Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Un-Oven

Hey good-lookin' !  What's cookin' ?

It is a recurring fantasy of mine that one day I may get to travel again, at least loosely tethered to central Texas.  Pursuant to that, I've purchased a small trailer, and I am slowly improving it in various directions.  Unfortunately, it doesn't have an oven.  This appliance, which used to be standard on even the smallest RV, is getting pretty rare on smaller trailers and motorhomes.  The manufacturers seem to think it an extravagance.  Maybe it is.  For me to put one in would enrich Camping World by some $700.  That might just kill my appetite.

Not that I used an oven all that much when I was gallivanting around the continent.  Maybe once a week.  When traveling steadily, it was too easy to dine out.  But boondocking with a gas oven meant I could eat roast beasts and casseroles, bake bread and cookies, even enjoy the occasional lasagna.  Did I mention cookies?  I tell you there is something magical about fresh cookies, especially when you are parked in the back of beyond.  It fosters the grand illusion that maybe it is possible to avoid the clamor of civilization without real hardship after all.  Or even minor privation.

Hey, it's my fantasy, ain't it?  A man can dream.  And this one has wheels under it.

I thought for a while about a toaster oven.  Cheap enough, but they require electricity, and that means running the generator.  Who wants to listen to that?  Shall I turn myself into one of Pavlov's dogs, learning to salivate to the tune of a mechanical contrivance?  Besides, even a smaller oven of that sort would take up half my counter space.

Enter our Hero.  The Coleman Camp Oven.  Forty bucks from Amazon.  A 12 inch cube that sits on top of one of your burners and claims to bake cakes, etc.   How could I resist?

It arrived only yesterday, and I've been putting it through its paces today.  Much to my surprise, not even once has it failed to please.  It folds flat into a 12 inch square for storage, leaving my counters clear.  It is all one piece, and folds out into a cube in seconds.  You would be clever to make sure Tab A really goes firmly into Slot B before the thing gets hot.  I neglected to lock the bottom down the first time, and the burner pooked it up during the biscuit exercise.  No bother at all to fix when it's cold.

At full heat you can hold your hand an inch or two away without discomfort, but like any pot on the stove, if you touch it you will get burned.  There is a thermometer on the door.  I have no idea how accurate it is, but my burner drives it up to a nominal 350 degrees on high and just pegs there.  It pays to preheat for baked goods.  This takes ten minutes or so, but after that you can expect the cooking times stated on packages to be broadly accurate, just like in your big oven at home.

I got golden brown biscuits in 15 minutes.  Perfect.  I tried some toast, but it came out like oven toast everywhere:  fine on the burner side, merely dry on top.  If toast is your obsession, you can use tongs to turn the slices.  It does brown up quickly.  Crumbs everwhere, of course.  Fortunately this oven can be upended and shaken out in the yard.  No problemo.

A Crime punishable only when it's a hundred miles to the next croissant.
My 11 minute croissants got burned, because the so-called cook left them in there for 20 minutes.  What can I say?  He obviously had his head up his ... ah... book.  They were not inedible.  Not entirely.

But I did not eat them.

This incident reminded me of an epigram by the Roman poet Martial.  Goes something like this:

  "Sir?  You do not think it fit
   to beat the Cook for spoiling the broth?
   Sir, I ask you, in all truth,
   What greater crime can Cooks commit?"

No oven can perfect the careless cook.  But meats are more forgiving.  I seldom time them in any case, being more of a sniff and peek sort of cook.  I broiled two chicken thighs for lunch.  Checked at 30 minutes, a knife test showed they were done, but I took the foil off and put them back in for a quarter of an hour to brown the skin.
Enough Talk!  Let's Eat!
Mighty Fine

There was a lot of burbling splatter-sounds going on in there while the chicken browned, and I dreaded the cleanup, but apparently little of it escaped the pan.  What little grease popped up on the inside was wiped away in seconds with a spritz of Windex and a single paper towel.  O, and this oven cools down quickly.  Five minutes after the fire is removed, the metal is room temperature and can be folded up and stored.

I'm beginning to love this thing.  I haven't got a thousand words left in me.  But I do have a few more pictures:

Dinner Rolls
Cookies, of Course!

And finally, the Staff Of Life.   In the mortal words of the Permanent Poet Laureate of Texas, Mr. Burma Shave:

The Dough has Riz
The Oven's Set
But here we iz
In Texas yet!


eskimoblueboy said...

I like this product review. Cool. Thanks

Bob said...

Thanks for sharing this. I was concerned about the NO oven packages in RV's too! Love to eat. Can you get a small pizza in there? I guess not, but maybe if you cut it in half. :)

Bob Giddings said...

The problem might be to find the right size pan. It is 12 inches square, but you have to leave an inch or two on the sides for circulating heat. It comes with one rack but three positions. Maybe you can buy an extra rack.

You put me in the woods with a frozen pizza, I'm gonna find a way to fix it. Even if I have to get out the skillet.

This oven is perfect for one or perhaps two people. If you are feeding a bunch of kids, they are going to eat in shifts.

hobopals said...

Hi Bob, I could almost smell your goodies through my screen! You *really have* tested! Amazing. I have a small oven in my small trailer, but I don't think I could do as well as you did with your "un oven". Someone told me to put unglazed clay tiles on the bottom and it would bake more evenly (course, it might be the cook)--I've yet to get them, but will.

Here's a conversation about them in a TT Amazon has them in a 6X6 size, but you have to buy 6 of them. I thought I'd buy a 12X12 since they need space around them--maybe you can cut them down if you think about buying them.

One thing I make on the road with great success, and really enjoy, is Apple Sauce Cake. I think it comes out so good because it's so moist. It's so simple and so good. One Bowl, no mixer needed. Quick clean up. Moist and delicious for a week. [Don't tell anyone, but it's healthy, too]

1/2 Cup Oil
3/4 Cup Granulated Dark Brown Sugar
1 Cup Applesauce
1-1/2 Whole Wheat Flour
1 teas. Baking Soda
1 teas. Cinnamon
1/8-1/4 teas salt
Raisens, if desired
Maybe even nuts, if you like

Oil and flour 8 inch square baking pan or use a non-stick.
Cream the oil sugar together and mix in applesauce and baking soda. Add flour and cinnamon, blending thoroughly.

Bake 375 F (350 convection) for 25 minutes

Keep us posting on your doin's...what kind of trailer? I have a Jayco 218 (no longer made) but I liked it because of all the windows.

I feel like there's an elephant in this post...welcome back. You've been missed. :)

Bob Giddings said...

Thanks for the recipe. As for the tile, try Home Depot. I don't think it has to be a fancy tile, or an expensive one. I got a cookie sheet of the "air bake" brand,which has two sheets of aluminum with air between. That spreads the heat as well or better than the tiles. There are other brands built the same. Used to get them at Walmart.

As for the trailer, long story. Maybe I'll get around to telling it here, one of these days.

hobopals said...

Funny, I was thinking Home Depot. I saw info regarding the "air bake" but I didn't know if it would fit in your "un bake" oven. Do let me know if you make the cake--I think you'll like it. It can be made as muffins, too. Only need to adjust the time.

Bob Giddings said...

no, of course not. I was suggesting it for your oven.

Shadowmoss said...

Welcome back.

Aeagles said...

Hey Bob, What happened to the Lazy Daze? Why a trailer now?

Andrea E

Aeagles said...

Hey Bob, What happened to the Lazy Daze? Why a trailer now?

Andrea E

Mike O. said...

Welcome back, Bob! I haven't checked your blog in months because, well because I just gave up on your posting again. But the timing was right for me checking in again as I am once again giving very serious thought to "living the life on the road". I also am curious about the Daze.