Kenwood FP959 Food Processor – review

Nuovi gadget casalinghi (I)

So I bought this to use in my kitchen in France. I wasn’t going to spend a fortune – it’s only for two months a year. I’ve aways used Magimix in the past. I don’t mind them. I appreciate the single-speed motor and the all-round simplicity of the design. I’ve always objected to the unnecessary gubbins you get with food processors (extra, smaller, bowls, storage compartments, attachments you never use), but there’s no avoiding them.

The Kenwood was £99, as opposed to a whole lot more for a Magimix. I just needed something to help me chop, grate blend, mix, etc. in a kitchen that has absolutely nothing in it (not even a worktop) bar the two sharp knives I bought in the summer.

It doesn’t feel very solid. It’s lightweight, but it does stick to the surface using suction cups. I’m placing it on an old formica table, and it doesn’t move around, which is good. Arrives in an oversized box and includes a blender, a small attachment for chopping nuts/herbs, and the usual bowl, along with four discs and two blades, one supposedly sharp, and one for dough.

So far I’ve used it to grate vegetables for coleslaw, grate a bit of cheese, make some dough, make some breadcrumbs, and chop some herbs, gerkins, and so on.

The most important bit for me was the dough mixing, as I hate kneading bread by hand. Here we have a problem. I was using unfamiliar (type 55) French flour purchased in E Leclerc, so I wasn’t sure how much water it would absorb. In the end, I made a somewhat wet dough on first attempt, and then had to spend a lot of time scraping out the bowl. The dough gets everywhere, including up the inside of the bowl centre. and all over the spindle (and inside it). The spindle is very different from a Magimix, and needs to be attached in advance of the bowl. The bowl and everything else will only go on in one way.

So the sough got everywhere. My second batch, I added less water, but still found it got everywhere, and didn’t mix well, either – I had to finish by kneading by hand, and I was blending a soft sticky bit with a solid lump. It really wasn’t very efficient at mixing (whereas my memories of doing the same thing in a Magimix are that it mixes quickly and cleanly).

For the coleslaw, I had to deal with a large number of ungrated lumps of cabbage, apple, pear, and onion. What it grated, it grated well, but it must have left 25% or so ungrated. Again, inefficient. Chopping herbs in the small herb chopper, or chopping gerkins in the same attachment: again, not very efficient. You’re dealing with some bits that are virtually liquidised, and others that are still more or less whole.

As for creating breadcrumbs, this should have been easy. I had a number of bits of 2-day-old bread, and I put them in the main bowl with the supposedly sharp blade. Well. Not very good. I think I could have stood there all day, and I’d have ended up with big lumps of bread mixed in with the breadcrumbs.

I expected to be disappointed, because I knew I was compromising, but it’s really not very good at all, not much of a labour-saving device, and not much of a time saver, either.

If you can afford it, get a Magimix. If you can’t afford a Magimix, invest in a really sharp knife and a decent cheese grater.

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Pane Pugliese recipe

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I got this recipe from FornoBravo.com, but their recipe is for a wood-fired oven. This is my domestic version, with proper metric measurements. Their version has some how-to videos (e.g. for the wet dough folding method). It’s a slow way of making bread, but the results are worth it as you can see in my Hipstamatic shot above. Waitrose charge £1.80 for about 5 slices of this stuff.

Day One, Biga (makes double)

  • 320g unbleached bread flour
  • ½  tsp. instant yeast
  • 227ml filtered water at room temperature

Day Two, Dough

  • 300g biga
  • 140g durum flour
  • 140g bread flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. instant yeast
  • 255 ml filtered water at 32-38° C

Flours: I ordered durum wheat semolina – you can get Caputo semolina from Forno Bravo (which is where I also get my pizza flour), or generic durum semolina in smaller quantities from Flourbin.com.

For the “bread flour” you could use the strong white you can get in the supermarket, or Caputo 00 pizzeria flour, which is available in the blue or (softer) red varieties. I’ve been using the blue for a couple of years now, and it’s great, but I just bought my first bag of red, just to try.

Biga 

This is the sponge starter. You’re basically using a very small amount of yeast and leaving it to work for a long time, so it’s a little like a sourdough.

Combine the biga ingredients and mix to a dough ball. Put into an oiled bowl, spray with oil and leave to rise for 4 hours, then knock back and leave in a cold place overnight. My conservatory is ridiculously cold at this time of year, or you can use the fridge.

Preparation

Take the biga out of the fridge, cut it into 8 pieces, cover it with plastic wrap & let it warm up for 1 hour before making the dough. I always use my plastic lettuce knife for dough-cutting duties. You can get one in Lakeland or John Lewis.

Add the water & the biga to the bowl, then put in the flours & yeast. Mix on low speed until a sticky, wet ball forms.

This is where you must use your judgement. If you’re like me, you’ll only have approximately 300g of biga in the bowl, so you need to adjust the levels of flour and water accordingly.

Sprinkle the salt over the ball. Switch to speed 2 & knead for about 4 minutes. The smooth, sticky dough should not stick to the sides of the bowl, but should stick to the bottom.

This is a wet dough, so don’t add so much flour that it clumps around your dough hook. As it says above, coming away from the sides of the bowl is okay, but it should still be wet enough to be sticking to the bottom of the bowl, so that you need to scrape it out.

Sprinkle the work surface with flour to make a 20 cm square. Transfer the dough using a plastic spatula (or your fingers) & proceed with the folding method*, then mist the dough with spray oil, sprinkle with flour & cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for half an hour, then fold it again, mist, flour, cover & let rest for another half hour.

Mist a large bowl with spray oil.  Fold the dough for a 3rd time, transfer it to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, & let it ferment for 2 hours.

*The folding method video on the Forno Bravo site shows you what to do. In short: you grab the dough from the bottom on one side, stretch it out and fold over on top of itself, then do the same on the other three sides. It’s a way of gently working a wet dough without covering yourself in sticky mess and flour. You rest it between and by the time you’ve done it  three times, it’s a lot less sticky.

Forming
Coat your hands & your bowl scraper with flour & gently transfer the dough to a well dusted work surface.  Divide the dough into two roughly equal pieces. Gently form the pieces into two rounds.  Let them rest on the work surface, seam side down, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Transfer to baking tray lined with non-stick parchment and prove for 60 to 90 minutes. Before baking, they should have increased to 1 ½  times their original size. Alternatively, use a pizza peel and prepare to slide it off onto a pizza stone in your oven. But this is a sticky dough and it might stick to the peel, so I just cut to the chase and put it on parchment  on a heavy tray, so it will just go straight into the oven.

(The Forno Bravo recipe, which is for a wood burning pizza/bread oven, uses a proving bowl. I’ve got one, but I really, really, hate it, and no matter how much flour I line it with, I find my doughs stick to it and won’t come out. So I’d rather just put it on a baking tray or peel, and cook on the tray or on a pizza stone in the oven, if you have one.)

Baking

How hot is the oven? The original recipe specifies somewhere between 280° and 290° C in a wood burning oven. Domestic ovens aren’t really designed to go that hot, but whack it up as high as you dare. If you’re using a stone, have the stone in the oven as it warms up. Steam the hot oven for 10 seconds, 10 minutes before baking. I do this by having a metal roasting tin in the bottom of the oven, which I splash boiling water into.  Slash the tops of the loaves quickly, then load into the oven. Steam again for 10 seconds. These breads should take no longer than 15 to 20 minutes to bake to an internal temperature of 100°C, & they should be deep golden brown colour. They will take longer in domestic oven. Release the steam by cracking the door open after about 10 minutes of baking time. I also reduce the oven temperature after 10 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least half an hour before slicing.

Note: if you use fresh yeast rather than the dried instant kind, the dough will rise much more quickly. During the waiting and folding process, you might find yourself fighting back the dough, like Woody Allen with the pudding in Sleeper. Quicker proving saves you time but leaves the flavour less time to develop.