Like many, I succumbed to the homesteading siren song of bread-baking during quarantine. But instead of seeking existential solace in no-knead sourdough loaves, I made my family’s challah recipe — an enriched dough, which is decidedly kneadier. Sure, keeping a sourdough starter alive is a temperamental process, but when made by hand, my challah recipe requires over 30 minutes of laborious kneading until it is “smooth and satiny” (to use my mother’s words).
For years, I painstakingly made the dough by hand. Then, after a week during lockdown when I manually made (and delivered) a couple dozen loaves of bread across Brooklyn, I finally broke down and began shopping online for the gold standard of baking equipment: a KitchenAid stand mixer, which I grew up using, and on which both my mother and grandfather depend for making challah. Specifically, I wanted the 7 Quart Pro Line model, which has a sturdier fixed-head mixer instead of a less-powerful tilt-lift one, and a much larger motor — 970 watts compared to 325 on the brand’s Artisan series. But the 7 Quart Pro-Line is also more expensive than the Artisan models: a whopping $629, versus $350 or so. As a third-generation challah baker and inveterate bargain shopper (both skills that I learned from my family), I didn’t want to spend a full paycheck on an appliance, so I turned to Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. But there were no Pro Line models in sight. So I returned to the KitchenAid website, and there, while perusing the sale section in vain, saw the refurbished products tab.
Like any good Strategist staffer, I know better than to dismiss refurbished products, and instead looked into what “refurbished” means for KitchenAid. According to the brand, these returned products may or may not have been actually used, and all have been cleaned and inspected “to original mechanical and electrical condition.” And, according to a more impartial audience — Redditors on r/Cooking — refurbished mixers can last for decades. (I found one one user who even claimed that their friends who work at the factory recommend buying refurbished products, because they’ve been so thoroughly inspected. Unsubstantiated, but huge if true.) Plus, refurbished mixers come with a six-month warranty. That’s much less than the five-year warranty on a new product, but it’s still guarantees that you can get any issues repaired within the first couple months of use. Best of all: It’s about two-thirds the price of the original. So I made the investment in a refurbished stand mixer.
About a month later (KitchenAid is experiencing some processing delays due to COVID-19), the KitchenAid-branded box appeared on my doorstep, and I nearly shrieked with excitement. Admittedly, in my unboxing frenzy, I don’t remember if the packaging said the word “refurbished” somewhere. But it didn’t matter once I put it on my counter and used it the next day for a batch of challah. The mixer worked like new. I added all the ingredients to the mixer, cranked it up to the fourth speed, and let it do the work. To make matters even better, my roommates said it tasted even fluffier than usual, probably because the dough was properly worked through. And, later that day, when I FaceTimed my grandfather — the recipe’s proprietor, who was initially very skeptical about the refurbished product — he complimented my loaf, adding that both the challah and the mixer looked just like his.