My life and the world around me

Category: tidbit (Page 2 of 17)

Stand mixer showdown

Bosch Concept 7 & Kitchen Aid elevator bowl mixers

Gwen has wanted a stand mixer for a long time. She’s worked in commercial kitchens before, and harbors the frank desire for a gigantic Hobart.

That’s not in the cards. We’ve both been researching stand mixers for a while. Barring a Hobart, Gwen was interested in a traditional Kitchen Aid with an elevator bowl, which basically looks and runs like a tiny Hobart. I had come across the Bosch Concept 7, which is about as unlike a Kitchen Aid as a stand mixer can be. Costco had a special on some 475-watt Kitchen Aids, so we got one of those. We also got a Bosch mail-order. Today, Gwen made a couple of recipes on each, so we could decide which one to keep.

Design

The Kitchen Aid has the traditional design, somewhat like a crane, with the drive on top and a bowl-lifter on the vertical column. It has an old-fashioned Machine Age look to it, and the exterior made entirely of metal, except for a couple of knobs.

The Bosch is a smooth, low-profile wedge with a vaguely iPod aesthetic (or perhaps the iPod has a Bosch aesthetic). It’s entirely plastic except the drive gears. Power is transmitted through a central shaft that runs up through the middle of the mixing bowl.

Part of the appeal of the Bosch is that it is compact enough that it can be stowed pretty easily—and it weighs less than half as much as the Kitchen Aid, so it’s easier to move around, although it feels solidly built, it has suction-cup feet, and of course, all the weight is at the bottom. Another big part of the Bosch’s appeal is that food-processor and blender attachments are available for it. Our kitchen is short on space, so being able to get rid of a blender base and a food processor (which is disproportionately bulky) is an important consideration. The flipside to this is the all-eggs-in-one-basket problem: if that base ever fails, we’re out three appliances.

Operation

The Kitchen Aid comes with three mixing attachments—a dough hook, a whisk, and a cookie-dough paddle; The Bosch comes with a hook and whisks, and we bought paddles separately. The Kitchen Aid drives all three through an epicyclic motion; on the Bosch, the whisk and paddles have two axes of rotation, but the dough hook has only one—it just goes in circles. It turns out that having two degrees of rotation makes the mixing process much more efficient: using the dough hook on the Bosch does work, but to some extent it relies on friction between the dough and the bowl. Although the Kitchen Aid has a lower-power motor, it was more efficient mixing bread dough. Also, given Gwen’s commercial-kitchen background, operating the Kitchen Aid was basically the same as operating a Hobart—as she says “when the dough starts climbing the hook, I know it’s done.” The layout on the Bosch is so different that it just doesn’t work the same way, and she would need to learn new cues.

For different reasons, we observed that the Bosch was also less efficient making cookie dough. In this case, it came up a little short because the paddles don’t graze the bowl’s surface as closely as the paddle on the Kitchen Aid does, so ingredients that are trapped in that dead zone take longer to mix in. Also, because the Bosch’s bowl is half a torus, scraping down the sides with a spatula takes more work, and leaves a blind spot behind the drive column.

We made about six pounds of bread dough in each of the mixers, and in the end, both did a fine job kneading, and making cookie dough. We suspect that the Bosch would really shine on bigger batches.

The Bosch comes with a lid, which has a chute for adding ingredients. Getting ingredients down that chute was awkward—the opening is just too small to tip in a cup of flour (for example), and removing the lid definitely slows things down a bit. It’s possible to operate it without the cover in place, although a bit messier. Even without it, it’s less messy than the Kitchen Aid.

Cleanup

Cleaning the Bosch’s bowl after kneading dough was far and away easier than the Kitchen Aid’s. The Bosch’s bowl is some kind of slick plastic, and the all dough just pulled away from it in one piece. Cleanup after the cookie dough was harder on the Bosch, because that stuff was more liquid and gluey, and tended to get caught in the gear that is built into the top of the bowl. As to the mixers themselves, the Bosch’s lack of surface features makes it much easier to clean.

Verdict

So which one are we going to keep? We haven’t decided yet. The Kitchen Aid is a known quantity for Gwen (who will do the vast majority of cooking with whatever we keep). The Bosch isn’t, and she wants to make another recipe before we decide.

Update

To reach a decision on which mixer to keep, Gwen made two cakes. Using the whisks on both mixers, the Bosch actually did a better job mixing—its batter was visibly smoother than the Kitchen Aid’s, and it got mixed with less spatula intervention. But the bowl is the Bosch’s Achilles’ heel: it is very large (to accommodate the driveshaft running through the middle), and it has no handle or spout—in fact, the lip of the bowl is distinctly ill-designed for pouring, with a notch for the lid to fit into, and a wide edge above that folding back into a sort of “cuff.” This made getting the batter out of the bowl such a mess that Gwen decided it wasn’t worth it. If she’s going to be discouraged from using it, it’s not worth it.

Victory goes to the Kitchen Aid.

Unbeatable Banzuke

I’ve been working on an ongoing translation project for the past four months. It’s being released in the USA under the title Unbeatable Banzuke on the G4 cable station.

The show was called 筋肉番付 (kinniku banzuke—”Muscle Ranking”) in Japanese, and aired about ten years ago.

Yesterday, I caught just a few minutes of a segment I had translated. From what little I saw, the production company hasn’t tampered much with my translation (as edited by my editor at the translation agency). The American version is kind of weird. They’ve got an American doing completely new voiceover, and his pronunciation of Japanese words is as bad as anyone who doesn’t know a lick of Japanese. The show closes with more completely new content in the form of a signoff by a Japanese-speaking announcer named Kei Kato, who was not a part of the original show. I’m not exactly sure what the point of this extra “local color” is. I’m also a little puzzled that they’d want the local color, but stick with such stridently Americanized pronunciation for Japanese words.

They also seem to have deleted all the original telops, including the many advertising the prize money for each event. This is reasonable, but since the contestants frequently make reference to the money they stand to win, I’m guessing they’ve probably edited those parts out. I’ll need to watch more to find out.

Holding up a funhouse mirror up to society

Sitting on an ergometer at the gym yesterday, I was equidistant between two televisions. One was tuned to Bravo, showing “Make Me a Supermodel,” the other on the hilariously misnamed The Learning Channel (seriously, this should be The Endumbening Channel), showing “Fad Diets.”

This juxtaposition all by itself was entertaining enough, but when they got to the part about people who actually do use tapeworms as a weight-loss tool, I was agog. Reality outpaces our ability to satirize it.

My brilliance cannot be contained, episode 2,336

Gwen and I saw something about lap-band surgery on TV recently, and I was struck by an idea. Instead of gastric-bypass, lap-band, stomach-stapling, and other forms of bariatric surgery, which are both risky and prone to complications, doctors should introduce therapeutic tapeworms.

I dedicate this idea to the public domain, in the hopes that someone will take it and run with it. I can’t believe nobody’s thought of this before.

Sacred cows

Submitted for your consideration:

Many religions build up arbitrary dietary rules around them.

Raw-foodism is an arbitrary dietary rule that has built up a religion around it.

Horsemuffin

Folding cards for Gwen

When Gwen and I bought our current house, we inherited a letterpress, vintage approximately 1920, that the previous owners could not take with them when they moved to Spain. Gwen was interested in learning how to use it, but knowing how the best-laid plans of mice and men can go, we agreed that if she hadn’t done anything with it in nine months, we’d get rid of it.

Well, she did do something—a batch of coasters (using type, ink, and stock that was also left behind). Then she made some postcards. My sister, who received one of these postcards and has her own craft business, told Gwen “if you make more like these, I can sell them.”

That got Gwen thinking. She designed a series of cards, got plates burned, bought paper and ink, and got to work. I watched.

It’s fascinating to contemplate letterpress printing. It’s a very fussy process. These days if we want a hard copy (a phrase that suggests how a paper instantiation of information is secondary to the platonic electronic form), we hit command-P and a few seconds later, a page (or many pages) pops out of the printer, perfectly rendered.

It’s a little different with letterpress printing. Assuming you bypass the laborious process of composing type and have a plate burned, you still need to affix the plate in your chase, estimate the correct amount of packing on your platen, estimate your gauge-pin positions, and print some “make-ready” to home in on the correct packing and pin positioning. Once you’re getting a uniform, square impression—a process that can easily take an hour—you can start printing. The packing (extra sheets of paper underneath your printed piece) determine how hard the plate’s impression is, and a single piece of tissue paper in the packing can make an obvious difference in print quality. And if you’re doing a two- or three-color job, you need to do all this repeatedly—and get your registration straight with the previous print passes. The whole process can go wrong in numerous ways, and our eyes are highly attuned to even subtle errors in printed matter. A piece that’s rotated so that a printed line that goes out of parallel with the edge of the card by just 1/30″ over a length of 5″ is an obvious reject.

And while we generally don’t think of printing as physically dangerous, with a letterpress, it can be. Because the equipment is, at root, a press. And it weighs about 1800 lb, running off a large flywheel carrying a lot of momentum. If your hand happens to get in the way when platen and plate are pressed together, you’re going to have a very flat hand.

In spite of the hard work, the finickiness, and the risk of grievous bodily harm, Gwen has produced a line of cards. They’re being sold at Book People, and will be sold on the East Austin Studio Tour and Cherrywood Art Fair.

Oh, and she has a website of course. Horsemuffin.

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