One of the biggest powerhouses in any baker's arsenal is the stand mixer, it renders a great many tasks considerably easier and enables you to do other things whilst at the same time mixing cake batter, making meringue or kneading bread dough. Unfortunately they are generally prohibitively expensive, which is why when my (second-hand and gifted) KitchenAid mixer exploded I was unable to afford to replace it and have been without one for a long time. I still have it, sat in a cupboard awaiting the time when I get round to finding a replacement circuit board for it, but I keep forgetting to do so.
Which is why when Domu kindly offered to send me a VonShef stand mixer in my choice of colour to review I jumped at the chance to have one again. The mixer comes in a good range of colours, making picking one quite difficult! I opted for 'pistachio', which is a lovely turquoisy-green colour. When I first received and picked up the mixer I was initially dubious as to how sturdy it would be, it is not a brand of mixer I had heard of before and compared to a KitchenAid it is extremely light! It is made of plastic rather than metal, which is why it is so much lighter and I thought that this would cause it to move around while it was mixing; I was wrong however and it remained steadfast even when mixing bread dough at a high speed.
The build is similar to most other stand mixers - a tilt head with a large 5.5L removable stainless steel bowl and three attachments - scraper/mixer, balloon whisk and dough hook. It also comes with a splash guard, a silicone lid for the bowl and a dust cover. It has six speed settings, but there is also an 'Egg' button, which is basically a turbo speed button, and a 'Pulse' setting. I found that even the highest speed setting was too slow for meringue (I mixed for about 10 minutes and the egg whites didn't even get frothy), but the 'Egg' button was fast enough and after pressing it it whipped up the meringue no problem. It doesn't seem to struggle when mixing for long periods of time - I mixed dough for 15 minutes in it; though the speed is a little inconsistent - it doesn't quite remain at a steady speed, I don't think this is too much of a problem however. The beater/scraper is perfect for making cake batter, it reaches the bottom of the bowl no problem but I did have to scrape down the sides higher up, that's no biggie though.
The downsides to the mixer are: It is pretty loud, though you are unlikely to find a quiet stand mixer. I don't think that the top speed is fast enough, it is capable of going faster if you use the 'Egg' button but in some cases that is too fast and there is no speed in-between that and level six on the dial; It would have made more sense to design the mixer with ten speed levels rather than six and do away with the button altogether. Thirdly, there is no option to buy extra accessories for the mixer - with a KitchenAid you can get all sorts of attachments such as ice cream freezer bowls, pasta rollers, meat grinders, spiralisers etc. so that's something to consider if you wanted a mixer that can replace every kitchen gadget. It is also a bit plasticky, but the upside to this is that you can easily pick it up and move it around without doing your back in.
The main selling point for the VonShef stand mixer is the price, currently retailing at £84.99 it is vastly cheaper than any of the big name brand options and for the price I think it is definitely worth it. I have had no problems with it so far and other than my minor quibble with the speed settings it is easy to use and effective. It comes in a good range of colours so you are sure to be able to find one to match your kitchen (Or in my case my hair...) and I'm certainly going to be putting mine to good use!
On to the Tangzhong chocolate swirl buns; for those of you who don't know, tangzhong is a method predominantly used in Japan and China to make very soft bread that keeps well. It simply involves making a roux with flour and water which is cooked to a wallpaper paste-like consistency, cooled and then added to the bread dough. The resulting bread is pillowy soft, slightly sweet and utterly delicious. However, the dough is very soft and takes a long time to knead; until now I have had to knead it by hand and it often takes half an hour of kneading before it passes the windowpane test which is why I thought it would be the perfect thing to make to put my new stand mixer to the test; it still took nearly fifteen minutes to knead in the mixer, but thankfully I didn't have to stand there and do it by hand as kneading for that long is tiring!
I filled my buns with a simple chocolate filling - a mixture of melted butter and chocolate, sugar and cocoa powder; easy to make but very tasty. The twisted coil shape of the buns is easier to do than it looks, though you may have to shape a couple before you get the hang of it. These buns are perfect as a mid-morning or afternoon snack with a cup of tea or coffee, and because of the tangzhong they stay soft for a couple of days, though they are best when gently warmed before serving.
Tangzhong Chocolate Swirl Buns & VonShef Stand Mixer Review
- 20 g strong white bread flour
- 100 ml water
- All of the tangzhong
- 350 g strong white bread flour
- 7 g fast action yeast 2 tsp
- 1 tsp salt
- 60 g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp milk powder optional
- 1 large egg (or 3 Tbsp aquafaba or non-dairy milk)
- 120 ml full fat milk (or unsweetened non-dairy milk)
- 50 g softened butter (or vegan butter)
- 125 g dark chocolate chopped
- 65 g butter (or vegan butter)
- 50 g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 beaten egg to glaze (glaze with milk if vegan)
- To make the tangzhong, place the flour in a small saucepan and gradually whisk in the water. Place over a medium heat and cook, whisking constantly until it has thickened to a wallpaper paste-like consistency. Remove from the heat, scrape into a bowl and cover with clingfilm directly on the surface, set aside to cool.
- Place the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and milk powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, lightly stir together and make a well in the centre. Add the egg, milk and tangzhong to the well and mix on a low speed until it comes together into a dough.
- Add the butter and mix on a high speed until the dough is very stretchy and comes away from the sides of the bowl, this can take about 15 minutes, even in a stand mixer.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with clingfilm and either place somewhere warm to rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours, or in the fridge overnight.
- While the dough is rising make the filling; place the chocolate and butter in a saucepan and set over a low heat, stir regularly until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder, set aside to cool.
- Tip the risen dough out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle with more flour and roll out to an approx. 30x40cm rectangle. Spread over the filling evenly then fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter, you should end up with a 30x13cm rectangle. Slide it onto a baking sheet and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes so that it firms up a little and is easier to work with.
- Pat the dough out width-ways a little so that you end up with a 30x20cm rectangle. Cut length-ways into 10 strips, each about 2cm wide.
- Line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Twist each strip from either end then shape into a coil, passing the end over the top and tucking it underneath. Place well spaced apart on the baking trays.
- Loosely cover with oiled clingfilm and set aside to rise for about 1 hour, until puffy. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
- Gently brush the risen buns with beaten egg and bake for about 20 minutes, until deep golden and cooked through. Leave to cool on the trays for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Once cooled store in an airtight container.
I was sent a stand mixer to review but was not paid to write this post and all opinions are my own.