Thermomix — the baker’s friend

Day Four & Five – Baking (scroll down for previous days)

I’m not known for my baking prowess. It’s something to do with having to be patient and really just focusing on the task at hand rather than multi-tasking maniacally — neither trait comes naturally, therefore baking and i aren’t the best of friends. Baked products don’t really do it for me, either. Cakes, biscuits, tarts, pastries — i can take them or leave them, to be honest. I don’t mind a wedge of good bread, and would miss it in my life, but if i never saw another baked product again i wouldn’t fret. Not one bit.

However, i felt the need to make scones. I had leftover buttermilk in the fridge after making butter in the Thermomix  (see day three entry below) and the booklet that came with the borrowed machine had a recipe for  buttermilk scones. It was meant to be.

The role of the Thermomix in scone making is really just to mix then knead the dough. As i don’t bake often enough to have established any kind of rapport with dough, i’m usually unsure about how long to knead for, or how much pressure to exert. So i was quite happy to outsource this step.

One of the things that i like about the Thermomix is the convenience of being able to measure ingredients straight into the mixing bowl.  The kneading process is quick, too. I also used the Thermomix o knead my latest loaf of sourdough. I’m told it kneads in 2 minutes what would take 20 minutes by hand. I’m not sure if my sourdough making skills are improving, or if the Thermomix’ expert kneading made all the difference, but Loaf No 5 was definitely my best so far.

Stella_sourdough_olives

Stella Sourdough, with olives

The buttermilk scone recipe came with the precursory  warning: This is an extremely sticky dough but the result is well worth the effort. However, even i — a baking ditz — could tell that the dough was far too sticky to be workable. I found myself adding more and more flour to be able to shape and cut it, so I wasn’t convinced the scones would work. Despite my random flour addition, they turned out surprisingly well.  If the measurements in the recipe were a little off kilter, at least it was a forgiving dough.

However, the bowl and blade set was a bitch to clean. Thermomix demonstrators push the ‘easy to clean’ message. But it’s not always the case. I’ve blitzed several things that have been really difficult to remove from the blade, even when it has been removed from the bowl, and the ‘special’ scrubbing brush was put to use.

While i was on my baking mission, i used the Thermomix to make another batch of pizza dough. This is one of the first things i used the Thermomix for, following a recipe in the Everyday cooking  … for every family book that came with the machine. I have to say it turns out a damn fine pizza base, and i wanted to stock up the freezer with some before the Thermomix is returned this week. Stay tuned for more from the rolling Thermomix review. Next up, ice cream.

Day Three – Butter (scroll down for previous days)

I have to admit, i wasn’t expecting big things from today’s Thermomix escapade, which was to make butter. The butter making process sounded too simple: there were only five steps and it would take about two minutes. Something had to go wrong.

I planned to follow the steps on Jo Whitton‘s blog — Quirky Cooking  — and  I  know she’s a bit of a dynamo with this gizmo, so I suspected my butter making was going to be a somewhat rancid experience. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

To make butter you have to whip cream until it separates into butter and buttermilk, at which stage it resembles scrambled eggs.

Homemade_butter
Then you rinse with cold water by whizzing it in the Thermomix, once, maybe twice, or until the water runs clear. It took me two rinses: at this point it kind of resembles hard ice cream.

Homemade_butter

Then you squeeze as much water out of it as you can. The more water retained the quicker it will go off. I squeezed with all my might … and ended up with this.

Homemade_butter

I packed it in a mould and left it in the fridge while i went to work. The finished product turned out like this.

Homemade_butter

Now, it’s not going to win any awards. But it tastes pleasantly creamy and i’ll happily slather it on my toast. I used a bog-standard cream — $3 for 600ml — figuring i was going to botch up the butter and have to bin it, anyway.  I’m sure the flavour could be refine by using good, organic cream.

I didn’t end up much better off, financially, by making my own butter. If i’m not splashing out, I buy a 250g pat of Allowrie  butter for $3. The cream i bought yielded less butter for the same cost. However, i do have 260g of butter milk left over — which i’m planning on using to make scones. And i figure butter making would be a good way to up the forgotten, unopened, pots of cream of sometimes find in the fridge.

I’ve never made butter before using any other contraption, so i don’t know how the Thermomix compares. But i do know it was fast and hassle free. The Thermomix has got this task down pat.

Day Two

I deliberated about whether to cook with the Thermomix (TM)  today as i didn’t want my week to get off to a cranky start. This little minx of a machine pushed my buttons yesterday, rather than the other way round. But one of the reasons i wanted to trial the TM was to see if i could cook quickly with it on a morning prior to an afternoon/evening shift at work. I’d earmarked  chicken and mushroom stroganoff out of Devil of a Cookbook — another in the Thermomix library.  It’s a one-pot dish: everything is chopped, measured, and cooked in the TM bowl.

For starters i moved the Thermomix to another work bench — so we both had room to work. It was a wise move. The set-up was cleaner and less cluttered. We fought less — in fact, we didn’t fight at all. The recipe was simple, only six steps, and not exactly hard-core stuff. The Thermomix handled it well. I got a little waft of sauteeing spring onions in butter — but not the full-on rolling blanket of aromatics i’m used to, and relish, when cooking stove top. But this one-pot dish was made, and the washing up done, all in under half an hour. It was all very painless — as cooking should be, really.

I held back a little on the liquid quantity given yesterday’s runny bolognaise and the extended cooking time to reduce it to the right consistency.  The strips of chicken are softly tender, there is good — if uncomplicated — flavour.

I also used the TM to steam the accompanying rice. It was no quicker than using a rice steamer (my current method of choice), and it didn’t cook the rice as evenly. Some patches of grains were still hard. I had to stir it and give it an extra 10 minutes. The end result was fine. While the TM is a sizeable device that would take up a fair amount of cupboard, or bench, space there is the advantage of not having to store extra equipment like rice steamers, too.

Tomorrow i’m going to try making butter. Maybe yoghurt, too.

Day One

Today I tried to befriend the Thermomix (TM) that i have on loan for two weeks. It was our first real dance together in the kitchen — and i hold it entirely responsible for the big, black mood i am now in on what was supposed to be a relaxing Sunday arvo. I’d say it was a cooking session of mixed success. But this is only Day One of testing — i’ve another week and half in which to try to master this little mixer.

The Thermomix — for those who don’t know it — is dubbed “the world’s smallest, smartest kitchen”. It combines the functions of over 10 different kitchen appliances. It chops, mixes, mills, beats, emulsifies, kneads, blends, stirs, steams, weighs, melts and cooks — yes that’s right: sauces, risotto, soup, and stir fries are just some of dishes that can be cooked in this one-pot wonder.

I used the Thermomix last night to make pizza dough — and followed Jo Whitton’s (of the Quirky Cooking blog) recipe for spiced lamb topping that is included in Dani Valent’s book In The Mix: Great Thermomix Recipes, which is also on loan. The dough — kneaded for two minutes in the TM, which is the equivalent of about 20 minutes by hand, i’m told — turned out tremendously. It yielded a thin, crisp base, if somewhat misshapen by my clumsy hands. However, using the TM to mince cubed, semi-frozen lamb resulted in mushed — rather than minced — meat. Jo’s flavours were outstanding and once the lamb was spread thinly across the pizza base the lamb’s strange consistency was pretty much unnoticeable. The general consensus in the household was that it was a damn fine pizza. Plus, we had two left-over wads of dough in the freezer and some extra mushed lamb topping, which would make an easy meal during the week. But it certainly wasn’t mince — not as i know it, anyway.

Bolognaised to boiling point

This morning, ahead of making a bolognaise sauce, where mince rather than mush is pretty much paramount, i thought it wise to ask for tips on Twitter. Several TM users came to the rescue. One of the difficulties for novice TM users is getting to know the different settings, speeds and dials on the machine. Confident TM users devise their own techniques — they ascertain what works for them and what doesn’t and adapt recipes and instructions accordingly. I was advised to use the TM’s turbo pulse button to mince meat. I did as i was told and was pleasantly surprised with the mince-like results. I probably pulsed the beef one or two times too many, and next time would pulse less to obtain a chunkier mince, but i was definitely a better result. ‘Spag bol, here we come,’ i thought. Not so quick.

I followed Dani Valent’s bolognaise recipe, which is also in In the Mix. The flavours were superb. The addition of star anise and orange zest add a stunning lift to the bog-standard bolognaise i am more familiar with. But after the requisite 30 minutes cooking time i still had a very runny sauce — partly a result of my over minced mince, i suspect.

I jumped back on Twitter and asked for advice. Both Jo and Dani suggested settings to use to reduce the sauce. This is one of the benefits of using a Thermomix — there is a passionate community of users on hand to give advice. However, i ended up cooking the bolognaise for a good 50 minutes longer to achieve the right consistency. Suddenly, my quick-cook Thermomix afternoon was taking on a life — and a duration — of it’s own.

One of the things i have to do on a weekend is cook two or three dishes in bulk for the week/s ahead — it’s the only way our household functions smoothly on the food front. The dishes are separated into individual serves and stocked in the fridge and freezer. For our household to function smoothly in the week ahead i had to cook three dishes: and i was using the Thermomix for all three — or so i thought. I also had other things on my “to-do list”, but the TM was slowing me up tremendously. Cooking tasks i’d usually do in a few minutes took much longer, partly because i was constantly having to return to the manual to check settings, and temperatures, and tips. Resorting to Twitter for advice was a god-send, but also time consuming. I’m sure the more familiar i become with the device the more efficient i’ll become at using it. But it was becoming increasingly obvious that i wasn’t going to achieve everything i needed to do before the start of the working week. Enter the start of a black mood.

 Spicing it up (the nose)

One of the or Thermomix dishes on my hit-list this weekend was chicken tagine by Cath Claringbold, which is also included in In the Mix. Cath’s whole roasted Ethiopian spiced chicken is one of my all-time favourite recipes, so i was keen to try her tagine, which calls for the roasting and milling of whole spices in the Thermomix. I’m a spice fiend and usually grind my own spice mixes and curry pastes by hand in a pestle and mortar. So i was keen to see how the Thermomix stacked up on the spice front. Roasting spices in the TM doesn’t emit the same pungent smell that is achieved by roasting them on the stove top, but it milled them to a super fine powder. And boy, what a mess it made — it got everywhere, including up my nose, which set me off on a massive sneezing frenzy (when i get them, i get them bad) that has been with me the entire afternoon and served to blacken my mood further.

Sauteeing onion and garlic in the TM also failed to emulate the results i usually achieve on the stove top, including the gorgeous aromatics and caramelised golden brown vegetables. Maybe i needed to saute for longer, or use a higher setting. I’m interested to hear from other Thermomix users if they manage to saute with the same stove-top success. However, the tagine had lovely depth of flavour and the chicken thighs were fork soft. I look forward to eating it for dinner one night this week.

By this time the kitchen was in an abominable mess. Using a Thermomix is supposed to be easier and more efficient — and with practice it probably will be. But i was out of my comfort zone and not in the cooking groove i’m used to. I was also out of time. I had to get on with some other things: so the prawn curry i’d planned to make for dinner tonight will have to wait for another day. So i’m already a meal down for the week ahead and not exactly thrilled about that. I thought i was testing the Thermomix, but it ended up testing me — and quite enough for one weekend.

Advertisements

37 Comments

Filed under Product reviews

37 responses to “Thermomix — the baker’s friend

  1. Very interesting Rachel. I have a fellow blogger friend who had the same experience and with a large family to feed she decided it wasn’t for her. I am all for efficiency in the kitchen but there is something about an old fashioned pot or pan and a wooden spoon isn’t there? Not to mention a good mortar and pestle. I have not used a TM but I am always intrigued as some people seem to almost follow it like a religion 🙂

    Like

    • I have to admit, i almost reverted to the old fashioned pot and pan at one point to finish things off and speed things up. I think it comes down to practice … and time in the beginning, which i don’t have a lot of, i’m afraid. I will persist for next week and a half and no doubt work out what the hell i’m doing just before i hand it back! I must say, each dish has turned out tasting delicious … and i’m besotted with pizza dough which got another whirl at lunch time.

      Like

  2. Glenda

    Sorry but I got a good giggle out of this. I don’t have a thermomix but two of my girlfriends do and they swear by it. One even loaned me hers to try it out but I was too intimidated by it to give it a whirl. I guess it’s a combination of persistence, trial and error and experimentation.

    Like

  3. Love your candor here Rachel!

    Like

  4. Thank you for your honest opinion too!
    While there are people who RAVE about Thermomix, I am mostly hearing multiple repeat stories of your experiences; not saving time and wasting food in the end.

    Like

    • I suspect you have to spend a bit of time mastering it before it really saves you time. And i must say, each of the three dishes i’ve made so far tastes really good – they’re good recipes. It’s just getting used to the settings and how to use it, that is the time consuming part. Hopefully i will speed up by the end of loan period.

      Like

  5. Mary

    Very interested in this, will be following your journey, as we are considering a thermomix. I have been to a demo & it all looked wonderful, but also very well rehearsed.

    Like

    • I think it’ll just take practice. I’m determined to give it a good go.

      Like

    • I was seriously considering getting a Thermomix many years ago after seeing many demos etc…the local rep HOUNDED me via email, phone calls…was a BIG RED flag for me too! Was NOT worth the expense and consider me part of the NON Thermomix community! Your review reinforced that too! Thank you!

      Like

      • I’m still keeping an open mind. I’ve only used it to cook three meals, so far. And i’ve learnt something (what not to do again) each time. I’m considering it a learning curve!

        Like

  6. eatdrinkandbekerry

    It’s great to read a review like this Rachel. I always think it’s just me when I can’t seem to make things work. Good to know I’m just human.

    Like

  7. Rach, great review – sounds like you’ve been thoroughly tested this weekend! I don’t have a TM, although I have friends who swear by them – I can’t even work the GPS function on my phone (as you know :)), so I have no idea how I’d go with managing all the settings on this! 🙂

    Like

  8. Good post Rach – and an honest look at this much hyped machine. I’ve had one for years and there are things it’s bloody good at and things that are best done the old way (I’ve never, ever been able to caramelise onions in it properly). I’ll see if I still have your number in my phone and give you a call during the week. Perhaps I can walk you through a few points.

    Like

  9. Y

    Oh dear 🙂 I have a Thermomix but must say, I’ve never cooked a meal in it. More of a pot-on-the-stove kind of person when it comes to dinners.

    Like

    • Interesting – if you haven’t cooked a meal in it how do you use it? Is it more for prep?

      Like

      • Y

        Mostly ganache, custards, and for whizzing up tart pastry. Or as a high powered blender. I don’t feel like it really has the capacity to make dinners, because if I’m making something stewy like bolognese, it’s nice (and time efficient) to make a large pot’s worth and freeze the leftovers for future meals. Also not convinced that it really makes good ice-cream. I’ve tried it in the past and the end product is usually still a tiny bit icy.

        Like

  10. Your honesty is very refreshing Rachel. Having no interest in trying a Thermomix, I’m now convinced the time taken in ‘experimenting’ can be better used in actually chopping, stirring and mixing the simple way. I’m all for the ‘vessel with the pestle’.

    Like

  11. Gotta admit i love pounding in a pestle and mortar – great stress release!

    Like

  12. i’m really glad to see someone de-bunking the great thermomix myth. everyone it seems only says positive things about it and it’s nice to read something more realistic.
    i have to say though, i’ve heard TMs are suprememly expensive, so if you are an experienced cook with lots of pots and pans and machines that you have invested in already, how do you justify spending money on another machine and leaving all your others to languish unused? or do people hold garage sales (kitchen sales?) and sell off their now-redundunt risotto pans and food processors and mortars & pestles?

    Like

    • Yes, i suppose it does beg the question: what to do with your redundant kitchen paraphernalia. And i love the sound of kitchen sales … a great way to offload unwanted kitchen equipment & i’d love rustling around other people’s pre-loved kitchen nik naks!

      Like

  13. Hi Rachel,
    Loving your Thermomix diary. I agree that it does take extra time to get familiar with the Thermomix and its functions, but it pays off in the end, promise!

    I wonder if you’ll have had enough successes over your loan period that the TM will need to be prised from your fingers when the fortnight is up.

    Will watch with interest… And whatever happens, thanks for trying recipes from my book, In the Mix.

    By the way, I thought I was one of those pots & pans cooks and then I became Thermobsessed. Here’s my story: http://www.gourmettraveller.com.au/thermomix-cooking.htm

    Like

    • Thanks Dani — it does take a bit of getting used to & pushes a confident cook (who is used to certain routines, and processes) out of their comfort zone. I’ve got about another week to go, and will have more of a chance over the weekend to try to other things. I really want to try layered cooking, using the steamer, etc. And i’ve got my eye on an ice cream recipe! I’ll keep up with the diary — it seemed the best, and most practical way, of reviewing the TM.

      Like

  14. Butter making is simple enough in the mixer – we do it often – but I suspect the TM will be a cleaner process. When we use the mixer, there’s usually butter splattered all over the place. 🙂 Does the TM go straight into the dishwasher?

    Like

  15. Seriously, it can’t be said that you’re not giving this machine a good test! Scones! I’ve always been taught to barely handle them, so I’m surprised they worked so well in the TM! 🙂

    Like

  16. Hi. The Thermomix is certainly versatile but you have to take some time to rethink your cooking style. Today I’ve made goats cheese soufflé, brownies, granola, steamed some crime brûlée and made bread. The size can be a limitation for a large family but as there are only two of us and the odd dinner party it is great.

    One tip I found for cleaning the blades etc. is to set the temp to 60c and leave on speed 6 for a couple of minutes with water and dish soap. I haven’t found anything that doesn’t come off using this approach.

    Howard

    Like

  17. Jamboys

    To be honest, I think a lot needs to be said about the way you are taught to use the Thermomix. Although it is relatively simple to be self taught, If you a taught to use it by a confident consultant who is thorough, then it can quicken the learning process and bypass a lot of unnecessary mistakes from the beginning, hence allowing you to have a much faster and more positive experience from day one! Generally when you loan a Thermomix from a friend, you miss the one on one consultant contact and teaching which may make a significant difference to the experience some may have with it.

    Like

  18. Kathy Haramis

    I have a Thermomix and absolutely love it but for my own reasons, not for the reasons discussed during a demonstration. I’m a realist and use it to fit in with my cooking style. I’m a pots and pans girl, who loves slow cooking and aromas wafting through the house on thr weekend. Hence cooking bolognaise sauce in a Thermomix just doesn’t do it for me. However, I have whipped up bread and brioche which is heavenly. I have developed a pastry technique that is foolproof and needs minimal resting time and is to die for. Go Thermomix! Rice pudding, gorgeous soups, silky mashed potatoes, custards, sticky date pudding mixture and the sauce and all are amazing. Ice cream to be churned is gorgeous if you use a proper recipe that needs freezing. I grate huge chunks of parmesan cheese and the machine doesn’t even grunt. So strong. Once a pushed it to its limits and grated in a huge wedge and it blitzed it no problem. I could not have done this with my kitchen aid processor. Pizza dough is amazing. Napoli sauce is great in the Thermomix as are so many other recipes. The key is to recognise that at a demonstration, of course it’s rehearsed and geared for sales. But it’s not the machine that should control the cook but we should use it to create better cooking experiences relevant to our own personalities. Oh, and one more thing, it is so powerful that it makes the most incredible green juice health drinks…add all your fruit or veggies with ice and water and here’s to your health. There are no belts to wear down. It’s a beast and I love it and use it everyday, but my way!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s