Best mixer for bread dough
January 16, 2020 4:05 PM   Subscribe

I make a lot of bread. I received a Kitchenaid Artisan stand mixer as a gift at one point, and it struggles with heavy dough (the bowl gets stuck and it starts to walk). I worry about burning out the motor. What should I think about buying instead?

I don't have $2,000 for a Hobart, but I'm willing to consider more reasonably priced options. Are bowl lift mixers worth the hype?
posted by marfa, texas to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
My household got an Ankarsrum / Electrolux after wearing out an (old) Kitchenaid and a disappointing Viking. We make a lot of strong whole-wheat bread and are very happy with it. Also fine for delicate cakes, though the creaming bowl is less aesthetically pleasing.
posted by clew at 4:09 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


And just checking, especially if the problem is with whole-grain doughs, have you tried a much wetter dough? I find they absorb the water as they rise but a higher hydration dough is easier to knead. Or there’s the stretch-and-fold approach.
posted by clew at 4:12 PM on January 16


Bread machine? I'll use mine on the dough cycle, then transfer the dough to a pan for baking.
posted by amtho at 4:12 PM on January 16


Magic Mill
posted by Ideefixe at 4:50 PM on January 16


I don't specifically know what kind of relationship the companies may have, but FWIW the King Arthur Flour store stocks Ankarsrum exclusively. (In addition to making flour, they have a substantial teaching and production bakery and retail store in Vermont.)
posted by papayaninja at 4:52 PM on January 16


Consider upgrading from the Artisan to the Professional model, which has a more powerful motor (575 watts, compared to 325) to handle larger loads.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:55 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


2nding the pro model Kitchenaid. We make some intense doughs and it’s never skipped a beat. It is much louder than the artisan though.

They can be found refurbished regularly, if you don’t care much about color.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:05 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Seconding bread machine. I also use mine just to knead/proof, then bake in my regular oven. Zojirushi is my dream machine, but I make do with a refurbished Oster I got for like 20 bucks 10 years ago.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 6:11 PM on January 16


I use a Bosch universal and bake whole wheat bread. I’ve been using the same machine for about 15 years and bake every few weeks (2 loaves in a batch - big loaves). My mom has used hers for probably 30 years at the same rate. I had to buy a new dough hook attachment about a year or so ago - I’d worn it down and it was hard to get on and off the mixer.

If my Bosch universal ever dies I will immediately replace with another.
posted by hilaryjade at 6:34 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


KitchenAid Pro. Never had a problem with it with the heaviest dough. The Artisan has 250 to around 375 Watts of power, depending on the model you get, the Pro 600 575 with metal gears not plastic so it makes more noise when in use. I have a refurbished one straight from the factory, it's never put a foot wrong in the 5 years I've had it. Make sure it's a bowl lift model, anything with a tilt head will get up more vibrations doing a heavy dough as it will loosen around the hinge with use, though I don't think the Pro comes in tilthead from memory.
posted by wwax at 6:47 PM on January 16


We have a vintage KitchenAid (by Hobart) dropbowl mixer and we've never seen it struggle. If it did we'd just open it up and replace whatever part busted as they're made to be repaired and I've already had luck going into the body and replacing the widget that was failing to control the speed properly and only giving us one speed or off.

So, tangential and/or long shot but maybe you can get a vintage one for less than the $2k you quoted above. We got ours for $35 at a thrift shop whereupon I basically shouted across the store in pure ape-shit excitement to DrMsEld (then only UndergradGirlfriendEld), "HEY, KITCHENAID!"
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:58 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Nthing Bosch universal. There's a Youtube video of a dude making 7kg 100% wholewheat loaf. Amazing. I love mine to bits.
posted by smoke at 7:22 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I've read enough complaints from bread hobbyists about the KitchenAid Pro burning out that I wouldn't bother with that one either. I'm guessing your budget doesn't extend up to $1,250, but just in case it does, a cheaper option than the Hobart N50 would be Famag; there's a very detailed, positive review here.

In the sub-$1k range, the main non-KitchenAid mixer options for bread are the Bosch Universal Plus and the Ankarsrum (AKA Magic Mill/DLX/Electrolux Assistent/Verona). The Bosch Universal Plus is really tough and does a great job with large batches, but can be trickier with smaller batches and wet doughs unless you use their stainless steel bowl. The Ankarsrum is more versatile in terms of handling a wide range of dough types, from dry to wet, and batch sizes, from small to large. However, it's more expensive, and I've seen people who've tried both say they think the BUP does just as well with bread for less money. Of course, I've seen others who've tried both say they prefer how the Ankarsrum works, so it really is a person-to-person thing.

I've been doing quite a bit of research on this topic lately myself, so here are my notes on these two mixers (which cover how they handle non-bread tasks as well). I did a lot of scouring online reviews and comments to discover as many possible weak points as I could for both mixers - but overall, it seems like nearly everyone who buys one of these is happy with it.

Ankarsrum
Capacity: up to 11.5 lb of dough or 7 loaves
Weight/dimensions: 19 lb, 14.25" H x 10.5" W x 15.7" D
Speed settings: 0 to 12
Price: $700
Comes with:
  • a 7.5-qt stainless steel bowl with cover, for use with the roller/scraper and dough hook
  • a roller and scraper - for kneading small-to-medium bread batches with average hydration or large batches of high-hydration dough; medium-stiffness cookie doughs; and creaming butter
  • a dough hook - for kneading stiffer, lower-hydration and/or whole wheat, bread doughs; large bread dough batches (>4 loaves); and mixing stiff cookie doughs with lots of add-ins like chips/nuts
  • a 6-qt plastic bowl with center column for use with the included double beater whisks (for whipping egg whites or cream) and two-wire cake whisks (for pourable batters and very light cookie dough). Note that these whisks cannot be used with the stainless steel bowl.
Strengths:
  • Does a good job of handling a wide variety of bread dough - small to large batches, low to high hydration - as long as you use the right settings (dough hook for stiffer dough)
  • Gentle kneading, very good for low-gluten breads like rye
  • Has a built-in timer
  • Easy to add ingredients since the motor is on the bottom and you can easily access the bowl
  • If using the roller and scraper, the scraper will scrape down the bowl for you - but you'll likely need to scrape down the roller and scraper themselves
  • Easy cleanup
  • Very quiet
  • Sturdy and stable
  • Has many attachments
  • Nice looking and can be purchased in a variety of colors to match your decor, if that's something you care about
Weaknesses:
  • Not ideal for anything that involves hot syrups (meringue frostings, divinity, marshmallows). Not only will the plastic bowl hold onto heat more than a stainless-steel one would, the motor's location on the bottom, right under the bowl, also helps keep these types of hot syrups from cooling off quickly. The mixer can handle these tasks - it's certainly strong enough - but due to the heat retention issue, it will take longer than it would otherwise. KitchenAids are better with this stuff.
  • Will not cream butter unless it is very soft. Apparently if you need to cream butter that is a bit cool (say, 65°F), it will just smash it instead of creaming it. I've read that you can basically wrap cold butter around the roller and then let the mixer run so it warms up the butter through friction in order to cream it. Not sure how well this would work. Overall, this is another task that I've read the KitchenAid is better at. Quite a few people seem to hang onto their KitchenAids for baking everything except bread, while using another mixer for bread only.
  • I've read mixed reviews on how the Ankarsrum does with cheesecake batter; some say it incorporates too much air. People with positive experiences say, again, to make sure your cream cheese is very soft.
  • Relatively expensive
  • Has a learning curve if you're used to a KitchenAid. I've read a lot of frustrated comments from new owners who aren't getting the results they were expecting, followed by more positive updates later on. The manual is not very good, and since this mixer really does work quite differently from KitchenAid, you need to do some research to learn how to get the most out of it. People recommend watching YouTube demos like this or this to learn how it works. Basically, because it kneads so gently, it looks like not much is actually happening, but if you keep going, it will develop the gluten. It will take longer, but it won't overheat the dough. Your process will need to be different: add your liquids first, and then you can either slowly add your dry ingredients (which will require using less flour, causing a change in hydration level) or add all the dry ingredients at once (in order to maintain your hydration level). Move the roller/scraper in and out manually to incorporate everything.
Bosch Universal Plus
Capacity: up to 14 lb of dough or 9 loaves
Weight/dimensions: 12.75 lb, 10.6" H x 15.5" W x 12" D
Speed settings: 4 speeds and a pulse feature
Price: $430 (currently on sale for $370 from Pleasant Hill Grain)
Comes with:
  • a 6.5-qt plastic bowl with center post (like a bundt pan)
  • dough hook - for bread kneading or very stiff cookie dough
  • dough hook extender - for mixing smaller batches, though I've read mixed reviews of this
  • French whips - for whipping egg whites/cream; they will break if used for anything that isn't very light
Unless you only want to use it for bread and whipping cream/egg whites, you'd need the additional baker's package, which contains:
  • cake paddles - for cake and quick bread batter or frosting; they will incorporate less air than the French whips, which are not suited to this type of mixing
  • cookie paddles - for moderately stiff cookie dough
  • metal whip drive
  • bowl scraper - to scrape the bowl shaft and side while using the cookie/cake paddles, wire whips, or batter whisks
You can buy a 6.5-qt stainless steel bowl, which comes with a dough hook and does not have a center column (you cannot use the whips, whisks or cookie paddles with this bowl). Right now Pleasant Hill Grain is selling the BUP with the stainless steel bowl instead of the plastic one for $400. (I am not affiliated with PHG and have never bought from them! They just seem to be the main online retailer for a variety of mixers focusing on bread dough.)

Strengths:
  • Handles large batches of dough easily
  • Does well with bread dough overall, especially low-hydration dough
  • Does a great job of whipping. It's so fast at whipping cream, you have to watch carefully to catch it before it turns into butter.
  • Can mix with lid on so that no ingredients puff up out of the bowl
  • Has many attachments
  • Lightweight, easy to move around
  • Easy to add ingredients; as with the Ankarsrum, there's nothing blocking access to the bowl
  • Sturdy and stable
Weaknesses:
  • Like the Ankarsrum, not ideal for anything that involves hot syrups, and for the same reasons (the plastic bowl and motor location on bottom). Again, it can be done, but it takes quite a while.
  • Also like the Ankarsrum, will not cream butter unless it is very soft
  • Dough tends to get sucked down the bowl's center drive column; there is a cheap dough glide guard that will prevent this (cannot be used with the dough hook extender)
  • Not good for small batches or high-hydration bread doughs, which tend to climb up the center column. That said, apparently if you use the stainless-steel bowl instead of the plastic one, it will solve this problem, so I don't think this has to be a dealbreaker; it just depends on whether you're ok with either only buying the package with the stainless-steel bowl, or paying extra so you can have both bowls.
  • Cleanup is a bit of a pain.
  • Even the lowest speed is still quite fast.
  • Not really pretty or colorful; very functional-looking (if this is something that matters to you)
The Mixer-Owners group on groups.io has a lot more information, as do the Fresh Loaf forums. I've also heard that the people at Pleasant Hill Grain are really helpful if you have questions on mixers.
posted by LNM at 8:08 PM on January 16 [12 favorites]


We have a (15-year-old?) KitchenAid resembling the Pro model Greg_Ace mentioned upthread.

One day, I overtaxed it, but the motor did not burn out; instead, the plastic worm gear stripped, as designed, to save the motor. Replaced it and have not had trouble since.

Just saying
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:21 PM on January 16


Interesting, my Bosch universal plus came by default with a steel bowl with a centre column, it was purchased from Amazon Germany.
posted by smoke at 9:32 PM on January 16


To be fair, since I made my Kitchenaid Pro recommendation, I've found a lot of reviews online that favor the Bosch Universal. Search "bosch universal vs kitchenaid professional 600" and decide for yourself.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:53 PM on January 16


I don't see Kenwood mentioned here. I have a Kitchenaid Artisan that I received as a Christmas present from work once, and it hasn't failed me yet. But at the farm, we have a Kenwood Chef we bought on sale, and it is far sturdier and better at everything. It isn't as pretty, but I don't care.
Also, I second the suggestion to buy vintage. The Kenwood only replaced its predecessor because the spare parts to that had disappeared somehow. It's still running strong at a friend's where they only use the hook.
posted by mumimor at 2:24 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I have a used 10 quart Hobart mixer, the C-100 model. It's bombproof. It is one of my favorite things, period - quiet and dauntless. It is a little big, a wee bit taller than the N-50. I keep mine on a cart rather than moving on and off a worktable.

They haven't been in production since the 1970s, I think, but I recommend them nonetheless to hardcore amateur bakers. If you are patient, you can probably get one for under $1000.

Food service or institutional surplus auctions are the place to look.
posted by Glomar response at 5:01 AM on January 17


I have a KitchenAid Pro, and I love it for all the things I use it for, but I wouldn't choose it if I were planning to make mostly bread. It tends to rock a bit with heavier doughs.
posted by assenav at 7:53 AM on January 17


KENWOOD. CHEF.

They're unstoppable.
posted by prismatic7 at 3:13 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Like RolandOfEld, we had an ancient KitchenAid (by Hobart) that finally kicked the bucket recently. I never had any problems with it for bread dough. It must have been used (and hard) since the late 70s.
posted by kathrynm at 9:02 PM on January 17


I bought a tabloid for my mum today, and they had a stand mixer test. Ankersrum won, and Kenwood Chef came second. Just thought I'd put that in here.
posted by mumimor at 2:53 PM on January 18


Thank you, bread people! (Special shout-out to LNM for that incredibly useful giant comment.)
posted by marfa, texas at 8:00 PM on February 20


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