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15 Aug 2019

Breville HeatSoft first look: the hand mixer that softens butter for you

The HeatSoft VFM021 mixer aims to save you time by warming butter as you mix. We gave it a try to find out if it's a baker's dream

Breville's new HeatSoft hand mixer has a built-in heating function designed to soften ingredients as you mix. But at £70 is it really worth splashing out on?

The HeatSoft mixer uses a jet of hot air directed into the mixing bowl to warm ingredients, theoretically saving you the time and effort of getting your slab of butter to the perfect consistency before you start baking.

It could be handy if you often forget to take your butter out of the fridge in advance, or have had one too many microwave-related melting mishaps.

But if you already find it hard enough to keep your cake mix contained in the bowl when mixing, will blowing hot air into the mix cause even more problems? And does it even work? We had to know, so we got two budding bakers to try it out and give their verdict.

Not sure what kind of kitchen gadget is right for you? Read our guide on choosing between a food processor, mixer or blender.

Breville HeatSoft: how it works

The HeatSoft looks like a standard hand mixer, but it has a built-in fan at the front that blows a gentle heat into the bowl as you mix.

To cream butter and sugar (the starting point of many a cake recipe), you simply chop cold butter into cubes and throw it into a bowl along with your sugar, turn on the heat function and start mixing. Once the butter is soft enough, you turn off the heat and continue mixing as normal.

What you get vs other premium hand mixers

The HeatSoft costs about the same as a top-of-the-range hand mixer from brands such as Kenwood, Dualit and KitchenAid. And like these brands it brings more in the style stakes, and extra features, to justify the higher price.

It has a smart white and grey design, with rose gold detailing highlighting the heating part at the front. There are seven speed settings and a boost button to provide extra bursts of power when needed. The standard attachments are included: beaters for mixing and dough hooks for kneading. There's also a balloon whisk for whipping and whisking.

The attachments are safe to put in the dishwasher, and everything can be neatly stored inside the storage case in between uses. It also comes with a handy silicon cord clip to keep the power cord tidy when it's packed away. These are nice extras you won't usually find on cheaper models.

At 1.7kg it's quite weighty, so bear in mind it may feel heavy in the hand if you're mixing for too long.

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What's it like to use?

Using the HeatSoft took a bit of getting used to. The heat function seemed very noisy and we felt a bit unsure about using the beaters on rock hard butter. But after a couple of goes we got the hang of it.

The softening function worked surprisingly well, and quickly too. In a minute or so our butter had softened perfectly and mixed with the sugar to form a smooth and fluffy consistency. The fan is gentle enough that ingredients don't spray out of the bowl either.

Both the speed slider and the heating button are within easy reach of your thumb when holding the mixer, so you can easily turn the heat on or off and change the speed while mixing.

If you need to stop, to add more ingredients for example, the heel rest means you can easily stand it on its side while you do so without dripping cake batter across your kitchen.

How the bakes turned out

We made buttercream, butter cookies and cake batter and all turned out well. Our buttercream was creamy and voluminous, and our cakes and biscuits were airy with a consistent, light texture.

However, we didn't notice a substantial difference between the results compared with using our usual methods of softening butter.

3 things to watch out for with the Breville HeatSoft

While we liked the butter-softening skills of the HeatSoft, there were a few things we weren't so keen on:

  • It's noisy - the heat function makes a racket similar to using a loud hairdryer, but you only need it on for a minute or so for it to do the job.
  • It gets hot -somewhat inevitable, but the mixing attachments can get hot when the fan is on, so you'll have to wait a few minutes for them to cool down before removing them for cleaning.
  • It's best for creaming - some recipes call for butter to be creamed by itself first. We found it got clogged and started to melt when we did this though. We had much better results when mixing it with dry ingredients such as sugar.

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Should you buy it?

Possibly. If you often get inspired to bake spontaneously, or often forget to soften butter earlier in the day, this could be a great option.

It's handy to be able to take butter straight out of the fridge and get going straight away, and we thought this mixer generally did a good job.

But if you're not too fussed about the softening technology, it's probably not worth spending £70 on. It can feel heavy in use and we didn't think the results weren't noticeably better than a standard mixer could achieve.

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Why do you need to use room temperature butter for baking?

Using butter at the right temperature can be the difference between triumph and disaster for many baking recipes.

Butter that's too cold won't spread evenly into the mix and can be too hard to work with.However, butter that is too soft won't aerate as effectively, which can result in heavy mixtures and flat bakes.

The exception is pastry, where you want your butter to be as cold as possible.