I admit it - I'm a kitchen freak, and so is my husband. We love to cook and we love kitchen gadgets. One of our first kitchen gadgets when we moved in together years ago was a 5 quart KitchenAid stand mixer - and oh, did we use and abuse it!
Recommend this product?
Unfortunately it developed some problems after four or five years. Speeds 2 and 4 were the same speed after a while, and the lubricant started oozing onto the outside of the housing. Luckily for us I'd decided to buy the inexpensive 10-year total replacement warranty - the one that stated that should we have any problem, they'd replace the entire thing free of charge. My husband called them and they said they'd take care of everything.
A day later they called back. They didn't have the 5 quart mixer in gray any more. Did I want a 5 quart in a different color, or a 6 quart in gray?
Was there any doubt?
What It Has
The KitchenAid Epicurean 6 quart stand mixer is a beautiful thing to behold. (Well, actually, the gray color is a bit on the utilitarian side, but some of the other colors are very nice.) It does take up a bit of counter space, and it's fairly heavy. But then you kind of have to expect that with a stand mixer!
It has 10 speeds (and 475 watts of power), and most of the time you'll only need to use the first few. It comes with three attachments: the paddle, for normal mixing; the dough hook, for dough (obviously!); the wire balloon whisk, for egg whites and whipped cream.
The bowl and attachments are designed such that the paddles and whisks use a unique pattern of movement to cover as much area inside the bowl as possible, so that you don't end up with ingredients stuck to the bottom of the bowl that never get incorporated into the final product. This sometimes falls a little short if you're making a very small amount of something - in that case you're better off using a hand mixer. With some recipes you might want to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice, but then that's a good idea with a hand mixer too.
It has a wonderful "slow start" feature that the 5 quart didn't. This means it takes a moment to work its way up to speed. Why is this so important? Because the 5 quart mixer often tossed a little flour or liquid out of the bowl when it jerked its way to a higher speed unless you put the splash guard on it. I haven't needed to use the splash guard at all with the Epicurean!
Other included goodies:
Splash guard with feed tube. Beware: if you aren't paying attention it's easy to accidentally insert the feed tube such that it angles out over the edge of the bowl instead of in, and then you can end up pouring your liquid onto the counter instead of into the bowl. If you pay attention, however, the feed tube will work exactly as advertised, allowing you to easily add foods while the mixer is running.
Instruction and recipe booklet. The book has a surprising number of yummy recipes in it, and the instructions are good.
A 6 quart metal bowl with handle is included. The 5 quart was just small enough that if we mixed two loaves of French bread in it, the dough tried to escape out the top. In the 6 quart it fits just fine.
Use and Care
You plug your stand mixer in and seat the bowl (take care to fit the little round nub on the back of the bowl into the hole that's made for it so that it's seated exactly correctly). Pour your ingredients into the bowl. Push the desired attachment up onto the pole in the middle, and turn so that it's locked in place. Use the lever arm to raise the bowl into place. If you expect to add more ingredients during mixing, then put the splash guard with feed tube onto the edge of the bowl.
If you're using the dough hook, never increase the speed above setting 2. (A big warning label came with the Epicurean to this effect that did not come with the 5 quart; we suspect this to be the reason behind the problems we had with our last mixer, so follow this instruction carefully!) There are good directions in the book for using the various attachments, and if you have any doubt, then look up a recipe in the booklet that uses the same techniques that your recipe uses, and follow that recipe's instructions for using the mixer.
When you're done, stop the mixer and unplug it. Lower the bowl, remove the splash guard/feed tube and mixer attachment, and remove the bowl.
The attachments (splash guard, feed tube, and mixer blades - EXCEPT for the wire whisk) can all go into the dishwasher! The bowl is too large for any dishwasher I've ever had but is easily washed by hand. A damp rag will take care of the outer housing of the stand mixer; the surface cleans quite easily. KitchenAid has managed to get rid of a couple of the things on the old mixer that tended to catch and hold cruft; this one is much easier to clean.
Gratuitous cooking tip: When making bread dough, we've found it much easier to remove the dough from the bowl if you drop a little extra flour into the bowl just before you're done mixing. Let it go a round or two until the flour is scattered on the surface of the bowl, but stop the mixer before the flour gets absorbed into the dough. Now the flour between the dough and the bowl will keep the dough from sticking as much when you try to remove it (as long as you remove it promptly).
Why Buy a Stand Mixer?
Reason #1: Fun! If you love kitchen gadgets, this is the ultimate kitchen gadget.
Reason #2: Ease of adding things Do you make lots of cake recipes or the like? You know, recipes that include instructions like, "mix on low for two minutes; add oil and mix for three minutes on low; add vanilla and milk and mix for two minutes on medium; add eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition..." It's a heck of a lot easier to add things when your hands aren't filled with the mixer!
Reason #3: Easier on your hands There are recipes out there that say things like, "beat for 20 minutes." I don't know about you, but that was a pain even before I developed tendonitis in my hands! Now that I do have tendonitis, the stand mixer is a life saver. I just wouldn't be able to bake a lot of the things (like thick cookie dough) that I do now if I didn't have a stand mixer.
Reason #4: It'll handle any dough Hefty bread dough? No problem. Thick cookie dough? It can do it. If you're tired of stirring thick, heavy mixes, then let the stand mixer do it for you.
Reason #5: That wonderful customer service They didn't even ask us how the KitchenAid had developed problems. They paid for the delivery of the new one, had us pack the old one in the same box, and paid for us to send it back to them - they even arranged for the UPS pick-up! Then they took the years left on our warranty and transferred them to our new machine. Just because they didn't have our old color they gave us a newer and better machine. It's hard to find companies with such wonderful service these days!
I honestly can't recommend the KitchenAid Epicurean 6 quart stand mixer highly enough. It's a real workhorse, a sturdy machine that will more than do its duty in the kitchen. If you love to cook and have a little room to spare on your counter, this will make a fabulous addition to your kitchen tool collection.
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