That’s a longwinded title. It’s completely accurate, however.
I’m speaking of my stand mixer. I never knew how important it was till I had one. Now, well, if I like them well enough and have the money, I buy that instead of yet another toaster or electric skillet or crockpot for a wedding gift (or any other time you give that sort of thing). Let me list some of the uses.
The big one is bread dough. I know literally hundreds of people who like to knead dough. It relieves stress, it exercises the hands, it lets you judge when you’re done by tactile sense, etc. And all those are true. On the other hand, done right it’s 15 to 20 minutes of constant repetitive motion. If you’ve got a shoulder problem (like me) or hand problems (like me), or you’ve got limited space or awkwardly placed counters, or… or you just don’t LIKE repetitive motion tasks, well, cheer up. Ten minutes in the mixer with a dough hook, maybe 15, and the dough is RIGHT. Now I have to stay near my mixer as it likes to walk, and some doughs like to climb the hook and get into the gears (lost some that way, once). But I can do other things while it’s going. As for tactile sense, I can pull out a pinch and work it briefly in my hands to ‘know’. For that matter, a window test is not that hard.
Window test. Pull out a walnut sized chunk. Start stretching it to see how thin a sheet you can make before it separates. If the gluten’s well developed it’ll get thin enough to let some light through. The longer you work it the thinner you can make the pane, though please be aware if you go long enough you cause it all to collapse. By the way, I once machine kneaded my dough for half an hour and it didn’t collapse. It’s a lot harder to reach that point than you’d think.
My second most common use is for dishes that need creaming — beating eggs or butter or such to smooth, then working in sugar to form a whipped substance, all prior to building on it for a cake or bread or such. Not when I’m just making a few tablespoons of honeybutter, but when it’s “cream a pound of butter…”
(Poundcake. Pound of butter – 2 cups. Cream in a pound of sugar – a bit over 2 cups. Add a pound of eggs, one at a time, beating till fully incorporated (and a bit fluffy again). About 8 large eggs. Fold in a pound of sifted flour. Very more or less, that’s 4 cups of flour before sifting. Bake in a moderate (325-350) oven for 1:15 to 1:30, till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You can make this even lighter by separating the eggs. Add the yolks as you did the eggs. Beat the whites till they’re somewhere between frothy and soft peaks, and gently stir or even fold into the main batter. Or go a step further and stir 1/3 into the batter, then fold the batter into the whipped whites. Regardless, end by folding in the flour.)
And then there’s whipping. Mousses, angel food or sponge cakes, souffles, and meringues. Yes, I’ve done them with hand mixers. The stand mixer makes a huge difference in how tired I am, and how thoroughly and completely everything gets whipped. Oh, for a single-cup souffle I use a hand whip – waaay to few eggs to use a mixer. But for more than a couple of eggs the stand mixer WORKS.
Yes, it’s heavy and takes up room. I still wish I’d had one long before I actually got it.