather than metal ones, to avoid scratching your pans. Plastic may not sound like it has the strength and longevity of stainless steel, but these days it’s common to use a reinforced type of nylon that can handle tough mixes without damage to non-stick surfaces.
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