As an avid baker and keen cook, there is nothing that irks me more than single-purpose appliances which take up precious kitchen real estate.
That said, you won't catch me jettisoning every gadget I own in favour of a lone Thermomix - but I'm always interested in appliances which combine efficiency with efficacy.
Kenwood's new Titanium Chef Patissier XL stand mixer talks a big game with its unique features: a digital scale and built-in bowl warmer - but are they enough to earn it a coveted spot on my bench?
First impressions: The basics
This mixer is BIG. Its main bowl has a 7-litre capacity, which allows you to make 4kg of cake batter or 2.56kg of bread dough in one hit.
This is great if you frequently bake in big batches - goodbye icing sugar clouds! - but the oversized bowl and attachments feel cumbersome for regular recipes, especially when it comes to the dreaded washing up.
The bowl was so tall that I - of short stature and currently pregnant girth - found myself having to peer in, and occasionally stand on tiptoes to scrape the bottom of the bowl.
This is a true Kenwood workhorse. Its 1400W motor didn't break a sweat after 20 minutes of kneading brioche dough, and should be able to handle anything you chuck in it.
The beater attachments are proportionately huge but extremely robust. They do their jobs well but even when using the creaming beater you still need to scrape the bowl down, especially when baking in smaller quantities.
The digital touch-screen takes some getting used to as you need to use it to switch between speed, temperature and timer controls, but it quickly begins to feel intuitive. Of concern was that several times the machine seemed to crash on me, stopping mid-mix for no apparent reason (and not after excessive periods of operation) and telling me to switch it off for 30 seconds.
The mixer has nine different heat settings which promise to do everything from softening butter and proving dough, to melting chocolate and making Swiss meringue.
I gave this feature a pretty thorough road test.
If you are diligent and cut your butter into small cubes, this works well, albeit slowly, and it pays to keep an eye on it as the pieces at the bottom of the bowl (closest to the heating element) do melt. It's slower than a microwave but faster than taking your butter out of the fridge in advance because let's be honest, who is that organised? And… it's one less bowl to wash.
This lowest heat setting is great when making American buttercream - even if your butter is still slightly hard when you begin adding sugar, the heat helps the butter reach a nice even temperature to create a fluffy texture as you mix. If it sets before you're ready to use it, you can re-warm the bowl and get it to a spreadable consistency without risking melting it.
How better to put the bowl warmer through its paces than by trying to prove dough in it in the middle of a polar blast?
Despite it being one of those days when my kitchen felt the same temperature as my fridge, my brioche dough rose beautifully and was ready to shape after an hour. For comparison I put half the dough in the warmest spot in my house, and it took more than twice as long to rise to the same level.
Kenwood claims the bowl warmer is 33 percent faster than a bain-marie for this task, but I found it slower at the recommended setting. For a simple melt, I wouldn't say it's worth the trouble - nothing wrong with the microwave - but if you're doing a big batch of brownie which requires you to melt chocolate and butter together, it would be great. The heat is gentle and constant so you can walk away while it does its thing. I'd be a lot more excited if it tempered chocolate - but you'll have to shell out another $500 for the next model to do that.
Again I found that the recommended settings didn't quite get the mixture up to the required 71degC, but by cranking the heat up a little I was easily able to dissolve the sugar and get a glossy, stable meringue. It might be a coincidence that this then produced the best, fluffiest pavlova I've ever made, but there you go. A definite success and much easier than standing over a wobbly bain-marie for ages.
It's worth noting the mixer has six presets for many of these tasks, but given the variability of things like ingredient temperature and recipe size, serious bakers may prefer to use their own judgement.
Built-in digital scale
This is hands down my favourite feature. The digital scale automatically flicks on when you lift the mixer head, and even tilts cleverly so it's still easy to read with the head raised. It is nice and sensitive, easily zeroed and can be set to metric, imperial and liquid units.
Any self-respecting baker knows you should bake by weight, not by volume, and being able to measure straight into the mixing bowl is a game-changer - no more messy transfer of ingredients from one bowl to another, or having to detach the mixing bowl to leave the beater dripping everywhere.
The recommended price tag of $1800 puts this mixer well above most common high-end home mixers. For the serious baker, it's an investment that will make your life easier in small but meaningful ways, without taking the fun and skill out of the craft.
And did I mention you'll be doing fewer dishes?
Newshub was provided with a Kenwood Titanium Chef Patissier XL stand mixer for review purposes.