Tuesday, April 28, 2020

bluprint: Free Access Binge Watching

Thanks to COVID19, everyone is spending a lot more time at home. bluprint is one of many companies offering free trials of their content in hopes of enticing viewers to become one of their regular subscribers. In the past, I have occasionally considered signing up but never really found the time to make a subscription worth it. Finding out that they were offering temporary free access had me really excited. There was so much content that I barely knew where to start! After spending an hour just browsing the library, I finally semi-randomly picked one and started watching.

(Just a note: The free access only allowed me to watch the videos. The class notes and other extra resources were only available if you bought a regular subscription. My main, overarching criticism is that measurements were not provided with any of the food classes… but one can hardly complain about free stuff. )

Over the last few months, Tim and I have been experimenting with homemade ice cream and so this class seemed like the natural one to start with.

In general, the class was an overview of a large variety of frozen desserts. It covered ice cream, gelato, sorbet, diary-free ice cream and ice cream cake. First, she walked through the step-by-step basics for making ice cream and then repeated and reinforced those steps and principles for all the subsequent desserts. Since Tim and I already had a few batches of ice cream under our belts, (both figuratively and literally – all that cream we are eating has to go somewhere…) the class provided a good review and reassured us that we were doing things right.

One change we plan on making after watching this class is to try and use 2% milk instead of whole milk. Since starting our ice cream making adventures, we have switched to using whole milk for everything else we make (eg. lattes, soups etc.) because it did not make sense for us to have two types of milk in the house. In the long run, if lower fat milk works in ice cream, I feel it will be better for both of our waistlines.

I raised my eyebrows when I saw that she was using both vanilla pods AND vanilla extract – both of which are not cheap. I am not sure that I can shell out that kind of money for vanilla ice cream at the moment. I was intrigued by the Tovolo ice cream tubs that she used. Their slim design and variety of colours were attractive but when I looked them up on Amazon, the customer reviews did not seem impressed. Tim and I have been reusing the Kawartha ice cream plastic tubs but they are bulky and some are cracking. We will have to explore alternative ice cream storage solutions soon.

Of the many recipes she showed, there are a few that I am especially interested in trying:

  •       Stracciattella – I have finally learned what this actually is!  She started by making a vanilla gelato. She then melted chocolate, placed it in a small ziplock bag, cut a tiny hole in the corner and then piped thin strands of chocolate into the churning gelato mixture. It looks simple but sounds delicious.
  •       Pistachio – Her recipe involved using roasted, salted pistachios which she blended into a fine powder first before adding the cream and milk. She cooked the mixture to make an infusion and then let it chill overnight before straining out the pistachios. Pistachio is one of those flavours that you only ever seem to find in ice cream shops. My mother and I both love nuts and so this one will definitely be on the to-try list.
  •      Dairy free ice cream – Although I have never been a fan of dairy free ice cream, so many of my family and friends are becoming lactose intolerant these days. Exploring dairy free desserts seems to be a must if I plan on inviting people over for dinner. Gemma’s recipe involved whole raw cashews, which she soaked overnight and then blended, and coconut milk. I will probably have to do more research before jumping into this one.
  •       Missippi mud pie ice cream cake – I love ice cream cake but they can be very expensive and since Dairy Queen is the go-to place for them, the flavours can be somewhat limited at times. This very chocolatey cake looked delicious but I am also inspired to try making a tea-flavoured ice cream cake. Oh the possibilities….

Watching her make sorbets with frozen fruit using a food processor has tempted me to buy one – on my Black Friday shopping list, I guess?

One recipe I probably will not be trying is the no-machine ice cream using condensed milk. A friend of mine made some once and although it was tasty, I found the taste of the condensed milk too strong.

Thanks to this class, I made my very first pie!

This class was a general overview of some principles of pie making. As a complete pie-crust making newbie, I found the class easy to follow and I liked that she demonstrated multiple methods of making pie. Even though I did not have all of the tools she showed for pastry making, I was still able to try making a pie crust with what I had on hand. (Given the social distancing recommendations for COVID19, any hobby that does not require me to leave the house to get new supplies is already half way to being made.)

She discussed different flours, fats, and liquids to use. The biggest take away I got from all of that was her basic pie making ratio: 12 ounces of flour, 8 ounces of fat and 4 ounces of liquid (plus some salt and sugar). She had an engaging way of instructing and had a warm, almost elementary school teacher feel about her. Some other interesting tips I learned included:

  •      If you do not have a pastry cutter, you can actually mix the flour and fat by hand. You are trying to achieve “a mixture of cornmeal, peas, walnuts and almonds”.
  •      Adding some apple cider vinegar will help relax the dough
  •      Using apple juice for the liquid will add an extra depth to the flavour of the pie crust. It is a convenient mixture containing water, sugar and acid.
  •      You need to let the pie crust cool completely before putting in a wet filling mixture. If you pour in the mixture while the pie crust is still hot, it will get soggy.
  •      Putting a heavy cream wash on the dough will give it a professional finish.

My first pie crust was made with a mixture of butter and shortening and turned out surprisingly well. It was supposed to be a cherry meringue pie. Unfortunately, although it looked quite pretty coming out of the oven, my filling and meringue were…less than stellar. I will tell the full story in another post once I actually have a presentable pie under my belt!

After watching two food making classes, I decided to switch things up with something completely inedible. I have only arranged flowers a few times in my life (the main time was when I was helping to decorate for my friend’s wedding) and know very little about how the pros do it. This was a very short class which showed you how to make a hand tied bouquet and then turn it into a centrepiece. It was pretty basic but I did come away with a few key points:

  •      When choosing colours for a bouquet, a good guideline to use is to pick three types of colours: an accent colour, a muted colour and a neutral colour
  •       40 blooms will make a full bouquet. A good ratio is 20 “thriller” flowers, 10 “spiller” flowers, and 10 “filler” flowers.
  •       Prepping the blooms are crucial for longevity of the bouquet and preventing bacteria growth in the water. All leaves and foliage below the water line must be stripped.
  •      Centrepieces should be less than 12 inches tall so that when people are seated, they can still see over the centrepiece. (I remember attending a wedding once where the homemade centrepieces were an awkward 2 feet tall. A lot of people just ended up taking the centrepieces and putting them on the floor during dinner.)

The most useful thing I learned from this class was how to make my own plant food from the following recipe: 1 gallon of water, squeeze of lemon, half a tablespoon of bleach and 2 tablespoons of sugar. If I ever receive another bouquet, I am now ready to make sure they stay gorgeous for as long as possible.

This class was a lot more extensive and covered multiple different types of arrangements. If flowers were not so expensive, I would be tempted to try some of them out! Maybe I will have another friend in the future who will need help decorating her wedding…. Anyway, her class covered tablescapes, floral crowns, spiral and flat bouquets, submerged bouquets and various arrangement styles. Some tips and tricks that I picked up were:

  •      Use vase tape to make a grid when using a wide mouthed vase; it will help hold the flowers in place better.
  •       Flower arrangements should not be longer than twice the height of the vase, otherwise, it will look unbalanced.
  •       Using greens to create a collar will make the whole arrangement look more professional.

Sadly, I only made it through 4 classes during the free access period. There were so many other classes that I was planning on watching! Bluprint was offering a deal though where an annual subscription was 50% off for the first year. I was lured in… their devious marketing plan worked. Just like people who sign up for gym memberships, I convinced myself that if I pay for a subscription, I will be motivated to do more crafts. We shall see how well that works… 😉

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