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heliman 12-26-2009 05:31 PM

TBird 20 QT vs KitcheAid ... some thoughts
What a Very interesting exercise this has been...

I cannot speak highly enough about the TBird mixer and it just can't compare with the KA (perhaps unfair to even try). But, because if the vast difference in the end product I think that it is worthwhile to talk about it because others may also share my frustration with producing batch after batch of mediocre to poor quality pizza dough.

At the outset it is important to clarify that I am referring to the "basic" KA which comes with a "C" shaped dough hook. The larger, more robust "600", by some accounts does do quite a good job of making the dough, but for those like me with the basic model, the results are far from acceptable.

In trying to use a reasonably accurate methodology with which to test both machines, I decided to do a side-by-side comparison under similar temperature conditions use the identical recipe. I started off with the paddle attachment on both mixers to combine the flour, water, yeast and salt for 2 minutes and allowed 20 minute autolyse. Then I proceeded to make a batch of dough in each of the mixers - using a "wet knead", that is, adding 75% of the required flour and kneading that for 5 minutes before adding the remaining flour during an additional 4 minutes of kneading. The rationale was that both would be easily able to knead the battery mix on an equal footing, removing that element from the process and shifting the focus to the subsequent 4 minutes of kneading. This was the area of particular interest to me and thus to isolate it would hopefully reveal the key difference in the performance of both machines.

Firstly, the KA accepted the additional tablespoons of flour that I added from the remaining 25% of the recipe and immediately I noticed that the mixture started spinning in the bowl. This appeared to be attributable to the reduced friction and viscosity of the mixture. I stopped the mixer several times to pull the mixture off the hook where it had climbed up during the mixing. This phenomenon lead me to conclude that the full kneading action was not being performed on the dough and that it would begin to heat up the dough ball if this action was sustained for any length of time. I continued adding the remainder of the flour and hand kneaded it on the bench for a few minutes at the end (KA suggests this).

Then, I started a batch in the TBird, following the same process mentioned above. Results appeared to be much the same as for the KA up to the completion of the 5 minute "wet knead". Given that the TBird has a "spiral" dough hook and performs a significantly different kneading action to that of the KA I paid close attention to this stage of the process. I observed that the additional 25% of the recipe flour was more readily absorbed into the mixture and that the gluten strands were more pronounced (perhaps due to the larger bowl surface area). Most noticeable was the firmness and the strength of the dough when I removed it from the bowl. This was certainly not the case with the KA which was significantly more "loose" and less firm.

The real test of the dough was of course in the preparation and cooking and the differences there were most noticeable. The TBird dough was very smooth and stretched easily with a small amount of "spring back" noted. There were no thin spots and the stretched dough was uniform thickness throughout. Baking produced a lovely crust and the pizzas were of the best I have produced - ever.

In contrast, the dough preparation from the KA batch, whilst reasonable, produced some thin spots during the stretching process. The dough was also not as firm as the TBird dough with little "spring back" experienced. The cooked results were fair and quite edible but did not have the body that the TBird dough had.

So, overall the TBird produced what I would term "restaurant quality" dough which is understandable given its designed application. The KA did not produce the same results and the dough required "patching" to fix the thin spots which was time intensive and frustrating particularly when catering (as I was last night) for a number of people. My overall conclusion was that the final kneading action was the key to finishing the dough to the required level. TBird could do it - attributable to the "spiral" action as opposed to the "C" hook action. The addition of flour to the KA exacerbated the slipping problem whereby dough crept up the hook and "slapped" around the bowl. This was not easily fixed during the dough making process as the longer you spun the dough, the hotter it would get with the associated negative consequences. It is no wonder that KA suggests that you have to "finish" the dough making process on the bench. This sort of defeats the purpose of the exercise as you could probably argue that you may just as well do the whole batch by hand and dispense with the KA all together. This is a rather bizarre suggestion as a mechanical aid such as a mixer should be able to achieve the entire dough making process on its own.

In conclusion, I would say that whilst the KA is not completely fit for purpose, it is still useful for performing some of the stages of dough making - but not all of them. If you are going to use a KA, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do some hand kneading at the end. Alternatively, and as many others have suggested, find a mixer that has a "non-C" hook attachment like the larger KA, TBird or Hobart to do the job for you. The dough making process is really critical and I have been disappointed with many a mediocre batch of dough so it is definitely worth getting it right. The acquisition of the TBird mixer was the turning point for me and highlighted the critical role of the mixer in excellent dough preparation.


nissanneill 12-27-2009 02:46 AM

Re: TBird 20 QT vs KitcheAid ... some thoughts
no comment on the commercial mixer versus the KA (or any 'domestic mixer' for that matter,as they say, it's chalk and cheese (or in this case Cheese and chalk). I have been an adversory for these commercial mixers for a couple of years even though I could really hardly justify one, let alone two for the amount that I use!
How did you dough cook up where you forgot to autolyse when compared to the long drawn out method that you have adopted?


heliman 12-27-2009 03:25 AM

Re: TBird 20 QT vs KitcheAid ... some thoughts

Originally Posted by nissanneill (Post 75357)
.. I have been an adversory for these commercial mixers for a couple of years even though I could really hardly justify one, let alone two for the amount that I use!

I find that it is great to have the right tool for the job - and the commercial mixer is certainly no exception to that thinking. I think it is safe to say that the small KA is just not up to the job, therefore a suitable alternative has to be sought. There are plenty of second hand machines out there and they are available sometimes at very reasonable prices. Just a bit of talking to others can even locate a 2nd hand Hobart as I found on Xmas day. My brother-in-law who has an industrial ceramics business saw mine TBird and "oh, we just threw out an old Hobart because the switch had gone". He uses one for some preparatory phase of the ceramics. So, keep an eye out in dumpsters on verges or in the local paper - they are definitely out there.


Originally Posted by nissanneill (Post 75357)
.. How did you dough cook up where you forgot to autolyse when compared to the long drawn out method that you have adopted?

I found a distinct difference in the texture and extensibility of the dough between the two. The no autolyse method was a lot tougher and I had to add additional water. The gluten development seemed much better with autolyse. Cooked pizza was a bit tougher without autolyse but still quite good. With autolyse, cooked dough was also ligher than the non-autolyse version.

This may be useful for the methodology rationale that I am following (ref. Jeff Varasano):

The Wet-Kneading Technique with Autolyse

I call this process Wet-Kneading. It's the key to great dough:

Autolyse - Autolyse is a fancy word that just means one simple thing. The flour and water should sit together for at least 20 minutes before kneading begins. It's a CRITICAL step. Some say that you should mix just the flour and water together, then after 20 minutes add the salt and yeast, then mix. Others say you can add all the ingredients at the beginning. I have found very little difference.

Pour all the ingredients into the mixer, except just use 75% of the flour for now. So all of the water, salt, poolish (Video of Poolish), Instant dry Yeast (if used) and 75% of the flour are put into the mixer. Everything should be room temperature or a bit cooler.

There is no need to dissolve the yeast in warm water or feed it sugar. 'Proofing' the yeast was probably required decades ago, but I've never had yeast that didn't activate. The yeast feeds on the flour so you don't need to put in sugar. The proofing step that you see in many recipes is really an old wives tale at this point.

Mix on lowest speed for 1-2 minutes or until completely blended. At this stage you should have a mix that is drier than a batter, but wetter than a dough. Closer to batter probably.

Cover and Let it rest for 20 minutes. One of the most important things I've found is that these rest periods have a huge impact on the final product. I've seen so much arguing online about the proper flour for making pizza. "You need super high protein flour to get the right structure for a pizza dough". People argue endlessly about brands and minor changes in flour blends, types of water, etc. A lot of this is myth and a big waste of time. The autolyse period is FAR more important to creating structured gluten development than is the starting protein percentage. Autolyse and knead properly and AP flour will produce a great pizza with a lot of structure. Do these steps poorly and bread or high gluten flour will not help you at ALL. This step reminds me of mixing pie dough. After you add the water to pie dough, it's crumbly. But after sitting for 20 minutes, it's a dough. The water takes time to soak in, and when it does it transforms the pie dough. It's really a similar thing here with pizza dough

Wet Kneading

Start Mixing on Low speed for 8 minutes. 5 minutes into it start adding flour gradually.

This part is critical and it's something that I did not understand at all until relatively recently: Even if the dough is very sticky - that is it does not have enough flour in it to form a ball and it is still halfway between a batter and a dough - it is still working. This is where MOST of the kneading occurs. The gluten IS working at this point even though it's not a dough yet.

If you are using a KA, and you lift the hook, the dough should fall off by itself. The hook should look like its going through the dough, and not pushing the dough around. It should be that wet until nearly the end.

With the DLX you can play with the scrapper and the roller, pressing them together to allow the dough to extrude through the gaps. This really works the dough. The DLX mechanism is totally different than a regular mixer.

After the first 6-8 minutes increase the speed of the mixer slightly. I never go higher than 1/3 of the dial on my mixer. Keep in mind that in the old days they mixed this by hand (Anthony at Una Pizza Napoletana in NYC still does). You should add most of the remaining flour. But you still want a very wet dough, so don't go crazy.

At some point during this process the dough should be getting much firmer and should form more of a ball. Mix another minute or so a this stage You may find that the dough is sticking to the roller /hook and not really working too much at this point. This is why it's so important to do most of the mixing at the earlier, wetter stages. Once the dough is at this point, it is done. My recommendation is this: DON'T BE A SLAVE TO RECIPES AND PERCENTAGES. It's fine to use the spreadsheet or other measures as a guideline, but you have to judge how much flour goes into the dough by feeling it. Do NOT force more flour into the mix just to reach a number. If the dough feels good and soft and you still have flour you have not put in, don't sweat it. Leave it out. In the end you need a wet dough. In fact, even the dough has formed more of ball, if you let it sit, it should spread out a little and look a little limp. This is what you want, not a tight ball, but a slack, wet soft dough.

One of the best ways to see how your dough is doing is to sprinkle a little flour on in and just feel it. It should feel baby bottom soft. If you don't sprinkle flour it will just feel sticky and not look smooth. But sprinkle a tiny bit of flour and now its soft and smooth. This is what you want. This is a much gentler recipe than most and it shows in the final dough.

With Hi Gluten flours a commercial mixer and a dry dough, you will find that the dough is tough to work and consequently both the machine and the dough will get very hot. Commercial bakers compensate by starting with cool water and by measuring the temperature of the dough as they go. The procedures I'm outlining don't require this. The wet knead technique and the lower protein all but eliminates the friction. You can expect the dough to heat only about 3-4 F while mixing, so it's not an issue.

Let it rest for 15-20 minutes. If you were to do a window pane test before the rest, you might be disappointed. Afterwards it will test well.



nissanneill 12-27-2009 04:22 AM

Re: TBird 20 QT vs KitcheAid ... some thoughts
interesting alternative to what I have been doing and well worth trying it to compare the results.
I might do a batch for new years eve as I don't have anything else planned at this stage.
Would you use the dough hook or beater for the initial mix and also after the autolyse period up until you add the last 25% of the flour?
I would think that the beater would work the batter/dough mix better than the hook and then change to the hook for the final flour addition and kneading.


heliman 12-27-2009 04:53 AM

Re: TBird 20 QT vs KitcheAid ... some thoughts
Hi Neill...

My thinking on the use of the paddle/hook is that the paddle defintely does best for the initial blending of the flour, water etc. The dough hook was no good for this as you identified earlier as there was flour stuck to the side of the bowl (which I had to shift down later with a spatula). The paddle sorted all the flour/water out in under 2 mins and left a nice battery mix ready for autolyse.

As the post autolyse process requires "kneading" my thinking is that this would be best done with a dough hook. The process identified by Jeff Varasano proposes the use of the hook for the last 4 minutes or so - suggesting that the hook cuts through the mix, thereby perfoming an effortless knead. Perhaps the paddle will be a bit too aggressive for the dough and adversely affect the gluten strands. Worth giving the paddle a go though - this is pretty much a work in progress and you may just stumble upon a unique new way of making pizzas in the process... and sell off the idea for millions!!!


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