From Baking to Sous Vide, This Smart Steam Oven Is Your New Kitchen BFF

Look, I have to tell you about the baguettes I made a couple of weeks ago.

There I was, watching this gloopy dough rise, working it with floured hands into long thin strands, seeing it swell to fit the pan, then witnessing the real miracle, the puffing and tanning of these pale tubes into camera-ready loaves.

I couldn’t believe I made them. Neither could my French uncle-in-law. And in truth, I only sort of did. Most of the credit goes to the special baguette pan, the recipe—and the oven.

For about a month, I’ve been testing the Anova Precision Oven, an internet-connected countertop electric oven that cooks with steam. In restaurants and home kitchens fancier than mine, these combi ovens can cost thousands. Anova’s 1,800-watt appliance, which plugs into a regular wall socket, costs $600.

The Anova Precision Oven is small enough to fit on a countertop under the cabinets, but big enough to cook a whole chicken.



Photo:

Wilson Rothman/The Wall Street Journal

Yet it managed to show up my powerful gas oven again and again, with crunchy yet chewy baguettes and dinner rolls, crispy yet juicy roasted chicken, a full head of evenly steamed cauliflower, succulent ribs and pork butt cooked overnight, perfect medium-rare beef tenderloin, and more. (Hope you brought a snack while reading this.)

People in other countries might laugh at my revelation: Steam ovens are already popular around the world. But in the U.S., they’re few and far between. Beyond the price, part of the fear, for me, is that I wouldn’t know how to use it. None of my cooking buddies have one. That’s why Anova’s appearance on the scene is welcome. Not only is it a competitively priced hardware option, but it also already has a deep catalog of recipes showing the full range of the product. The oven’s app carries you through every step of every dish, with instructions and animations, while automatically adjusting the oven settings via Wi-Fi as you go.

While it’s not perfect, the Anova Precision Oven delivered the best crash course in steam/combi cooking that I could’ve possibly received. And it made a middling baker like me look like I was ready for the Great British baking tent. Whether you’re also a big food nerd or just a kitchen competent looking to level up the boring dinner routine or improve your baking skills, this oven is a reason to rejoice.

How It All Works

Steam ovens like this have two separate modes: a low-temperature mode that ranges from about 75 degrees Fahrenheit up to 212 degrees (water’s boiling point at sea level), and a higher-temperature mode, which can pump steam into the oven when it’s running at much higher temperatures.

The reservoir on the side of the oven holds enough water to provide weeks, if not months, of steam.



Photo:

Wilson Rothman/The Wall Street Journal

With the first approach, you can use the oven like you would steam vegetables and fish on the stove, just without boiling water

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The best baking equipment for your kitchen, inspired by The Great British Bake Off

The Great British Bake Off has returned to our screens (not even a national lockdown could stop it) and, in keeping with tradition, consumers are already snapping up baking tools and equipment to create their own slice of the action at home.

Since its debut in 2010, the show has energised home baking sales in the UK – inspiring the “The Bake Off” effect, whereby shoppers stock up in advance of a new series, almost every year.

From the classic Mason Cash mixing bowls you’ll recognise from the show to quirky baking kits from notonthehighstreet.com, here’s all the equipment you need to recreate the magic of The Great British Bake Off 2020 in your own kitchen…

1.   KitchenAid Artisan 

£499, Currys

The KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer (available in a range of both pastel and metallic hues) is traditionally the batter-mixer of choice in the Bake Off tent. It comfortably handles large quantities of ingredients and the stiffest of doughs, and allows you to mix ingredients without losing air (a key consideration for showstopping baking mixtures: no soggy bottoms here). 

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Despite two near kitchen fires, cookie baking night creates lasting memories | Momaha

The problem was immediately visible. In my haste to create a delicious snack the size of a human head, I failed to notice that our pizza pan was dappled with venting holes. Lots and lots of venting holes. Venting holes that caused dough to drop down onto the bottom of the oven, creating a hot minefield of miniature chocolate chip cookies, ladybug-sized cookies that were charred and crispy and full-on sizzling.

I quickly turned off the oven, shoved my arm into an oven mitt and scooped the teeny scorched cookies out onto the kitchen floor.

Problem solved. We would just have to wait for the oven to cool, and then I could wipe down the bottom before re-attempting our behemoth cookie.The kids stopped waving pillows and I sat down on the couch. Whew – that was a rush, right?

It smelled kind of good, though, like burnt cookies and berries.

The minute I turned my gaze to the kitchen, the smoke alarms started going off. Smoke was pouring from the stovetop, far more smoke than before. Whaaaat? I ran into the kitchen to see that in my haste to turn off the oven, I’d accidentally bumped the knob that turned on one of the back burners. The back burner that now had a bottle of berry-flavored Tums half-melted onto it because apparently I’d knocked them there when I’d been rushing to turn off the oven.

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