Sunday, June 30, 2013

Heat Wave Won't Stop Dedicated Bakers

It’s hovering near 100⁰F outside, yet my oven is on with a pot of spicy Creole baked beans which is baking in a low oven for two-and-half hours. We’ll be taking it as a side dish in a few hours to a friend’s barbeque party. Only the most dedicated cooks would turn the oven on when it’s this hot (and we don’t have air-conditioning).

I didn’t turn my main oven on in the kitchen either, would be crazy to heat the house up. Yet yesterday I baked a zucchini-cream cheese cake and a few days before that our regular two loaves of bread.

My secret weapon is a portable convection oven sitting on a shelf in the garage. As long as the weather is warm, my convection oven is running nearly daily. In fact, should the garage get too hot, I need to carry it outside as too high temperatures seem to interfere with the action of the thermostat. This oven is the size of a large microwave, big enough for a small turkey, and weighs perhaps twenty pound, easy to carry around.

Occasionally people ask me the difference between a conventional and convection oven. This is strange as many of the newer household ovens have a convection option. The answer is very simple: convection ovens have a fan to circulate the air around for even heat, faster baking. Now many of the inexpensive toaster ovens brag about being a convection oven but that’s not exactly true. The feeble air movement with a pathetic little fan hardly does anything else than creating noise.

Real convections have powerful enough fans to be effective besides making fan noises. You need to reduce oven temperature called for in the recipe by twenty-five degrees F and baking or roasting time is likely to be at least ten percent shorter. Commercial bakeries and kitchens commonly have large highly efficient convection ovens in addition to their conventional ones.

Here is what I baked: Quiche Salinas or marinated artichoke-sharp cheddar cheese quiche. Little crooked (pastry was a bit soft and the weather hot) but it tasted good for our lunch company.

The only thing you cannot do in the convection oven is bake cakes and tortes which are leavened only by egg or egg white foam. The slight vibration of the fan is enough to collapse the weak structure of the cake before it’s fully baked.

If you are a dedicated baker, hot weather will not stop you. Most everyone can find a place for these relatively small appliances—if not in a garage, any backyard or balcony will work. Good ones are not inexpensive but cheap ones are not very good.

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