At this time of the year, the smell of baked goods such as breads and cakes may be wafting in the minds of cooks. For those planning a heavy load of baking for the holidays, the idea of getting some new equipment to replace the worn may be feasible.
One of the most important considerations in producing excellent baked goods is to have an efficient electric mixer. Several newcomers have joined this buzzing arena.
Made in West Germany, the Lucerne Kitchen System from Bosch ($299) is one of the most versatile kitchen systems on the market. Cooks who have used this machine like the ease in handling and the fact that it uses minimum counter space. A lightweight and quiet unit, the Bosch mixer is styled in sleek and clean Euro-white with a bit of red trim.
The standard Bosch Lucerne system features a 4-cup blender that comes with a lid and funnel, a dough hook, a beating balloon whisk, a stirring whisk, an interlocking 12-cup bowl with a clear splash guard and an instruction manual. The machine has four electronically controlled speeds and a dual transmission for greater torque.
Its multi-function arm accommodates such accessories as a food processor with continuous feed tube and slicing and shredding disks; a citrus juicer; food grinder; fruit press for pulping berries, apples and tomatoes, and a grain mill with stone grinder. Also available are a pastry attachment and a grater attachment for the food grinder. All accessories are dishwasher-safe. The Lucerne system has a three-year warranty.
The stand mixer may be favored by professionals and those who don't want to be bothered with holding a hand mixer. However, for the great majority, a flexible portable hand mixer seems to be the preferred tool. This year, a number of contemporary-looking hand mixers were introduced and the biggest improvement is providing greater power, a characteristic that has been missing in older designs.
The latest addition comes from Cuisinarts Inc., with its cordless hand mixer ($65). Aside from offering better manueverability, the unit is totally portable, eliminating the need to work close to an electrical outlet. It's also a quiet machine. When compared with a noisier unit that had a power booster, the Cuisinart model didn't seem like it had enough power. Although the Cuisinart mixer was a few seconds behind in reaching maximum power, the volume of egg whites produced was about the same, if not slightly more.
Another distinctive feature of the Cuisinart mixer is its ergonomic design. The angled handle is easy to hold and puts less strain on arm muscles. Mounted atop the handle is a grayish colored slide switch that controls four speed positions (high, medium, low and off). A low-pulse button controls stirring and folding.
There's a good reason for using fine-gauge stainless-steel wire beaters in the Cuisinart mixer. Similar to professional wire whisks, the wires are sturdier and longer so they cut through mixtures more efficiently than the wider metal strips found in other beaters.
The battery-recharger base can be wall-mounted for storage. A full charge provides enough power for the following tasks: mix batter for two 9-inch cake layers, mix butter cream icing for both cakes, whip a cup of cream and mix batter for six dozen cookies. The mixer comes with a three-year limited warranty.
For those who want high wattage in a mixer, a line of stand mixers to consider is the Kenwood, from Britain. Leading the newer Kenwood designs is the Professional Major ($420) with variable speed control. One of the most expensive units on the market today, it is classified as a commercial-type mixer for the home. Made of die-cast aluminum with silver and black accents, this modern unit has a 650-watt motor for heavy-duty mixing and blending. The set consists of a 7-quart stainless-steel bowl, a "K" beater for creaming, a dough hook and a balloon wire whisk.
Next in line is the Kenwood Major ($349), also equipped with a 650-watt motor. This unit, designed in white with gray trim with white bowl, is also a commercial-type machine with a pulse feature. The third model is the Kenwood Chef Excel ($280) with a 550-watt motor. A head release mechanism makes attachment replacement A head release mechanism makes attachment replacement easy. All Kenwood models have mincer, coffee grinder, potato peeler, juice extractor and can opener attachments.
Last but not least is the KitchenAid mixer, a long-time favorite in culinary preparation. The Proline series ($389.95) is offered in an imperial gray to match the upcoming black appliances as well as popular anodized cookware like Calphalon. This baked-enamel textured finish hides fingerprints and wipes clean easily.