When I’m mixing my ingredients, I use my handy-dandy KitchenAid Artisan mixer. I love that contraption! It has made my life so easy. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any romantic notions about mixing dough by hand. I did it when I first started on this artisan bread obsession, but then when I started baking daily, I abandoned doing that in favor of having a more automated way of bringing my ingredients together.
Like many, I’ve read books and watched videos where the bakers extoll hand-mixing, elevating the process to one of honor. It’s like there’s a certain romanticism attached to the whole artisan bread making process and making bread the old fashioned way where every step is done completely by hand. I bake bread at least six days a week and I’m doing it while I’m working at home. I don’t have time to do everything by hand for goodness’ sake! I’ve got meetings to attend and actual work to do. So the more efficient I can be the better.
But I laugh when professional bakers say to mix by hand because you know they’ve got an 80-quart Hobart (or maybe even a few of them) mixing up their dough! I realize their intent is pure and that they’re trying to reinforce that we learn and know what it’s like to feel the dough develop. But for me, once I learned what to look and feel for, I went straight to the mixer so I could “git ‘er done!”
That said, I think that it’s important to mix by hand when you first start out. That way you know what the dough feels like at every stage of mixing. And to this day, even though I use a mixer, I frequently stop it to feel my dough. I don’t just set it and forget it. I monitor the state of my dough carefully and get it to the point where I can throw it into its fermentation container, or dump it out onto my board to knead. Yes, I hand-knead my lower-hydration dough. I have to because it strains my mixer too much.
But one thing that my mixer does that I can’t do without a lot of effort – and time – is evenly and efficiently distribute the ingredients. Okay, yes, I can achieve that with time. But I have to admit that mixing ingredients is probably my least favorite baking activity. So I’d rather have a machine do it for me, then I’ll take over and do the rest.
I do have to admit that I feel just a little guilty about using a stand mixer at times. But then I remember how much I don’t enjoy mixing by hand, and that guilt disappears – quickly.