I don't use an electric mixer very often because I usually whisk my cake batters, mix my doughs with a spoon and knead my bread doughs by hand. I appreciate the manual method because it allows me to really feel what my dough's doing and get a good idea of how thick it is. Could this possibly be the baking equivalent of a cyclist riding a fixed gear or driving a stick instead of an automatic? Having a good feel of where your dough is going is all fine and good but there are other times when an electric mixer can really come in handy and is actually essential in your kitchen, such as when you really want to make sure the fats and water-based liquids in your dough are mixed well before adding flour. Read on to see how the Viking 5-Speed Hand Mixer stacks up.
I'm also not too crazy about electric stand mixers. I'd go as far as to say that for home vegan baking applications (non-commercial, small batch vegan baking) I consider them kitchen jewelry. In traditional baking involving animal-based ingredients you often have to whip and cream things together for several minutes so it makes sense to have an electric stand mixer if you bake often in this manner. In commercial vegan baking where large production runs are essential it can also be beneficial to have an electric stand mixer. When I ran Enchanted Oven Baking Co I used an electric stand mixer that was the size of a small car to mix large batches of cookie dough in mere minutes.
In the past, in the rare cases where I needed an electric mixer I'd turn to a late 70's Dormeyer unit that was probably cheap for it's era. Realizing this, years ago I "upgraded" to a KitchenAid 5-Speed Ultra Power Hand Mixer that was about 25 years newer and actually turned out to have less power. It also ended up burning out after about a year. They just don't make them like they used to eh? I realized that if I was ever going to upgrade from this Dormeyer antique, I'd have to find something that was significantly more robust. Viking is a pretty well respeced brand in commercial baking circles so I figured I'd give their 5-Speed Hand Mixer a shot. They also make a 9-Speed version of this mixer that ditches the mechanical speed switch for a "digital" switch with no moving parts. 9 Speeds? Seriously?
Viking Manual 5-Speed Hand Mixer - VHMMBoth the 5 speed and 9 speed mixers feature 250 Watt motors which is more than most other hand mixers offer. The mixer is on the larger side most likely so it's able to accommodate this larger motor and also due to the fact that the cord winds into the back of the unit with an ingenious hand-operated winding mechanism. This allows the mixer to be placed in a drawer or cabinet without the cord getting tangled and caught up in other baking tools. In the hand the mixer feels solid and has a rubberized area on the underside of the handle for better gripping. The speed adjustment buttons are easy to access while holding the mixer and the beater eject button easily disengages the the stainless steel beaters from the unit when depressed.
The BeatersThe mixer comes with two sets of beaters: Trying to determine which beaters where for which purpose eluded me. The manual makes no distinction other than an arrow pointing to the beaters with notation that indicates "Beaters". My guess is that the wire beaters are for stiffer doughs and the beaters consisting of thin sheet metal strips are for thinner doughs. I usually use the latter and I'm not convinced that there's a significant difference between the two in real world results. The beaters were significantly longer than beaters on other hand mixers I've used. This is likely so you can use this mixer with bigger, deeper bowls. It's great to have this option but it makes the mixer feel slightly awkward when it's mixing because you have slightly less leverage while moving it around the mixing bowl in small circles. It may have been a better idea for Viking to include two of the same style beaters with varying lengths to resolve this issue.
The PowerThe power of this mixer is insane for a hand held model! I felt as if I was using an electric drill- it has that much power. When mixing the batter for Ultimate Brownies (before adding the flour) the mixer shows very little strain. When you pull the beaters out of the batter and crank the switch all the way up to it's fastest setting to clean the batter off the beaters the mixer sounds like it's going to take off, but it's still quieter than my old Dormeyer. I can actually mix batter now while other people in the house are sleeping.
Build QualityThe build quality of this unit is just ok. Unfortunately it's just chrome plated plastic which has become all too common with cars in the last few years and now it's finding it's way onto other household items. This excessive use of plastic on the exterior allows the mixer to not be too heavy. If it were much heavier it would start to feel cumbersome. Having said that, I feel that if this mixer fell onto the kitchen floor from waist height it would crack like an egg and ooze it's gearbox internals, rendering it non-functional. I appreciate how the exterior of the mixer is smooth for optimum cleaning; there's very few nooks and crannies for dough to get stuck into.
The Viking 5 Speed Hand Mixer retails for about $80 which is around double what regular hald mixers go for. This is a little steep but this is no ordinary hand mixer. After having negative experiences with underpowered, unreliable mixers in the past I believe this mixer to still be a good value due to it's power and ease of use. Especially when you realize that you might not really need that beautiful baby blue $250 KitchenAid stand mixer. The Viking 5 Speed Hand Mixer is definitely a worthy addition to my kitchen.