This is a very personal matter but here are my views for what they are worth. The Kenwood Chef I have had for over 25 years is still going and is very reliable but about six months ago I needed to spread the risk and buy another mixer. Looked at the Kitchen Aid but, frankly, it’s pricey and I am not a fan of the American retro look. The Chef or its modern equivalent was also rather expensive and there was a deal on the K mix so K mix it was.
It has a larger bowl than the chef and will handle 1300g flour which will make about 2.2kg dough so good for 4-5 loaves. If you are serious about bread and using the mixer a lot, make sure the mixer has metal gears; much more robust than plastic. Apart from a minor problem engaging the dough hook and the danger of dropping the arm because there is no resistance, the K mix works well and looks good.
There are many seeded flours available including one in the Waitrose range which includes chunky pumpkin seeds. Holland and Barrett and other health food stores sell most seeds in bulk, usually at reasonable prices and they can be added dry or soaked overnight. They can be lightly toasted in a pan and my favourite mix is pumpkin, sunflower and linseed.
Whizzing them in a blender to reduce the size and improve the availability of the vitamins etc in the seeds. is a good idea. In fact, linseed is so tough it will pass through you entire unless you break it up!
The Waitrose Love Life seeded and malted bread flour is currently 25% off so worth stocking up! http://www.waitrose.com/shop
Holland and Barrett will deliver to your door and often have special deals http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/food-drink/
I never add sugar to a bread recipe even if it calls for it. I don’t like overly sweet things and the sugar will impact the yeast so you generally have to use more yeast or wait longer for the dough to rise. However, I do add malt extract and treacle on occasion to produce a malted loaf. It is best to add the boiling water to the treacle or extract in a jug, dissolve it and then add cold water to produce the water temperature you need. If you are adding two or more tablespoons to 900g of flour I would double the amount of yeast.
Interestingly because the marzipan in the apple and marzipan loaf is between layers of dough rather than in the dough, it does not appear to affect the rise very much if at all.
Practising recipes for the World Bread Awards including this spiced apple and marzipan swirl. A Waitrose recipe: (google waitrose spiced apple buns) it proved very popular at the markets. Very nice warm from the oven with cream or custard.
I just love these words! Panini is the plural of panino which means small bread roll in Italian, rather than the flat, toasted sandwiches we have become used to. Imbottiti means stuffed or, literally, padded/cushioned. These are from Gino D’Acampo’s book ‘Italian Home Baking’ which includes recipes for a lot of Italian artisan bread and are part of our ‘meals in one’ class. Stuffed with a mixture of Taleggio, Cheddar, egg and paprika they are very, very tasty.
When I make them again I will probably drop the Taleggio which is rather pricey and go for any strong cheese like a Camembert, past its best or a blue cheese. They are surprisingly light and make very good party food or hors d’ouevres.