Friday, April 04, 2008

The big red machine

Thirteen years ago my affinity points at the area grocery store had increased to such a point that I was able to get, for free, my first-ever stand mixer. It was a white KitchenAid classic, with the 250W motor. Little did I know how crucial it would become to my kitchen work. When our breadmaker broke in a power surge 8 years ago, I discovered that with the mixer I could make bread with pretty much the same efficiency. And then, as fresh whole grains become more alluring and available, the addition of a Family Grain Mill attachment put the mixer to even more use.

And so for years the mixer was being used probably 8 to 10 times a week, whether for grinding grain, whipping eggs, kneading bread dough or mixing muffin or cookie batter. I was amazed that our little entry-level model was holding up so well. More than a dozen years of heavy, heavy use, including the toughest jobs of all -- bread-dough kneading and grain-grinding.

But it was getting cranky. The main pivot joint was getting looser and looser, bits of trim had fallen off, the enamel on the paddles was peeling, and the locking mechanism had to be held in place with a firm hand the whole time it was working. Still, we carried on.

And then it finally just burned out. Chuck had a go at repairing it, but there was something irreparably damaged in the speed adjustment mechanism. And while we considered sending it off for parts and repairs, that had huge logistical obstacles and would probably cost us well over $150 as well as taking a couple of months to get out and back. A new mixer, the Artisan, with a beefy 325W motor, was available to us for free in red as the result of ever-accumulating points. We caved in and ordered it.

It arrived today. I'm like a 19-year-old guy with a new sports car. Check this baby out! It will knead two big loaves of bread dough without protest. It does not need to have its locking lever stabilized with a hand while it works. It matches our backsplash contrast tiles. And oh, how it gleams! Here's what's on the go right now:

Cottage Cheese Bread

A high-protein family favourite.

2 cups of cottage cheese
1 cup of water
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. sugar or honey
1/4 cup of butter
1 1/2 Tbsp. instant active yeast
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Enough flour to make a barely-not-sticky dough,
all-purpose, whole wheat or a combination

Place the cottage cheese, water, butter and sugar or honey in a microwaveable bowl or small saucepan and warm ever so gently to a little better than lukewarm. Empty into gleaming bowl of swanky new KitchenAid stand mixer (or just any bowl) and pitch in all the other ingredients except the flour. Mix well.

Now pitch in about 4 cups of flour and mix well. Continue adding flour, a cup at a time, mixing in each addition. Use a stiff spoon to do this manually, or the dough hook with your stand mixer. At some point the dough will stop sticking to the inner surface of the bowl and will come away cleanly into a ball. At this point, add just a little more flour (half a cup to a cup usually), until the dough is barely not sticky to the hands. Turn out on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding small amounts of additional flour if necessary to prevent sticking. Or complete the kneading in your skookum red stand mixer.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise until a damp finger leaves a depression that doesn't fill in or falls slightly -- about an hour. Punch the dough down, reform a ball, and leave for another rise which will usually take about half as long.

Punch down dough. Grease two large (9x5") loaf pans. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a loaf by flattening it and rolling it up into a cylinder, and place in loaf pan. Cover pans and leave to rise to the desirable height. I find this recipe rises very high because of all the yeast and gives a wonderful springy loaf.

Bake in a 375 F oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, turn out of pans and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. This bread keeps pretty well and is great for sandwiches.

5 comments:

  1. Oh I am jealous! How can I get some of these points?! I suppose it would mean driving to the Kootenays to do my shopping? *sigh*

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  2. Oh Miranda, I've been drooling over a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for a long time. Coincidentally, I realized today that I have more than enough Air Miles to get one. So I'm stuck deciding between visiting my father in NZ or ordering The Mixer. It's a tough call ;-) Enjoy it!

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  3. I have the exact same mixer - isn't she a beauty?! Enjoy!

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  4. I broke down and bought a basic KA when I spotted an amazing $99 sale on Amazon a couple of years ago. I love it, and use it at least several times each week.

    About a year ago, I happened across an ancient mixer with attachments at the thrift store. The clerk told me I could buy whatever attachments I'd like. At 50 cents each, I took them all! They're older, but still completely functional and my little chef loves to grate cheese and juice oranges with it. Definitely one of my better kitchen investments!

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  5. I just ordered one of these to go in our new house. Unfortunately I didn't have points so I resorted to ebay.... I cannot wait to have it knead up a batch of homemade bread for me!

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