Stand mixer attachments make it possible for you to whip up a cake batter, bread dough or frosting using one appliance. But the thing is, most stand mixer recipes do not indicate which attachment should you use in the procedure. And picking the improper attachment can lead to unsatisfactory results or damage to your machine. This guide can help you understand what each kitchen stand mixer attachment does best.
The Paddle: All-Around Beater
The flat beater attachment or paddle is the triangular mixing tool with wide holes at the centre. It’s probably the most versatile among all other stand mixer attachments. If you’re not sure which beater to use, the safest answer is to go for the paddle.
Stand mixer attachments have their expertise, and for the paddle, it’s creaming, mixing and mashing.
- Creaming. This method involves the constant folding of butter and sugar, trapping air in between. Creaming is best for enhancing the volume of your cookie dough or for making your cake batters rise. You can cream ingredients by hand or a hand mixer. But a kitchen stand mixer does it faster to preserve the butter’s cold temperature and encourage fluffiness.
- Mixing. The holes at the centre of the paddle make it an effective tool for combining your wet and dry ingredients. It also works for making homemade burger, meatloaf or sausage mixtures. The flat blade allows meat emulsification without cutting the protein strands or melting the fat.
- Mashing. A potato ricer or masher is usually our go-to tool for making mashed potatoes. But a flat beater attachment also suits this recipe. It even does a better job as the blade quickly breaks the large potato pieces without drying them out. It’s a better option, too, if you’re making mashes in larger batches.
The Flex-Edge Beater
When mixing with the paddle attachment, you need to stop the mixer from time to time to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl. This way, you get an evenly mixed batter or dough. Some mixers such as Sage’s The Bakery Boss include a flexible edge beater with silicone or rubber extensions at the side. Think of it as a levelled-up paddle with fins! These extensions work like a spatula, which automatically scrape the bowl clean. The silicone edge beater is especially helpful for viscous ingredients like butter, cream cheese and honey.
The Dough Hook: Kneading Expert
The dough hook is a curved attachment that specialises in kneading yeasted dough. Choose this tool if you’re making homemade pizza dough, fresh pasta, buns, rolls and specialty bread. Using any other attachment can overheat your motor and damage the mixer.
Dough hooks are stand mixer attachments with a shape that can withstand elastic and heavier mixtures. While you can make bread from scratch using your hands, a hook makes it more doable and effortless.
- Efficient kneading. Bread baking from scratch increases your tendency to over-knead and overheat your dough. A dough hook attachment helps avoid these. Moreover, it makes wet doughs like brioche or focaccia easier and less messy to handle. Kneading by hand can take a while, too. But with a dough hook, you can multitask and save time.
- Even mixing. Dried fruit, chocolate chips, cheese, herbs and nuts are some great add-ins that make your bread even more delicious. A dough hook can help you distribute your yummy mix-ins evenly, so everyone gets a perfect bite.
Classic VS spiral dough hooks
Dough hooks come in two shapes. C-shaped or classic hooks are typical in traditional stand mixers. It works by pushing the dough against the side of the mixer bowl. On the other hand, the S-shaped or spiral hook is more modern.
Instead of the side-to-side motion, this tool pushes the dough downwards to knead your dough. I do find it easier to scrape the dough out from the classic hook. But in terms of performance, both are equally good and produce great results.
Gluten strands developed through kneading are essential in creating soft and light bread structures. Some stand mixers have built-in timers to help you know when your dough is ready and sufficiently kneaded. Seasoned bakers would know this by feel and appearance.
For others, a windowpane test is a foolproof way to check dough readiness. To do this, stop the mixer when you see your dough starting to form around the hook. Another indicator is when your dough starts to make a slapping noise against the bowl. Then get a small ball of dough and use your fingers to stretch it out. Your dough is ready if you can form a translucent membrane that doesn’t tear easily.
The Whisk: Whipping Pro
If your recipe asks you to whip egg whites or turn heavy cream to stiff peaks, then you need a whisk attachment. Like the dough hook, this one is a specialised tool for aerating mixtures. The holes in a flat beater attachment also incorporate air in your batter. However, a whisk attachment has more air spaces to achieve a light and fluffy texture in seconds.
The wire whisk is the mechanised counterpart of your hand whisk. Of course, you can whip egg whites or cream by hand. But that will take a long time and a lot of muscle. Also, some recipes call for simultaneous whipping and addition of ingredients. And in this case, a wire whisk makes things easier.
The whisk attachment is well-suited for recipes such as meringues, which you can use for making pavlova, souffle, macarons, angel food cake, pancakes and more. It’s also your attachment of choice when making all sorts of cake frostings like Swiss meringue and French buttercream. The whisk can also turn cold liquid cream into a luscious topping or, my favourite, homemade ice cream!
Soft, medium and stiff peaks
The success of some baking recipes relies on the consistency of your egg whites or cream, also called peaks. Your baked product may appear flatter or denser if you fail to incorporate enough air into your ingredients. Sufficient air plays a crucial role in leavening, lightening or volumizing the final product.
The key to testing peak levels is to know their shape and texture. Here’s how you can do it:
- No peaks. This type is your starting point, where your cream or egg white is still in liquid form.
- Soft peaks. Here, the mixture has enhanced volume, but it is not firm enough to stick to your whisk.
- Medium peaks. At this stage, your foam should be glossier and firmer. To test, dip your whisk at the centre, then lift it. The tip of your peak should curl down.
- Stiff peaks. Here, your mixture will be smooth and shiny, forming firm and straight peaks. For the ultimate test, try turning your mixer bowl over above your head. The stiff foam should still be in the bowl, not on your hair!
Other Stand Mixer Attachments
Kitchen stand mixers usually come with a power hub where you can fit in various optional accessories to do all sorts of food prep. Popular options include the pasta roller set, citrus juicer and strainer, food grinder and sausage stuffer, food processor, spiralizer and ice cream maker.
I like the idea that you can use your stand mixer beyond mixing and baking. But these extra accessories can also be too costly. So, make sure to choose smartly and invest in stand mixer attachments that you will use often.
Are you still looking for the perfect stand mixer for your kitchen? Perhaps our reviews and buying guide might help. Check out my list of the best stand mixers in Australia!