So last month I applied to be a Bellini Kitchen Master tester and a few weeks ago, I received my machine to test, play with and review for a couple of months. I also attended a demonstration by the Cedarlane Culinary guys at The Cookbook Store where they (and four of the machines) showed soup, smoothies, risotto, dip, pasta dough, bread dough and zabaglione (though their whipped cream turned into very tasty butter!) being made.
What is the Bellini Kitchen Master?
The BKM is a new Thermal Blender designed for domestic kitchens combining the functions of eight appliances in one with a more reasonable pricetag than your more well-known thermal blender (though it’s still quite an investment at $699). The BKM promises to chop, mix, mince, whip, knead blend, stir, cook, fry and steam using the precise temperature control feature and steamer set! According to the promotional materials, the BKM “significantly cuts down your hands-on time standing over the stove stirring your custard or sauces and cooks entire meals in the stainless steel bowl leaving only 1 dish to clean afterwards!“ Certainly, if the literature is to be believed, this sounds like a godsend for someone like me who cooks a lot but does not have a dishwasher.
Initial thoughts on the Bellini Kitchen Master
So far, I’ve made pie crust dough, Danish pastry dough and risotto in the BKM and I remain unconvinced that I can get rid of eight appliances and my knives and replace them with one single machine.
The BKM did a fine job with the pastry items but honestly all it was doing was cutting butter into the flour mixture – something you really don’t even need a food processor for. Actually it’s so powerful and I am not entirely familiar with all of the speed settings so some of my butter was cut too fine into the flour – for the Danish I needed some larger pieces of butter remaining in order for the pastry to be flaky, but because you don’t have much control over the speed it was uniformly cut fairly small. I guess I could have added some of the butter later so it was pulsed less but for something like this, I really do prefer using my hands. Baking, for me, is a lot about instinct and feel. Not to mention being able to see what you are doing. The cover of the BKM is not see through which I find a major flaw. Had I seen how fast the butter was being cut in, I would have stopped it earlier. Of course, now I know, for next time – and to be fair, a lot of what is perplexing me/ going wrong is because this is a completely different way of cooking/ baking and it does require a mentality shift.
We didn’t fare so well with the risotto. Not only did I find the chopping of the onions very uneven (some were quite large pieces, some were minced) but also question the machine’s ability to truly sauté. It certainly gets hot and steam comes out of the top (see above) but when I am making risotto on the stovetop, I like to see a little bit of golden browning in my onions and I just didn’t see that with this machine.
I followed the recipe in one of the (two) recipe books that come with the BKM and after the specified cooking time, the rice was still raw. Not knowing how to rectify this (on a stovetop I would have just added some more hot liquid and kept stirring until it was done), I just kept adding 5 minutes at a time to the cooking time on 90˚C (yes the cooking temps are in ˚C which, even when you have grown up with that, when you now live in a land of ˚F, requires a big adjustment – especially if you want to take your regular recipes and “Bellinify” them) and the result was fairly glue-like and the rice, no matter how much extra liquid, had not cooked to my preferred level of “al dente” after nearly 30 minutes. But because I am not entirely familiar with the machine, I just didn’t know how I could have fixed things.
A couple of notes about the Bellini Kitchen Master
1. There are two recipe booklets that come with the BKM. When I asked Dustin from Cedarlane about the recipe (since the risotto at the demonstration evening had been pretty tasty), he replied that I should be using the other booklet provided. [UPDATE ON OCTOBER 23 2013: After some more correspondence with the folks at Cedarlane, I completely acknowledge that I had misunderstood the fact that I should only be using the booklet that Cedarlane provided. Sincere apologies for that.] Many of these recipes come from the BKM Facebook page and the Bellini Addicts group. The enthusiasm people have for their Thermal Blender machines is impressive, however, I am not sure how “tested” those recipes are, especially given the note at the beginning of that recipe booklet:
For someone who doesn’t know the machine very well, this is not helpful. I do feel that if you are selling a new product that advocates a completely different style of cooking, it’s important to provide tested recipes (and I see I am not the only person who has questioned the recipes). I mean, I can make a mean risotto and bring one back from the brink of not working out pretty easily but I simply could not rescue this one. I’ll try the recommended risotto recipe next time and report back. I’ve also discovered a (ahem) competing brand’s recipe booklet which is far better written than the “compilation” so I might take look at that too in the name of research. I feel like I need all the help I can get.
2. The fact that you have to change the chopping blade for the stirring blade after you’ve chopped the onion is a little inconvenient. Though nothing fell out of the bottom as I was switching the blades, I can imagine with a fuller bowl that might be an issue.
3. For all this talk about “one bowl meals” honestly, risotto IS a one pot dish. When I make my risotto, I only ever use one pan unless I want to have an extra sauce or topping. But if it’s a straightforward risotto, it’s one saucepan and a couple of knives that I have to wash afterwards. Hardly a huge time saving to use the BKM, then. I think a lot of the dishes in the recipe booklet, to be honest would only require one dish anyway – things like soups, dips, smoothies and cookie dough definitely don’t require more than one dish at my house when I make them and to be honest, multi-step recipes that require the BKM to be washed in between steps make me wonder about the time saving since I can have five pans on my stovetop at the same time working away on five different things – surely that’s a time saver and I’d be washing the BKM bowl five times anyway with that many components, no?
4. Speaking of “one bowl cooking”, for me, it’s not realistic to expect that I am going to make a whole meal in just the one machine. For example, last night, I made meatballs. It involved three pans (one for polenta, one for the meatballs and one for the sauce). Could I have made this in the BKM? Well I don’t know about the polenta but I do know that it took 30 minutes to cook, so how would I have been able to make the sauce and have it ready at the same time? Never mind the meatballs? No way can you brown them in the BKM. Had I been intent on using the BKM, I would have dirtied just as many pans because I would have had to transfer the sauce to a pan to stay warm while the polenta cooked, and brown the meatballs in another. So, no real time or dishwashing saving there.
I can definitely see the appeal of the BKM. I see that it does what it promises – indeed, it CAN chop, mix, mince, whip, knead blend, stir, cook, fry (sort of) and steam, however I am not sure just the one machine and one bowl can replace eight appliances (in the interests of timesaving in the kitchen). I do think you’d need a few of these humming away on your counter if you wanted to replace all your appliances with this since the one bowl is fairly limiting.
I also discovered something about myself in this process – well, actually, confirmed something more likely. I LOVE to cook and bake. I find it relaxing, calming, a stress release. NOT chopping those onions for the risotto? I missed that. Not cutting the butter into the flour for the pastry? I missed that too. I also missed being in control of what was happening. Cooking and baking involve all the senses and I find that pressing a button or turning a knob just doesn’t bring me the same joy. Who would have thought?
For sure I have not experimented with most of the functionality of the BKM – I do want to try the risotto again, a curry, some steamed vegetables, some bread dough where it has to knead and something a little more delicate like meringue. I’ll keep plugging away and check back in with you all in a week or so. I’m also planning an ALL BELLINI KITCHEN MASTER BRUNCH in a few weeks so we will see how it does with that!
Disclosure: Cedarlane Culinary has provided me with a Bellini Kitchen Master for a limited amount of time for the purposes of testing and reviewing it. I am required to write at least 2 honest reviews of my experience within 30 days of receiving the machine.