While many passionate bakers yearn for a stand mixer, it is entirely possible to do almost everything with a hand mixer and a few adjustments and exceptions!
In fact, most aspiring bakers begin their journey with a hand mixer because they don’t require as large of an investment or much real estate in your kitchen.
Hand Mixer vs. Stand Mixer
Hand mixers are perfect for the occasional baker. If you get really into baking, kneading pillowy brioche or making airy pavlovas on the regular, you may be keen to invest in a stand mixer.
Stand mixers are more powerful and are hands-free, enabling you to multi-task. However, they are very expensive and take up a lot of counter space. While extra power makes a stand mixer better fitted for large baking projects and thicker doughs, a hand mixer comes in handy for smaller batches.
The Limits of a Hand Mixer
Before getting into specific tips, it’s important to consider the limits of a hand mixer.
- Don’t use it to mix in chocolate chips or other hard add-ins like nuts and dried fruit. It’s better to stir these ingredients in by hand with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Otherwise, you could burn out the motor of the hand mixer.
- Mixing egg whites will take longer. A hand mixer can whip egg whites into a lofty meringue, but keep in mind that it will take longer than with a stand mixer. Meringue will take about 5 minutes or longer, depending on the mixer. Also, you probably won’t be able to whip a large number of eggs at once.
- Adding ingredients and mixing at the same time is challenging. When you need to add ingredients and mix at the same time, a hand mixer is at a disadvantage. For example, with French Buttercream you need to stream hot sugar syrup into the whipping egg yolks. It will be difficult to keep the mixing bowl steady while holding the mixer in one hand and streaming in the syrup with the other.
- It may not be strong enough. Stand mixers and hand mixers will both beat room temperature butter and sugar until pale and fluffy for a rich butter cake or buttercream frosting. However, a stand mixer has enough torque to power through cold butter, but a hand mixer will send your cold butter flying out of the bowl.
- Don’t try to knead bread dough. A hand mixer can’t handle bread dough. Some hand mixers include a dough hook attachment, but the motor just isn’t powerful enough to knead effectively. Even a stand mixer can’t handle some denser doughs, like bagels, without damaging the motor.
Converting Tips for the Type of Mixer You Have
Now that you know the limits, there are still several strategies you can use when converting a recipe for another type of mixer.
1. Use the right attachment.
Whether a recipe specifies a stand mixer or a hand mixer, it should also indicate the attachment to use. If a stand mixer recipe instructs you to use the paddle attachment, use the beaters on a hand mixer. If your hand mixer comes with a whisk attachment, you can use that when a stand mixer recipe says to use the whisk attachment.
Generally, the beaters or the paddle are best for creaming butter and sugar together, and the whisk is best for whipping cream or egg whites.
2. Adjust the time.
The times in the method will be specific to the type of mixer the recipe recommends. When swapping for a different type of mixer, pay extra attention to the visual cues rather than the times.
For example, this Vanilla Pound Cake recipe begins by creaming the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes. To beat the butter and sugar to the same consistency with a hand mixer, it may take 10 to 12 minutes, but focus on how it looks and feels to decide.
3. Adjust the speed.
Another setting you’ll have to change is the speed. Stand mixers have more power and require lower speeds compared to hand mixers.
So, when converting a hand mixer recipe to a stand mixer, remember to lower the speed so you don’t overmix or whip ingredients right out of the bowl. And when converting a stand mixer recipe to a hand mixer, raise the speed a few clicks to get enough power.
4. Use a hands-on approach.
Both types of mixers still require you to use your hands. With a stand mixer, it’s important to pause in between steps to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure even mixing. With a hand mixer, you have more movement and can use the beaters right to the edge and bottom of the bowl to incorporate everything evenly.
For a hand mixer recipe where you have to gradually add an ingredient while continuously mixing, place the mixing bowl on a damp tea towel to prevent it from spinning or sliding.
With a hand mixer, it’s often best to finish recipes with a spatula to fold in the flour. The stir speed on a stand mixer is gentler than the slowest speed on a hand mixer. Conversely, you may want to finish whipped cream or meringue by hand with a stand mixer so you don’t accidentally overwhip them.