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Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:33 pmSemi-Experienced "Sous Chef" Poster
I have a very old stove that I got from a landlord when I moved. I have no idea how old it is, but I've had it for 19 years now.
Using a hanging thermometer, it seems my oven doesn't quite make the grade to 300 F.
For most things, it's no big deal. I have to roast foods a lot longer, but cakes and pies turn out okay. Sometimes I do need more time for them, though.
My real problem, that makes me weep, is that I've been dreaming of baking creampuffs. For that, 450 F is required, at first, and then it's turned down to 350. Another dream I can't achieve is to make yorkshire pudding and popovers. Same temp problem.
I can't afford a new stove. Nor can I afford to have a repairman put in a new thermostat - at least not for a while. So please don't suggest those, since I know they are options that I can't use for a long time. I'm rather poor, disabled and live in Mexico.
My idea is to put something into the preheated oven, something I can heat on the stovetop to a very high temp, then put it in the oven along with the baking sheet containing the creampuffs. I'd lay them on the sheet, but only AFTER I'd preheated it in the oven, then lay them on and shove it in. When I do that, the very hot thing from the stove top will have just been put in the oven, too. The "thing" I'd use is a long oval castiron griddle-thing called a comal. It has handles, but they're of metal, so I can heat it as hot as I want.
The idea is that my puffs will start puffing from being put on a hot cooky sheet with parchment on top. They'll continue puffing for a while, because the comal will raise the temperature in the oven - I can't know by how much, though. That's the problem.
I'd appreciate comments about whether this might do the trick.
One question to consider is whether I should put the cooky sheet on top of the comal or next to it. Or whether I should use one comal or 2.
Ideas? Thoughts? I'd be grateful.
Thu Feb 07, 2013 9:00 amFood.com Groupie
I don't know if this oven is accurate enough for cream puffs (in fact I rather doubt it would get that high, unless it was a parabolic cooker), but you can build yourself a SOLAR oven for almost free! I'm planning to try making and using one this spring and keep it on hand for emergency purposes. http://www.instructables.com/id/Best-Solar-Oven/
Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:38 pmForum Host
Zeldaz, I have cooked with a (commercially made) solar oven on a friend's boat, using the strong, mid summer southern Caribbean sun. I can tell you from experience, that while it has its uses for cooking foods, it can be very problematic when it comes to baked goods.
First, let me say that the commercial solar ovens come with special black pots because they hold the heat better (not sure if they are anodized aluminum or what they are made of). Glass or any shiny pans will not work well no matter what you are planning to cook.
The problem with baking is getting the solar oven hot enough and then maintaining the the high heat long enough.
Solar ovens can take the better part of the morning and/or several hours in the afternoon to preheat enough to reach a needed moderate (300-350F) temperature. Maybe preheating a comal would help keep a solar oven hot enough to bake successfully.
Solar ovens are most successful when thought of and used as a "non electric slow cooker".
One tip if you are going to try making a solar oven....please use black wood stove paint (not "stove blacking"), don't use just any black paint from the paint store. You need a heat proof paint for this application.
Fri Feb 08, 2013 4:05 pmFood.com Groupie
There is a solar oven design out there that reaches nearly 600 degrees in Texas, should get even hotter in Mexico. Any dark-colored vessel will work fine, a cast iron pot is perfect for most. I have a couple of cast iron comal-type disks I found in a restaurant supply store, hoping to try baking using those. I think they are probably just round sizzle platters, but whatever works is fine with me. For the simplest cardboard box solar oven, regular flat black paint or even tempera paint can be used. Some people have reported making their own paint out of soot mixed with wheat paste, but I'm not willing to go quite that far!
Can't be any slower than an oven that only goes to 300 degrees, which is equivalent to High on most slow cookers.
Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:32 pmSemi-Experienced "Sous Chef" Poster
I have indeed heard about cardboard-box solar ovens. There are many poor people (not impoverished) around me, and when I first moved here I asked if anyone would help me build some for the neighbors. I'm severely disabled, or I'd have done it myself. Nobody seemed to care.
I think it's because they don't believe it would really work. But while I doubt it would help me make creampuffs, I AM sure it could help them to cook things like beans, which take hours on the stovetop - and a lot of gas, which makes the cost of the beans skyrocket.
I HAVE encouraged some people, in the alternative, to pour boiling water over their beans the night before, then cover it overnight. The next day, pour off the water, replacing it with fresh, and cook as usual - this will cut off several hours of cooking, and therefore of gas consumption. With this suggestion, there has been a goodly measure of success. Especially since natural gas - which everyone uses - has gotten rather costly.
I'll give YOU an idea that I've found to be very good at saving money on gas. It's a new kind of water heater. It has no reservoir. As water passes through the machine (from turning on the hot water tap), a HUGE flame ignites (roughly one-foot square due to many little burners acting together), heating the water very hot as it passes through. When the tap is closed, no more water passes, and the machine reverts to a pilot light. You don't have to keep it heating water all day when you don't need it, and you don't need to turn it off until you DO plan to use it, and then waiting about 1/2 hour for the water to get hot. It's a boiler that heats water hot WHEN you use it, with only a very short wait till it arrives at the faucet. That big flame can be scary, but it does a fine job. These are becoming more commonly used in Mexico. I don't know about in the States, but I CAN recommend them to you. I'm sure they're available somewhere. Here it's called a "Calentador de pasa." Sort of meaning "heater in passing." The only "problem" I've had with it is that it is sometimes difficult to achieve just the right "balance" between hot and cold. It would be therefore unwise for a child to bathe unsupervised. The balance can be achieved, but it sometimes gets too cold or too hot, even though it will return to a more balanced state with some minor fiddling. This may be caused by the plumbing of this house, though. It may have nothing to do with the heater. But it's good for an adult to keep track when it's in use. And the savings on gas is simply incredible!
Thanks to all - I think I'll try the two-comal approach and try to make some simple popovers first.
Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:33 pmFood.com Groupie
In-line, tankless hot water heaters are used in the US, the most common brand being Insta-hot. There's at least one in a museum I volunteer at here. They are electric, however, not gas.
Good luck on the popovers, I love the things!
I'll let you know how my own solar cooker experiment goes, if I can locate this thread again later. There' a solar cookoff every year here. I wonder if you couldn't find some kids to help you put one together, they like stuff like that.
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