Are you racking the noggin for an answer to the perennial problem of what to buy the man in your life for Christmas? Well, rack no longer. The object on the table before me will get the testosterone surging in any gent. The sleek shape of its motorhead owes somethin to Raymond Loewy’s streamlined design for the 1938 Broadway Limited loco. Its double row of cooling vents is like the radiator grill of an early John Deere tractor. Its raked motorhead support column suggests the soaring tailfin of a ’59 Caddy. In short, it is the ultimate boy’s toy.
It must be admitted, however, that this hunky bit of mid-century Americana has for most of its existence been utilised by women. The pheromone-firing Nigella Lawson is a prominent devotee. As its name suggests, the KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer is intended for use in the kitchen. It’s not just the stylish looks and rugged build of the thing that will appeal to chaps, but also its attachments. What red-blooded male could resist the dough hook? “Har, har,” bellowed Capt Weasel in the unintelligible manner of the late Robert Newton.“Splice the top gallants and raise the mainbrace!”
“Very manly,” said Mrs W, rescuing the dough hook from my sleeve. It was required for our first test run of the gizmo.
For the initial stages of pasta-making, you use the flat beater (a device lacking in piratical potential) to combine flour and eggs at speed 1. Thrillingly, a further nine speed levels lay in store. Peering into the bowl, I was astonished to discover that the beater went in two directions at once. What man would not be entranced by the Planetary Mixing Action”? The elucidation by KitchenAid might appear in a NASA manual: “During operation, the flat beater moves around the stationary bowl, at the same time turning in the opposite direction on its own axis.”
“Quite simple, you see,”I said in my fine, manly way. After inserting the hook, you have to “gradually increase the speed to 4, kneading for 5-8 minutes”. The motorhead joggled as the hook and mixture madly whirled round the bowl. Transported by the planetary mixing action, I gasped: “It’s kneading Jim, but not as we know it.” “It’s a relationship between you and the dough when you do it by hand,”mused MrsW.“This is more of a punchup.” But five minutes later, the mixture achieved the requisite transformation into “smooth, elastic pasta dough”.
After an hour chilling in the fridge (the dough not me), it was time to attach my first accessory. Just like a tractor, you can use a power take-off from the mixer to work a range of gadgets. Obviously, attachment of the pasta-sheet roller was man’s work: “Insert attachment shaft housing (C) into attachment hub (D), making certain that power shaft fits into square hub socket”. Though KitchenAid recommended “speed 2 or 4” for rolling the pasta, speed 1 seemed to be quite fast enough at first. After a few minutes, we bravely moved into second gear. Since the gap between the pasta-sheet rollers also requires adjustment from 1 (kneading) to 5 tagliatelle), there was a danger of overloading my cerebral circuitry. I was obliged to hand over operations to Mrs W. As we repeatedly fed the yellow dough through the ever-closer rollers, then folded it and rolled again, it resembled first a shirt collar, then a Sixties kipper tie.
Occasionally, the dough released a bubblegum-style pop, befitting the mixer’s American origin. When it became a silk evening scarf, it was time to swap attachments. The blonde tresses emerging from the tagliatelle cutter were rapturously greeted by the Weasel household. “The mixer is worth getting for pasta alone,” exclaimed Mrs W. Since it retails at £329 (plus £65 for the pasta attachments), owners may wish to make a few cakes as well. I envisage my fine, manly Orange Chiffon Cake becoming the stuff of legend in south London.
But we were not finished with pasta attachments. The ravioli maker (£72) presented an intriguing problem. Even at speed 1 the mixer was pretty brisk, so how the dickens were we going to fill the ravioli as it raced through the machine? A lightning-fast spoon-action was required.“No, it isn’t,”said Mrs W, who had the foresight to read the instruction booklet.“The first instruction is ‘Unplug unit’. After attaching the ravioli maker to the mixer, you turn it by hand.”KitchenAid went even further. In the booklet, pasta greenhorns are told to produce unstuffed ravioli: “If using ravioli maker for first time, practise feeding pasta without filling through the attachment to perfect your technique.”After a few practice spins,we managed to produce 10 ricotta-stuffed ravioli. Or, to be precise, Mrs W did.My contribution was to test the results (excellent). The ravioli maker may have defeated me, but I am an undoubted master of the dough hook. “Belay, ye swabs!”