I’m back again with more thoughts about the Bellini Kitchen Master thermal blender as per my promise last week. Since last week’s post I have been experimenting a little more with the BLM and am definitely learning my way around the machine, experiencing more success and starting to understand the concept of cooking in a thermal blender a lot more, though the learning curve is still very definitely there. Because the machine requires you to cook everything at a specific temperature, I am finding that while the recipe book is giving me some guidance in terms of knowing what temperature to cook certain dishes at, it’s hard for me to translate that to tried and true recipes and that is what I expected to be able to do with this machine. I am sure eventually as my comfort level increases, I will be able to translate the BKM “method” (for want of a better word) to other recipes but for now I am more or less sticking to the recipes in the booklet provided.
A note on the recipe booklet. In last week’s post I spoke of a risotto recipe that I used from one of the two booklets (that came with the machine) that didn’t work at all. In speaking with Dustin from Cedarlane Culinary during the week, I realised that the booklet was not the recommended source for recipes, so that was my mistake. It doesn’t change the fact that many of the recipes available for this machine come from the BKM Addicts Facebook Page – so submissions from keen users of the BKM but not necessarily all tested in a professional kitchen. I know the folks at Cedarlane are working on re-vamping the recipe booklet and I am happy to hear that – the recipes as they stand are not consistent in style and some are confusing in their instructions which make them a little challenging to follow. For me, when I am working with an unfamiliar machine/ technology, a well written recipe is just as important as the machine in which it’s made. Dustin has been very helpful is offering support and suggesting articles and sites for me to read to help me through the learning process and I am grateful for that. I’d say that the recipe booklet is key in the learning process for a home cook new to this machine.
Experiments with the Bellini Kitchen Master
This time I followed the suggested recipe pretty closely (my only change was omitting the bacon and adding shredded chicken instead) and it turned out perfectly in around 30 minutes start to finish. The rice was cooked al dente and I got to tidy the kitchen while it cooked. Did I miss the standing at the stove stirring time? Yes, I did, but that is a personal matter! I can see that for people who have trouble with risotto, this would be a good solution. The constant, even temperature and even stirring mean that once you have the temperature and timing down, you should be set to go for any type of risotto you wish to make.
Next up, soup. Sweet potato korma soup, to be exact. I had a couple of sweet potatoes, some chicken stock and some korma paste hanging around that needed using up and I got home late one evening so felt it was the perfect time to test out the “hands off” BKM. I quickly consulted some of the soup recipes in the booklet to figure out timing and temperature and within 30 minutes I had a soup for dinner. Could I have had a soup for dinner in 30 minutes without this machine? Absolutely (and in one pot as well, no less). But the beauty of the BKM is that you can literally set it and forget it until the timer beeps, meaning that I got to read my mail and catch on some email while the BKM did its thing and I didn’t have to worry about it boiling over etc…
The soup was pretty tasty too. Definitely not as much depth of flavour as a soup that simmers for a longer period on a stovetop (though it developed overnight for sure) but an excellent quick dinner option that allows you to get things done as it cooks and blends.
I was curious to see how the BKM would do with a cake so I took their Carrot Cupcake recipe and added cranberries and made a loaf. I was impressed with the BKM’s ability to chop the carrots into, well, mush, which is what’s required in a carrot cake and then the machine literally did the rest for me after I put all the ingredients in the machine at once.
I did find the machine had a little trouble distributing the cranberries evenly through the mix but that’s something you can fix when you pour the batter into the pan to bake. I am also finding the ingredients always need a good stir with a spatula to make sure they don’t get caught under the blade – pretty much for every recipe I have made. For this mix, I had to stop the machine a little shy of the time to give it a quick stir – there were some pockets of flour and cranberries here and there.
A tasty, moist loaf. In reality, using the BKM didn’t really save me that much time in the preparation of the cake batter but the fact that you can chop the carrots and mix the batter in the same bowl is definitely a bonus. Also, the BKM did a really good job with the carrots – when I normally make carrot cake, I either grate the carrots by hand or use my food processor which also does a good job but which cannot handle cake mix, so necessarily means an extra dirty bowl to clean up.
I had been wanting to test the BKM’s ability to make something like custard or lemon curd which require even heat and constant stirring, a little like the risotto but even more so. This weekend I made lemon curd (just a small amount – I like to have a dollop on my yoghurt/ unsweetened granola some mornings) and was very impressed that I literally placed all the ingredients in the bowl, set the timer for 20 minutes and had a coffee and read the paper while it cooked. I will say that a lot of lemon zest got caught in the mixing tool’s tines (? not sure what they are called) and it was tricky to remove (and actually to wash up afterwards – a little of the zest also got caught under the blade and had wrapped itself around so it was hard to clean) but the end result of the curd was really great. Smooth, a nice consistency – the BKM did well.
This is not to say that I don’t miss the actual contact with the food whilst it’s cooking – I absolutely do – but, like the risotto, for people who have trouble with getting custards and curds right, this machine can definitely help. Even heat and constant stirring are key to producing a good custard and this is what the BKM does do well.
Lastly, I couldn’t NOT test an ice cream, now, could I?
Truth be told, the BKM does not do a better job, in my opinion than an ice cream maker (since it doesn’t freeze as it churns) – I had to leave my ice cream in the freezer overnight to freeze up so for me, it took a lot longer than had I used my ice cream maker or one of those ice cream maker attachments for a stand mixer. It took the same amount of time as if I had blended my ingredients in a blender or food processor then froze them so the BKM doesn’t in my opinion, do a better job or save any time where this recipe is concerned.
Thoughts on the Bellini Kitchen Master
I am definitely starting to understand the way the machine works – the sorts of temperatures different dishes cook on and the strength of the different blender speeds. Yes, there are recipes that it is definitely able to produce as good a version as a “regular” made without the BKM version (e.g. risotto/ lemon curd).
What I am finding is that it’s perhaps not the machine for people who love the process of cooking (well maybe it is something they’d like to have in the kitchen and benefit from every now and then, but it’s not something that people who enjoy standing and stirring the risotto because they find it therapeutic will be rushing to buy). In the forward of the late Marcella Hazan’s book, “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”, she wrote “The microwave separates the cook from cooking, cutting off the emotional and physical pleasure deeply rooted in the act” and for me, a thermal blender acts a little in the same way. I love chopping, I love stirring, I love creating and these types of machines, whilst clever, do take away a large part of that process. For people who are really pushed for time or who have tiny kitchens without the space for a few different small appliances, a thermal blender would be something to consider – certainly, when I lived in a garret apartment in Paris for years with only a bar fridge and one hotplate, the BKM would have been a godsend. As a curious cook/ baker today, I am intrigued by new gadgets and appliances and am enjoying experimenting and learning how this machine operates, frustrations and all! Because you don’t learn without making mistakes, right?
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.