Whole-grain bread: healthy for us, death for appliances
March 20, 2010 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I recently fulfilled my wife's lifelong dream of owning a KitchenAid mixer. It was a used Epicurean 475-watt beast that was in great shape. That was about a month ago. Now we have the paperweight to beat all paperweights and I need help finding a replacement.

You see, the problem is that she uses it almost exclusively for kneading whole-grain bread dough which, as it turns out, is hell on a mixer. It seems a large percentage of the negative reviews find on "pro-sumer" level mixers are from people who kill them trying to make whole-grain bread.

Having done a little more research I think even the best KitchenAids are out of the running. The Cuisinart looked decent until I saw the horror stories of dealing with warranty repairs. The Bosch Universal looks the best, but that thing is ugly as a war wound. I guess we could live with it if we have to...

Our limit is about $400... maaaaybe $450 for a whole-grain stomping, fire-breathing beast - if such a thing exists.

So please, if there's anyone out there with experience making bread dough that would cause a standard mixer to cower in fear, I could use your help! Thanks!
posted by jluce50 to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Stop kneading? The "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day" series was an eye-opener re: kneading. They have a "Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a Day" for whole grain breads. We haven't eaten anything except homemade bread since I discovered this book.
posted by hecho de la basura at 8:42 AM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

When I asked my kitchen-geek wife your question, she immediately said "Viking." Poking around on Amazon, it seems they do have a model in your price range that gets very positive reviews.
posted by Gilbert at 8:45 AM on March 20, 2010

Also: what hecho de la basura says. Jim Lahey's book of no-knead bread recipes is less than twenty bucks. I haven't tried his whole-wheat bread, but his pizza dough and his white bread are excellent.
posted by Gilbert at 8:51 AM on March 20, 2010

My CIA-trained sibling recommends Viking mixers (actually their first response was Hobart but that may not fit in most home kitchens ...)
posted by needled at 8:51 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Blendtec mixer. We've had ours for 10 years and still going strong.
posted by luvmywife at 8:55 AM on March 20, 2010

I have a Delonghi, and love it. I bought it a few years ago, after doing a ton of research online.
If you can find it, this one rocks.
posted by newpotato at 8:56 AM on March 20, 2010

Any chance of repairing the KitchenAid? Assuming you aren't in some sterile new suburb, there might be an appliance repair place in your town. They can give you an estimate which might beat getting a new machine. My personal rule of thumb: if repair is less than 60% of the price a new one, I fix the old one. Other personal rule of thumb: look for the dusty old places that have spare parts dating back to the 1950s and a wizened old guy who's fixed damn near everything over the years.
posted by Quietgal at 10:07 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Vitamix, using the dry blade.
posted by Melismata at 10:47 AM on March 20, 2010

Response by poster: @Quietgal: Repairing may be an option but I'm pretty sure this unit just isn't up to the task of mixing whole wheat bread.

@newpotato: I believe the the Delonghi was purchased by Cuisinart and has been reincarnated as the SM70. Looks like a decent mixer, but a fair number of reviews that it failed when mixing heavy dough. Also, bad reports about warranty repairs as mentioned above.

@needled/Gilbert: Viking was looking good until I came across some negative reviews from people making bagels and whole wheat bread. Sheesh, this is discouraging....

So far the Bosch is the only one that doesn't seem to fail in this regard (but there are also less reviews out there).

Thanks guys.
posted by jluce50 at 10:51 AM on March 20, 2010

Maybe it's not the mixer, it's the dough hook.
posted by paulsc at 11:21 AM on March 20, 2010

A really good friend of mine has a Bosch that she's had for 30 years that kneads 3 loaves of wheat bread a week, it used to make five loaves when all her kids were in the house,. Bosch may be ugly, but it will last forever. If you'd like I can get the model number for you, just memail me.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 12:00 PM on March 20, 2010

As to the practicality of repair, it will depend on what went wrong. If you turn it on and the motor operates (whirring noises) but the beater does not move, then it's probably a stripped plastic gear which is cheap and reasonably easy to replace. If its last use involved a smokey, burnt plastic smell and the motor stopped operating all together, then the armature is probably toast -- a much more expensive thing to fix.

If you do fix it, consider making smaller batches of dough and/or increasing the amount of liquid so the dough is softer. Or, go the no-knead route which, I agree, can produce really good bread.
posted by jon1270 at 12:04 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

hecho de la basura is right! The "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day" books are GREAT, my 20+ year-old Kitchen-Aid stand mixer is stil working like a charm, and we haven't bought a loaf of bread in months. I was dubious at first, but as delicious whole-wheat, buttermilk white, and challah started pouring out of my kitchen, I changed my tune. His method works. it's easy to do. It's less work. It's better bread. Buy that book.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:08 PM on March 20, 2010

I use a Zojirushi BBCC-X20 bread machine for kneading whole grain bread doughs. (You don't need to actually bake the bread in it, but letting the dough rise in the bread machine is very convenient.) It is designed for kneading dough and seems to be very well built.
posted by caddis at 12:15 PM on March 20, 2010

oops - this is the link I meant to give; I am not sure what that other one is all about.
posted by caddis at 12:21 PM on March 20, 2010

I would suggest the Ankarsrum Assistent (formerly Electrolux Assistent) a.k.a. Magic Mill Assistent. It has been in production in Sweden since 1940 and is found in probably one out of 3 households in Scandinavia. It's very sturdy and versatile - a bit expensive, but really worth it. Test winner year after year in various consumer tests. The Swedish company that manufactures the Assistent today, Ankarsrum, also manufactured the Assistent for Electrolux from 1969, until they recently bought all the rights to the product.

Here's a 1960's model for sale - still working. And here's the 1940 model, from the first production year, also still working.

It will not break down while kneading whole-grain bread dough. In fact, that's what people in Scandinavia use their Assistents for.

"Unique engineering puts the motor in the bottom of the unit." "As you see from the picture there is also a scraper that rides along the inside edge of the bowl. This scraper pivots freely but dough or batter pushes it against the side of the bowl. It can be lifted out of its support to take it out of the bowl.

The beauty of this arrangement is that if a large amount of dough or batter gets between the beater and the bowl, the beater is simply pushed away from the bowl edge temporarily and stops, as the rubber groove loses contact with the rotating bowl. This prevents the beater from jamming and stalling, and the motor from overloading. The spring immediately pulls it back after dough has passed behind it."

"Rather than having beater(s) dragging through the food, a contoured spiral beater and scraper mix through a stirring motion unique to this machine. Unlike mixers with flying beaters, the bowl moves in a circular motion on the base. (...) In 10 years of quite constant use, I can say the mixer has never failed, never given me any problems whatsoever. (...) For large whole wheat bread recipes, the 10-minute timer is useful and you can actually work around the mixer without earplugs. (...). I’m still fairly young, so I expect to enjoy my Assistent for at least another 20 years!"

Capacity for bread dough: up to 23 cups (7 lbs) flour.
posted by iviken at 3:22 PM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Bosch may be ugly, but it will last forever
My Bosch MUM broke within a year. I used the grain mill attachment a lot and I think that did it. I think 30 years ago every brand was sturdier than now, unfortunately.
posted by davar at 4:44 PM on March 20, 2010

Former pastry chef here: Viking or Hobart (yeah, I know, but still). And that mixer iviken suggests sounds great (I'd love to try one out). Or better yet, follow the no-knead method espoused above and by Mark Bittman. It's a revelation, really.
posted by cooker girl at 6:09 PM on March 20, 2010

The best stand mixer bar none is the Electrolux Assistant (or it's new name) as recommended by iviken. You can see what other bakers say about the machine on thefreshloaf.com or the yahoo stand mixers forums. I own one and for my home milled whole grain bread baking needs, it is absolutely perfect. You won't regret it.

And, so you know, I have no ties to the company or anyone related. I'm just a bread baking geek who got a bit overly excited at your post and this flawless stand mixer.
posted by ranunculus at 6:37 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm seconding iviken's Electrolux assistent from a bygone era. I inherited my moms, and that thing could puré a live cow of you could jam it into the steel pot. It's from the late sixties and has made countless plates of palt (raw uncut potato), and houses full of rågbröd (very heavy dough with every grain on earth in it).

Might be privy but think about it. I inherited my main kitchen appliance.
posted by dabitch at 6:59 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

that was meant to read pricy
posted by dabitch at 6:59 PM on March 20, 2010

If you can find one, you might want to consider a bread bucket - a bucket with a hook and a crank to do it manually. I have one, and tried to find one for sale - they used to sell them at lehmans.com and the vermont store, I think, but no luck now. But they can knead up to six loaves at time, I think - you may be able to chase one down on ebay if you're interested.
posted by lemniskate at 8:37 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some technical information about the Assistent: "First of all, the Magic Mill DLX Mixer is built like Pre World War II Machines – Built to last a lifetime. (...) Four heavy torque bolts hold the bottom to the all metal housing. It won’t crack or peel, like the plastic housings of its competitors. The screws all seat into metal threads, not plastic that can strip out over time.

By simply removing the bottom plate on the Magic Mill DLX Mixer you have three simple to remove components:
The Magic Mill heavy duty motor (two large torque bolts).
The all metal sealed transmission (three large torque bolts).
The electrical switch board.

In minutes you can fix any component that had a problem (although they almost never do)."

"It is such a well thought-out product and it has so few moving parts," says David Leidenborg, the Electrolux company historian. "Unlike vacuum cleaners, which become more effective over the years, the Assistant pretty much remains the same. And it gets passed down from generation to generation because it is such a high quality product. It doesn’t have to be replaced as often."

The original Assistent was designed by Alvar Lenning, and is a part of the permanent exhibition at the Swedish Nationalmuseum.

According to the Swedish Wikipedia article, all aluminum parts and the electric engine for the Assistent, are still manufactured on site at the Ankarsrum factory. Ankarsrum is one of the oldest companies in Sweden, founded and incorporated in 1655.

There's a wide selection of attachments available. If you buy a third party attachment, you can even make your own vegetable oil.

(Btw, I don't work for Electrolux, Ankarsrum or anyone directly or indirectly connected to them.)
posted by iviken at 3:03 AM on March 21, 2010

I can vouch for the generation to generation thing, it's not just me. Was just on the phone with a girlfriend, and her sisters are arguing who gets the assistent now that their mom has given up on baking. High drama.
posted by dabitch at 3:46 AM on March 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

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