Stand Mixers: To Bread, Batter, and Beyond
Although recent history has cast it as a status symbol because of its popularity on wedding registries, the stand mixer was first invented in the early 1900s as an industrial piece of equipment by Hobart. Prior to the introduction of the Hobart stand mixer, large batches had to be mixed entirely by hand, which turned baking into a difficult and time-consuming task.
In 1919, Hobart introduced a countertop version of the electric mixer: the now-famous KitchenAid stand mixer, which was designed for residential use. Although Whirlpool acquired KitchenAid in 1986, commercial mixers made by companies like Hobart, Globe, and Vollrath are mainstays for bakeries, pizzerias, and other restaurants whipping up massive quantities of batter and dough. To get more insight on why stand mixers of all sizes remain so popular, we talked to pastry chef Erin Skipper about the stand mixers she loves using at home and at work.
Stand Mixers with Erin Skipper
Erin Skipper began her culinary career more than a decade ago at the age of 16 as a cashier at Panera Bread in Knoxville, Tenn. She continued to work in the industry at the city’s Naples Italian Restaurant during college. After attaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, she decided to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., from which she holds an associate’s degree in pastry arts. She currently works at Star Provisions in Atlanta.
KaTom: What stand mixers do you use?
Erin Skipper: I have two KitchenAid stand mixers at home – a Classic Plus, which was my first mixer, and a Professional 600 Series. At my various kitchen jobs, I have used Globe mixers, Viking mixers, Hobart mixers and different sizes of KitchenAid mixers.
K: Can you talk a little bit about why your KitchenAid stand mixer inspired you to go to culinary school?
ES: My very good friends, whom I met while serving tables at Naples, gifted me my Classic Plus KitchenAid after they realized I had been folding together cake batters by hand for my whole life. Tiffany also loved to bake; she and her husband Brent were always a huge support system for me while I was deciding whether or not to move to New York. Without their encouragement, I would not have uprooted myself from my hometown and moved to New York. Two years ago, Tiffany died of cancer. Brent and I still remain close, and the KitchenAid that they gave me will always be a staple in my home.
K: How different is it using a stand mixer at home versus using one at work? Was it difficult to adjust to baking on a larger scale in a commercial setting?
ES: I know my home mixers on a personal level. I know when they are being overworked, and I know what they sound like when they require maintenance. Just like cars, they all have their particularities. Going into a new kitchen is always fun because you get to learn about their machines. I loved using the larger-scale mixers at school because they can throw around SO MUCH dough and batter. I would not say that transitioning to a larger mixer was difficult; it was FUN. I was also lucky to have very competent chefs leading me through adapting to a commercial setting, so that is most likely why the transition was so easy for me.
K: Are there any disadvantages to using a stand mixer versus a handheld, or are there any tasks you still prefer to do with a handheld? Alternatively, are there any tasks you can’t imagine doing without your stand mixer?
ES: There is no project that I would choose to tackle with a hand mixer over my stand mixer. That being said, there is a time and place for an amazing immersion blender. That time and place is lemon curd. I could not, honestly, imagine doing any baking project without my stand mixer. Without it, how would you whip up a glossy Italian meringue? How could you ensure that your butter and sugar are properly creamed together? Not having my KitchenAid at home would put a stop on any and all baking that I wanted to do.
K: What do you typically make with your stand mixer? Do you utilize any of the attachments and, if so, which is your favorite or most frequently used?
ES: I typically make cookies with my KitchenAid. I would say that I make more cookies than just about anything else. I recently acquired the three-part pasta attachment set, as well as the meat grinding and sausage stuffer attachments. My husband and I made the most amazing bacon burgers with the grinding attachment. My favorite attachment, I would have to say, is the rubberized paddle attachment that my friend bought me for my birthday a few years ago. It’s amazing! The rubber allows me to scrape down the bowl less times than I normally would have to, and it also keeps my bowl cleaner.
K: Is overmixing a concern since you can multitask while it mixes?
ES: Overmixing is always a concern when you are multitasking. I try to focus on my more delicate baking projects, especially if I’m doing other things, so that this doesn’t happen.
K: Does it require any maintenance, aside from cleaning it after each use?
ES: I have had my Classic Plus mixer for about 5 years now, and I have never had to maintain it. It gets a little hot from time-to-time, but I usually just let it rest until it is cooled down. The 600 Professional KitchenAid that I just got is refurbished, so there is a higher chance that it will need to be maintained before the five-year mark. So far, though, I have not had to take it to a shop. I find that if you listen to your mixers, and don’t overwork them, they will last much longer.