So, you’ve found yourself in possession of a stand mixer. But what should you actually do now that you have one?
For starters, congratulate yourself. Stand mixers deliver a level of power and versatility that simply can’t be replicated with elbow grease or hand mixers. A stand mixer is certainly a baker’s best friend, but there’s also plenty of ways to use it that don’t revolve around baking. Whip perfect mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, shred meat, master homemade soft serve, and even make your own Play-Doh.
After you get acclimated with the standard mixing attachments, you can have some real fun with the optional add-ons like a pasta maker or food grinder.
1,The Whisk Attachment–Whipping and Beating
The first job that a stand mixer excels at is whipping the daylights out of stuff, whether it’s cream or egg whites. It’s great for aerating fluid mixtures—the stand mixer’s large and open balloon whisk, when combined with the motor’s power, produces more voluminous whipped cream and meringues than the narrow tines of a traditional whisk or the beaters of a hand mixer.
While it’s a relatively simple matter to whip cream or egg whites by hand, there are times when the stand mixer’s formidable power is particularly useful. French buttercream, for instance, requires whipping egg yolks, which is mechanically intensive. Swiss meringue, too, is tough to whip by hand, largely because the process requires that you add sugar upfront, and sugar has the effect of delaying coagulation.
We shouldn’t undersell the ease with which a stand mixer whips things, either. Whipped egg whites aren’t just for meringues; they also play a crucial role in any soufflé, whether sweet or savory, since the air trapped in the whites is what gives soufflés their airy lift. The same principle is key to our effortless angel food cake, too, though the stand mixer doesn’t just make the recipe “effortless”—the whole technique is dependent on the stand mixer’s sheer power to bring ingredients together in the first place.
The whisk is also ideal for frosting: American, French, Swiss meringue, and Italian buttercreams are all made much simpler with the use of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
2,The Paddle Attachment
As opposed to the whisk, which is meant for cutting through mixtures, the wide, flat blades of a paddle attachment are designed to smear and fold, which makes it invaluable for processes like creaming.
The goal of creaming is to repeatedly fold a combination of butter and sugar until you’ve created an expansive network of fat, air, and sugar crystals. The more air that’s trapped within the network, the greater your volume of dough will be (which means more cookies!), and the better your cakes, like this classic vanilla cake, will rise.
It’s technically possible to cream butter and sugar manually, but it’s incredibly labor- and time-intensive. And while any electrical mixing appliance will take care of the job in a fraction of the time, a powerful stand mixer has another advantage: temperature control. Creaming only works if the butter can stretch and expand, which means keeping it at or below 68°F, which is why bakers prefer to start with cool butter and cream as quickly as possible. You can attempt this with a hand mixer, but since they generally only work on softer, warmer butter, the results won’t be nearly as foolproof.
The paddle is a great way to uniformly mix cookie doughs and cake batters. A badly mixed cookie dough will result in a few misshapen and malformed cookies, while a poorly mixed cake will rise (and look) funny. Meanwhile, recipes like the aforementioned German and cream cheese frostings benefit from being mixed by the paddle’s wide, flat blades—the thin tines of a whisk will leave you with a mound of cottage cheese–like curds instead of a smooth, airy, and light frosting that you can easily manipulate into beautiful swoops and whorls.
- Mixing Meat
Because the paddle does not cut so much as it smears and folds, it’s also a great way to mix and emulsify meat for dishes like sausage. A food processor, by way of comparison, cuts and chops while it mixes, and breaking the meat’s protein strands will directly impact the texture of your final product (for more info, check out Kenji’s article on the science of sausage and salt). If you want to start making sausages (like Italian sausage, chorizo, or merguez) at home, a stand mixer is key: It helps to knead the meat—and, crucially, does so quickly enough to avoid melting its fat content—for sausages that are juicy and springy, rather than dry and crumbly.
What else can a stand mixer do for meaty mixes? It’s the tool responsible for the characteristic bouncy texture of these Swedish meatballs, for one. And for the best meatballs of your life, you’ll want a stand mixer by your side to quickly and effectively mix the panade (a bread crumb and milk mixture) with aromatics and a portion of the meat, before mixing in the rest of the meat by hand. This leads to light meatballs that nevertheless hold their shape well and have evenly distributed seasoning.
Finally, for preparations like rillettes and brandade, where the meat should be shredded rather than finely chopped or puréed, a paddle does the job quickly and cleanly.
3,The Dough Hook
Finally, there’s the dough hook. Making bread is certainly doable without a stand mixer and dough hook attachment, but high-fat doughs like brioche are extremely difficult to make without them.
The benefits of using the dough hook aren’t just about convenience. The relatively slower speed at which it kneads (compared to, say, a food processor) means there’s little risk of over-kneading or overheating, which means you don’t have to watch it like a hawk; you can clean up your kitchen or prep other things while your dough is in the stand mixer. Using the dough hook also allows you to adjust your dough when necessary, adding water or flour if it looks a little too dry or wet, respectively, and it’s great for adding mix-ins, like nuts or dried fruit.
From baked goods to savory dishes, in the following i will introduce one easy homemade recipe that you should make right now with your stand mixer.
Homemade Whipped Cream
Let’s start with the basic recipe:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Chill the bowl of a stand mixer and the whisk attachment in the freezer for 10 minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, chill a metal bowl and a balloon whisk instead.
2. Add all your ingredients to the bowl and whisk on high speed for about 1 minute, until medium-stiff peaks form. If you’re whisking by hand, it will take more like 5-10 minutes.
Either way, that’s it! Serve immediately.
Homemade whipped cream is way easier than you think, and infinitely better than the stuff from a can. It’s the perfect thing to top off your Valentine’s Day dessert, from molten chocolate cake or mousse to easy brownie parfaits or a single-serving mug cake!
Have a good time.