Your guide to the Great British Bake Off 2016: 7 incredible gadgets to transform you and your kitchen into a baking boss including a few cheats and shortcuts.
It's that time of the year again.
The sun is out and the smell of barbecue is in the air. But we're all going to be indoors, glued to the TV, because Bake Off is back. That means 10 weeks of technical challenges and soggy bottoms. It's inspiring stuff, and the best part is that you can have your own Bake Off too. All you need are the right tools.
We've picked out some essential kitchen gadgets, including the perfect Bake Off mixer and even a microwave. Yes, a microwave. Read on to find out why, and rest assured that every product in our list has been fully tested and reviewed by us, so you can buy with confidence.
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KitchenAid 9 Speed Hand Mixer – For all your mixing needs
What is it? A hand mixer with nine speeds, the KitchenAid 9 Speed Hand Mixer features an 85W motor, a helpful storage bag and the brand's legendary design and build quality.
Why should you buy it? A hand mixer is an essential plug-and-play kitchen appliance, and this is a great one. We love that the storage bag has sections for each tool, and the design is fab – red, black, cream and silver are your colour options.
The 16-wire whisk is great for whipping, while the stainless-steel beaters will handle heavier mixtures with aplomb. Two sturdy dough hooks are on hand for bread, and there's a mixing rod for emulsifying liquids. It's a handy, compact alternative to a stand mixer at a fraction of the cost.
Kenwood kMix KMX5 – the choice of the Great British Bake Off last year
What is it? A versatile stand mixer that's great for seasoned and beginner bakers alike. There was a bit of a stir last year when the Kenwood kMix KMX5 replaced KitchenAid in the Bake Off tent, but this is one of the best mixers we've used. And if it's good enough for Nadiya, it's good enough for us.
Why should you buy it? It's attractive and it does everything really well. It's got some great features, including a soft start to minimise spills, eight speeds and an electronic sensor that maintains the mixing pace under different load conditions. There are plenty of tools too: a flexible creaming beater, a dough hook, a K-beater and a whisk. Versatile and easy to use – you can't go wrong with this one.
Magimix Patissier Multifunction – The ultimate all-in-one machine
What is it? A stand mixer and food processor in one, the Magimix Patissier Multifunction is really the perfect kitchen machine. It uses a 1500W commercial-grade motor and comes with a huge range of blades and bowls for mixing, blending and chopping.
Why should you buy it? It really does do everything and it does it very well, too. Included is... (deep breath) a 4.9-litre stainless-steel bowl with dough blade, three food-processing bowls with two metal blades, a whisk, two slicing discs, two grating disks and two spatulas. It takes up a fair amount of space, but it does so much that you don't need three or four other tools.
If you like the all-in-one idea but not the price, consider the Kenwood MultiOne KHH330, which does many of the same things for just £250.
Smeg SMF01 – A new modern classic stand mixer
What is it? If a multifunction machine sounds a bit too much, consider the Smeg SMF01 – it's Smeg's take on the traditional-style stand mixer.
Why should you buy it? First of all, it looks great – it has the retro chops of the famed KitchenAid stand mixer, but with a slightly modern twist. It's a great performer, too – 10 speeds, a 4.8-litre bowl and a strong 800W direct-drive motor ensure it mixes well. There's also an outlet for optional extras, including a pasta roller/cutter, spaghetti cutter and a meat grinder, so you can add extra features if you like.
Vitamix S30 – Professional quality with a personal touch
What is it? A smaller, more 'home-friendly' version of the famous Vitamix blender. It does the same stuff, but it's much smaller.
Why should you buy it? A good blender is a must in any kitchen and the Vitamix S30 is arguably the best we've tested. It has all the features of its bigger cousin and produces superb results, but it's smaller and takes up less space.
A 1.2-litre jug and two 600ml insulated cups are included, but the main highlight is its outstanding build quality, which ensures a lifetime of reliable blending and pulsing. A seven-year warranty gives you peace of mind, too. It's a great tool to have whether you're preparing ingredients like chopping nuts for a walnut cake, or if you just fancy a healthy smoothie or soup.
Also consider the KitchenAid Diamond Blender as a cheaper alternative, which is just £134.
Panasonic NN-CS894S – Not just a microwave
What is it? A microwave, grill, convection oven and steam oven in one, the Panasonic NN-CS894S is a lot more than a simple microwave. In fact, its 32-litre capacity means you could do all of your baking in it.
Why should you buy it? Besides the fact that it's arguably the only oven you could possibly need, it has one key feature for bakers – it can be used for proving bread. Temperature control down to just 40C gives you perfect control over your proving, and this version has steam cooking.
Steam adds an interesting new dimension to baking, as it's a useful way to retain more moisture in your bakes. This is a smart machine, too. It has built-in scales, so it'll weigh whatever you put in and cook it for the right amount of time.
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Panasonic SD-ZB2502BXC – Because we can't all be Paul Hollywood
What is it? Yes, a breadmaker is cheating. But playing with yeast and proofing is a lot trickier than whipping up a meringue. Sometimes you have to impress friends in a hurry, and the Panasonic SD-ZB2502BXC is one of the best breadmakers we've seen.
Why should you by it? Because it bakes superb bread. It has a clever yeast dispenser that keeps water and yeast entirely separate, which lets you throw in all the other ingredients without being dainty about it. You get a tall, even cook, with good crumb and fluffy toast. OK, you don't get Paul Hollywood's fancy eight-strand plaited loaf, but you do get a neat timer feature that gives you fresh bread in the morning.
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Header Image Credit: thebittenword.com
What are your favourite baking gadgets? Let us know in the comments below.