So this is it – a very special and exciting blog post which has been a few months in the making. In conjunction with Argos, I am delighted to be able to bring to you what I hope will fully address that quandary home bakers across the globe with a few hundred pounds burning a hole in their presumably ample sized pockets, together with the desire to own a stand mixer of their own, face. Kenwood or KitchenAid?! Let me explain further…
Christmas morning, 2009, Hungry Hubby made me the happiest girl in the world by asking me to marry him. There we were, sat on the floor in our new Christmas pyjamas, about to unwrap our gifts for each other. First, he handed me a scroll with a poem he had penned himself about why he loved me, followed by the bended knee and The Question which quickly lead onto a huge box being pushed towards me, wrapped with a big bow on top. Giddy and still a little shell-shocked, I could not believe that Hubs had managed the perfect proposal for his jewellery despising, baking mad gal – my very own twinkly, sparkly, beautiful Candy Apple KitchenAid! There ended my personal quest for the perfect stand mixer but when the opportunity came about for me to put a Kenwood Chef stand mixer through it’s paces, I jumped at the chance. Having grown up with a nan who used a model, from the 1970s at the latest methinks, which was still in service more than 20 years later, I already knew they were work horses. Many of my foodie friends have and love their Kens, likewise passed down through the generations in their families but obviously in my hopelessly romantic, lovestruck eyes, he had a long way to go to rival my Candy. Let’s see how he performed…
So when I opened the box, inside was the mixer itself, a splatter guard, a flexible spatula, a wrench to adjust the height of the head, and the same three attachments Candy has. Kenwood have tweaked the design of the flat beater by giving it a twist compared to the KitchenAid version though, presumably to make it more ergonomic in it’s function. The instruction pamphlet was very simple and short which was great – who wants to spend hours reading a biblical tome when you’ve brought baby home for the very first time?! The principles of operation are very similar to the KA. The booklet which shows you all the various different attachments you can purchase to use with the Kenwood was interesting – you can add a blender to the mixer itself for instance; a pasta maker and meat mincer may also be added amongst many others. There’s no way in getting away from the utilitarian white-goods look to the Kenwood but those who want to minimise the number of electrical appliances in their kitchens would probably do better with a Kenwood Chef like this one. If you study baking programmes on TV as much as I do, you will notice that fancy celebrity chefs will have a glittery, breathtaking, giddy-knee making KitchenAid to whip up their latest must-bakes but when they have segments showing them in working kitchens, catering colleges or on baking courses for amateurs and professionals alike, you will see the more modest in appearance Kenwoods in the backgrounds. Go on – take a look at the likes of Rachel Allen and tell me I’m wrong! Let’s see how Ken stands up to a few standard home baking scenarios shall we?
I thought I’d start with making some cookies – these are Magic In The Middle Cookies as found on Carrie’s beautiful blog – The Patterned Plate (link in my blog roll). Addictive, compulsive eating. Hence I promptly gave them to Hungry Hubby to take to work, out of harm’s way! The Kenwood Chef made easy work of creaming the butter and sugar together – despite the lack of the flexible plastic windshield wiper my KA flat beater has, I didn’t need to scrape down the mixture as I prepared the dough. Nice one Kenwood. I was pleased to see the speed range compared to that of the KA is greater – you can start off slower and it even has a pulse option if you wish to add ingredients very slowly. Just don’t get a fright if you accidentally turn the speed dial thinking it clicks into “off” and stops there. The pulse option is beyond this, hence me ending up with flour puffed out onto everywhere onto my freshly scrubbed worktop in preparation for this photo shoot 😉 Turns out I am well and truly in tune with the KitchenAid mode of operation nowadays and the subtleties in difference of use to the Kenwood made me feel as if I wear wearing someone else’s shoes! Kinda like how photographers fall into Canon or Nikon users and ne’er the two shallst e’er be mixed up.
Next up after cake making (which made use of the beater attachment) I trialled the dough hook and made both pizza and the dough for this glorious white French loaf, a Couronne Bordelaise. A small thing but I was thrilled I didn’t need to get a screwdriver out of the dumping ground we call the boiler room to alter the height of the mixer’s head as I did with my beloved KA! Each attachment slotted into the machine easily without needing to use that wrench the Kenwood came with (nice touch to include a special, devoted tool for this task – I like that!) leaving a couple of millimetres clearance from the bowl base. It’s the small things people…
Again, the greater range of speeds was handy in kneading my dough. I will admit here and now I do not get the whole kneading-by-hand thing being superior to using a machine thing that some bakers seem to insist. I understand how my dough changes as the machine does the work for me and keep an eye on it, testing for smoothness, elasticity, the windowpane effect even as required. In your face, Paul Hollywood 😉
The instruction book tells me the Kenwood is capable of taking quite a weight of raw ingredients when it comes to making bread doughs. There is a helpful table which tells you the maximum weights each model can take. Very handy, especially if you like to bulk bake a few loaves at a time. Also a good point is the plastic mixer bowl is super light so will mean you get a more accurate weight measurement on your digital scales, using the tare feature. I sometimes worry that using my 1.2kg earthenware bowl on my scale might make it less conducive to weighing out 7g of yeast accurately by the time I’ve got 750g of flour and other ingredients in it as well! You won’t have to worry about that if you have this Kenwood and it’s svelte attachments 😉
Now onto the final attachment – the whisk. Ah, memories. The very first thing I made in Candy was on Boxing Day 2009 – Nigella’s chocolate pavlova with raspberries. Heavenly. I can still taste it now if I close my eyes and day dream. It is said in the home baker community that the first make in a KA should be meringues as that powerful stallion of a motor makes aerating your egg whites a breeze, especially if all you’ve had before is a lowly hand whisk.
I am very glad to announce that the Kenwood made beautiful meringue for me. Which I promptly turned into some chocolate, hazelnut and Biscoff spread macarons. Whilst I rather stupidly piped them onto wax paper and let them stand for half an hour before realising you can’t bake on wax paper, hence meaning they are the less technically proficient macarons I have ever made, they do taste delicious and I may well be sharing the recipe with you in the near future. Sans brain-dead, rookie mistakes of course 😉
To finish, I thought I’d leave you with a few quick reference points to help you if you are faced the the first-world dilemma of Kenwood Versus KitchenAid for yourselves, for what my opinion is worth 😉 These are based on my experience in using this Kenwood Chef.
- Kenwood is an established brand with a faithful following – they focus their attention on functionality and really deliver on this. KitchenAid is likewise a trustworthy brand but they deliver on style as well as substance.
- The Kenwood Chef I used has a smaller bowl than the KA equivalent (I have the Artisan model). This will make little difference to your domestic baker but semi-professionals may need to invest in a bigger capacity machine.
- The “white goods” look won’t age and won’t cause design nightmares for those concerned about the colour coding of their Kitchens! I personally say what is life if it not varied and colourful?!
- The Kenwood is far lighter the KA – important for those who need to store it away in a cupboard between uses or for those who’s idea of strength training is kneading dough by hand 😉
- The attachments that come with are very good quality on the KA – the powder coating on the beater and dough hook appear tough and resilient. I am considering replacing my KA ones 4.5 years on as the paint is chipping off.
- The pulse option and slower starting speed is one thing I really envy the Kenwood for – I wish I could slow my Candy down!
- A negative for the Kenwood Chef is it is significantly more noisy than my KA even when not at full speed. Also, it “waddles” a little when it is mixing. Not enough that it might walk off my worktop when whipping up a meringue but enough to make me not want to leave the kitchen whilst it worked it’s magic.
- The splatter guard with a flap to lift to pour ingredients down into the bowl as it mixers is great when it is on the machine, however perhaps I am being cack-handed (quite possible) but it is a fiddle to get it to seat on the head of the machine. It doesn’t have a definite lock-in position from what I can see and so it’s tricky to get it parallel with the worktop – if you don’t get it just so, you can’t close the head down. That being said, I did chuck the KA version within weeks of having Candy so both manufacturers clearly need to make improvements to their designs!
- One bug bear with the Kenwood is the head-lift lever is a little tricky to use. With my Candy, I know with every depression of the lever, I can lift the head up; with the Kenwood it took me a few goes to get it open each time. Perhaps with more use I will “get the knack” and it won’t feel so clumsy.
- The Kenwood Chef range is a lot cheaper than the KA and has quite a range of different models so there is likely to be a model which fits the needs of a domestic home baker on a budget more readily than a KA.
So there we have it, the down low on Kenwood versus KitchenAid. Ken Versus Candy. My heart will always be with my beautiful Candy given how she came into my world but we are all different and have different needs in the kitchen. I hope that this review has helped clear up some of the questions prospective buyers may have regarding either machine and I do hope that you consider Argos if you chose to buy your own Kenwood Chef. Take a look at their range here. I will happily answer any further questions via comments, emails, Tweets or Facebook so please don’t be shy!