Spiral Mixers for the Discerning Baker

A real joy in this business is engaging with a really wide variety of customers looking for anything from a bag of coarse rye flour for fishing (I have no idea) to an expanding bakery looking for 1000 fancy proving baskets. We’re always keeping one ear listening for great ideas for new products and we have a long list for evaluation at the moment. This one was easy and I have Vanessa to thank for this one as she’s been looking for several months for a mixer that suits her Sourdough School and was so impressed she’s persuaded us to stock it. There are reports of her friends oohing and aahing over hers.

This is a rather special mixer since it has a kneading action that we have only otherwise seen on much larger machines only for commercial use. It is just right for sourdough mixing. So we are really pleased to be able to offer this one that sits in both very keen home bakers and micro bakeries alike (although they are available in much larger sizes too).

Mixing is an important part of baking and is an aspect that I find many home bakers overlook. At the school I teach people to mix by hand which, for domestic bakers, is a really lovely moment to experience the sensory part of baking. I encourage domestic bakers to feel the dough and get familiar with the way the flour hydrates. Getting to know the touch and feel of it as it comes together helps to understand how the flour behaves, but increasingly I have been teaching small artisan producers to make sourdough so I’ve been on the hunt for a suitable machine for a while to teach sourdough to production bakers.

I looked at my lovely old planetary mixer with its wonderful patina. I’ll admit to falling in love with it, but luckily for me a good friend and baker was honest enough to tell me that it wasn’t right. While the planetary movement (round and round) is really versatile and for a small bakery making lots of cakes and meringues as well as bread it is fine, but for really seriously great bread there is no beating a spiral movement. It’s taken me a while to find one that really has the right movement and the quality I was looking for.

For commercial bakers, mixing larger amounts of dough correctly is integral to the success of the final loaf. When making larger amounts the final loaf’s structure is to a large extent, determined during the mixing stage. It is essential to get this step right. If the mixing time or speed is misjudged, the texture and the grain of the crumb is compromised. To get uniformity of dough the moment that the flour is hydrated and gluten well developed you have to put in just the right amount of energy, water and the flour.

So the main job of a spiral mixer is to gently mix bread dough allowing for the development of the gluten structure, without overworking it. The bowl of the mixer rotates as the spiral hook is spinning to knead the dough. This means that the spiral hook is kneading only a portion of the whole dough mass so keeps friction heat low and results in a consistent mix. This is really important because if the temperature of the dough isn't right, the fermentation rate will be faster or slower which influences the volume of the bread and the colour of the crust.

A good mixer has multiple speeds to give the baker more control over the dough development. Low speed helps bring the mix together into a homogenous mass. The high speed is used to develop the gluten structure of the dough. The mixer needs to be heavy and robust to stay put while heavy dough is being tossed around whilst mixing. So for small to medium sized bakers finding a smaller mixer that does exactly what you need it to do is challenging. There are various mixers on the market, but it’s a big investment. This mixer is simply a stunning looking machine; it’s beautifully made with a powerful and surprisingly quiet engine.

It comes in a variety of muted and bright colours and sizes. I’ve gone for the 10kg model, which manages beautifully. The bowl is high strength stainless steel and on mine, I opted for the timer and wheels. I am really delighted that BakeryBits has decided to add them because I am certain that there are many small artisan bakers, who, like me need all of the features and quality of a commercial machine...just a bit smaller.

Vanessa Kimbell runs the Sourdough School, Northampton

featured products

Sunmix Spiral Dough Mixer
From £733.76

Sunmix mixers in the 6 to 20kg dough range and are perfect for baking schools, micro bakeries and the keen home baker. The spiral action of the mixer makes it ideal for mixing sourdough in larger quantities.