How to Use your Stand Mixer
I use a stand mixer almost everyday. I bake professionally, but regardless – I would be lost without a stand mixer. Even at home, I use my stand mixer once a week, if not more often. Designed to mix, whip and knead, a stand mixer is a workhorse in the kitchen. In addition to performing basic tasks with ease, a variety of attachments available for purchase can turn any stand mixer into a valuable and time saving tool for making pasta, freezing ice cream, slicing vegetables, grinding meat or juicing citrus.
Stand mixers are sold in a variety of sizes, referring to the size of the mixing bowl, typically ranging from 4.5 to 8 quarts. A 4.5 quart bowl is perfectly adequate for an average home cook. Someone who bakes a lot, or cooks in large batches, might be interested in a larger mixing bowl. Stand mixers usually come with three basic attachments – a flat paddle, a whisk and a dough hook. Designed for mixing, the flat paddle is used for preparing batters, cookie dough, pie dough, frosting, mashed potatoes or meatloaf. The whisk attachment is perfect for whipping egg whites or cream, but can also be used for tasks like making mayonnaise. The dough hook is a wonderful option for kneading yeasted dough.
Stand mixers are a powerful tool and will require less time to perform tasks you may have performed using a hand mixer (or your hands!) in the past. For that reason, you may want to adapt recipes you commonly use for your stand mixer. It is likely that it will take half the time to mix cake batters you formerly mixed with a hand mixer. How will you know? Most recipes provide visual clues such as “mix until soft and creamy.” If you are new to a stand mixer, I suggest relying on these visual clues until you get the hang of it.
Stand mixers have several speeds ranging from low to high. I always find it makes sense to start the mixer on low and gradually increase the speed. If you are adding flour or other dry ingredients to a mix, stop the mixer first, or add them very slowly in order to avoid a mess. When adding liquids, start slowly and adjust the speed as they begin to thicken or incorporate into the mix. Some stand mixers come with a “pouring shield” designed to avoid making a mess, but I find that working with a slow speed at first and then gradually increasing the speed works just as well.
The attachments sold for stand mixers hook right into the front of the mixer motor hub. If they are designed for your machine, attachments will work for your machine regardless the size of the mixing bowl. Imagine your stand mixer being converted into a pasta maker! A variety of pasta-related attachments enable you to roll, cut and shape pasta at home (this, of course, is after it has mixed the dough for you!). If you want to take pasta making to a totally new level in the land of do-it-yourself, you can use a mill attachment to grind your own wheat for flour. You can also use the mill attachment to grind other whole grains such as oats, corn and rice into flour.
This time of year, living in California, I use the citrus juicer weekly to prepare fresh orange juice and lemon juice. With a built in strainer, it makes juicing citrus a breeze. I use fresh lemon juice for baking and making salad dressings. I freeze whatever is left in ice cube trays for future use. The orange juice, well, I can’t make it fast enough!
The food grinder is great for grinding your own meat. Grind a pork shoulder, add some salt, pepper and dried sage, and make your own sausage patties. Grind beef for making meatballs or grind turkey for making white chili. If you buy cuts of meat in bulk and want to add some variety to how you can use it, the grinder might be a good attachment to have on hand. You can grind some of it and freeze it for future use.
The slicer and shredder attachment makes short work of many tasks for which I usually turn to my food processor. This attachment really increases the every day versatility of a stand mixer by allowing you to shred large amounts of hard cheeses or slice hard vegetables in bulk.
Last, but certainly not least, we come to the ice cream maker attachment. The ice cream maker attachment is an insulated bowl that you keep in the freezer. When it comes time to make ice cream, simply prepare your mix and then finish it in the insulated bowl using the flat paddle. My ice cream comes out rich and creamy with no ice or rock salt required. Revolutionary.
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