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As I've gotten older I've become a lot more adventurous in the kitchen, with baking being one of my favourite hobbies. I love baking cakes and pastries for friends and family; for special ocassions and even not so special ocassions and one of the things I have always felt a need for was a proper electric hand mixer. In my house we have manual ones where you turn the handle and the whisking blades rotate but this can be very time consuming and also quite tiresome so at the beginning of this year I decided it would be a good idea for me to invest in my very own electric hand mixer and after much searching and umming and ahing over price I settled for the Kenwood HM324 hand mixer.
About the kenwood HM324 hand mixer
The hand mixer I chose is quite simple in its design with a black body and stainless steel attachments, but what swung it for me was the fact that it came with both a set of beaters and a set of kneaders. I don't really make bread but I thought having kneaders as one of the included attachments may inspire me to start. The mixer has 3 different speed settings which are easily identified as speeds 1, 2 and 3 and the stainless steel attachments are dishwasher safe for ease of cleaning.
Using the Kenwood HM324 hand mixer
The mixer is very easy to use. On the underside of the body are 2 holes where the tools slot into, one which is completely circular and another that looks a little like a 3 quarter moon. Once the beaters or the kneaders are pushed in there is an automatic locking mechanism that holds them in place to prevent them from popping out during use. Even when plugged in the hand mixer cannot be used and will not operate until the tools are clicked into place so there's no risk of little fingers being popped in the holes and the unit starting to work so it is quite safe in that resepect. To start using, the first step is to insert the tools into the appropriate slots, then plug the unit into a wall socket. To start mixing there is a button located on the top of the body which although not marked with any instructions has the speed settings 1,2,3, clearly visible; simply push this button forward to start the beaters or kneaders rotating. I always start the mixer on setting one and then as the mixture gets thicker up the speed to setting 2 and then setting 3 if required, but to be honest I don't find that I need to use setting 3 that often and get excellent results from speeds 1 and 2. Mixing butter and sugar together to form a light and fluffy mixture takes around 3 minutes with my Kenwood mixer....using the manual hand beaters this used to take me anything between 10 and 15 minutes, so using an electric one certainly does save me a lot of time. If the mixer appears to be labouring then I suggest you increase the speed as it will mix a lot better if you do this. The handle is also located on top of the main body and can be held quite easily with either your right or your left hand and I don't find it difficult to keep control of when I'm using it, I can move the mixer around with ease while it's beating and don't find this to be a strain on my arm at all.
Once you are finished with the hand mixer, to release the tools there is a tool release button located on the top of the body which needs a bit of a firm push before the tools click out. One of the important things to remember is that one of the dough hooks has a little metal collar on it which must be slotted into the round slot at the bottom of the unit for it to work. The recommended dough load for this unit is no more than 450g flour. Once your mixing or kneading is complete simply remove the tools and wash by hand in your sink with soapy water or pop in the dishwasher for cleaning.
Storing your hand mixer
The cord for the hand mixer wraps nice and neatly around the bottom of the unit and has it's very own cable tidy for you to clip the cord in place so you don't pull the unit out of it's storage place next time and end up with a plug and wires flying about all over the place.This particular hand mixer also comes with a grip clip which can be attached to the base of the unit itself to keep your tools and your mixer together. Unfortunately, this tool has been misplaced since I bought my mixer so I can't really say whether or not it was useful but I imagine it would have been. For me though it's just as easy to store my attachments in my cutlery drawer so I always know where to find them.
Cleaning your hand mixer
As indicated earlier the stainless steel attachements can be both hand washed with soapy water and are dishwasher safe so it's entirely up to you how you want to clean your tools. The handmixer body cannot be submerged in water at all and of course cannot be put in your dishwasher so the easiest way to keep it clean is to wipe it with a damp cloth and then dry with a tea towel.
Some safety instructions
It's important to always make sure that the cable is completely unravelled from the base of the hand mixer before you use it. Keep your hair tied back when using and be careful not to get any hair near the utensils while operating as I imagine this will result in a nasty head injury....it's also important to keep fingers and clothing away from any moving parts. If you're not using the appliance then please unplug it especially if you have children who may be curious and start playing with it as this is not a childrens toy. If there are any visible signs of damage then please don't use the hand mixer - get it repaired or replace it....the last thing you want is to get an electric shock or even worse have your appliance burst into flames because of a fault.
My final thoughts and opinion
I got this hand mixer to make my time cooking and baking in the kitchen a little easier and this certainly has helped. Thanks to Kenwood I'm now shaving at least 15 minutes off my preperation time for cakes and Ihave actually been adventurous enough to make some rosemary and thyme focaccia bread which required the use of the kneading tools.....letting the attachments do all the work was so much easier than letting my poor hands do the kneading and they worked a treat. My dough was perfect and the bread very tasty. The noise level of the mixer isn't too bad, it's not noisy enough for it to be uncomfortable but it's not quiet either - but then I guess products like this can't be when they run off of a motor. Overall a great tool for the kitchen and for a great price too. I picked mine up in Argos for £27.99 and it's currently on offer in Argos for £18.59 so an even better price now than it was at the start of the year when I bought it.
If you're looking for a tool that;s going to get the job done then I do recommend this. It's not the most stylish kitchen appliance but it doesn't need to be, it's easy to use, easy to store. easy to clean and mixes my batters and cake mixes perfectly and so performs it's functions to the letter. If you're looking for something with a little more bells and whistles about it then I suggest you continue your search for that stylish kitchen appliance. A good kitchen utensil doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg and as long as my Kenwood mixer works, it will continue to get used.