Thursday, November 25, 2010

Baking and Other Cooking Equipment Challenges

Everyday cooking is not usually a big challenge for me... well until lately anyway. Over the last year (due to family disharmony) I have been cooking more and more often in a makeshift corner of my office, outfitted with a 2 burner hotplate, a crock-pot and a coffee pot. I do bigger things like baking and canning in the regular kitchen at the other end of the house, occasionally burning things in the oven because I don't hear the timer this far away. 

However, at the beginning of November my sister killed the oven while I was out of town, and now I'm trying to learn rudimentary baking in a small counter-top convection oven in my space. (I bought the oven a year ago, just didn't make space for it then.) The area around the oven gets very hot, too hot for comfort, so I moved it to the brick hearth by my wood stove. I need something heat-proof to sit it on so it's higher, though... these old bones don't like working at floor level!

It's a real challenge to try and bake in it, as everything has to be adjusted for size/quantity, and watched carefully once in the oven... recipe temperatures don't always work out just by automatically lowering the temp by 25ยบ, and most of my bakeware won't fit. Best so far are an 8x8 square or round commercial pan which heats more evenly. The instructions say not to use glass pie pans or loaf pans in it, I'm fearful of damaging my pottery bakeware, and I refuse to buy disposable aluminum pans. Certainly my Thanksgiving turkey won't fit either, even though it's a very small turkey.

I've already burned the tops of muffins even though the centers were still uncooked. Same for a small cake. It makes me very hesitant about more "trial" baking with Thanksgiving just a day away. My stuffing/dressing recipe has cornbread in it, and I have always made my cornbread in a cast iron skillet in the oven. 

Thinking on it though... my grandmother made cornbread, biscuits and who knows what else over an open fire when she and 2 sisters homesteaded 160 acres in Colorado and lived in an Army-type walled tent. 

If she could manage, I'm sure I can figure it out too. In actuality, I'm considering it good practice in the event of extended power outages. Whatever I learn to cook on a hot plate burner should translate to cooking over a fire with some minor tinkering. Even the cardboard smoker I made could act as an oven with some adaptation.


  1. I baked in a tiny toaster oven for quite a while, and it was a pain! I learned to make my baked goods short, and even consider flipping them over halfway through so I didn't get the burnt top biscuits with gooey centers. Good luck!

    (By the way, I'm looking forward to trying your pear-cranberry recipe --- looks great! I was thinking of it as I made our traditional cranberry-raisin pie yesterday.)

  2. Thanks, Anna. The cranberry-pear clafouti may be my Thanksgiving dessert rather than attempting a pumpkin pie in my little oven.

  3. Do you have a grill with a hood? I know you can use cast ironware (like a Dutch oven) and baking stones in them. I've been wanting to experiment some with ours, just haven't gotten around to it yet.

  4. No, I only have a tall bullet-shaped 18" dia. smoker/grill, but I think I could bake on the lower grate that usually holds a pan of water... when I really want to bake something again.

    I'd love to have a dutch oven again. lost mine in the last relationship break-up years ago.


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