Feature | Tips on buying a new oven … getting the best bang for your buck

“We light the oven so that everyone may bake bread in it”
Jose Marti

Buying the right ovenIt goes without saying that I bake a lot! I still remember how difficult it was to choose an oven for our new kitchen when the kitchen was being remodeled. I wanted the moon, being ‘passionate about baking‘ etc, but finances were a constraint. I asked around a lot, and the choices at the time were minimal. I eventually took a well judged risk as the brand was new to the market. Now things are so much more dynamic … so many choices, online deals, brands exploding out of nowhere, price tags that can make you sing with joy, or sometimes shed a silent tear! The common thread remains however … ‘which oven should I buy’!

Dark Chocolate & Walnut Wholewheat Cake & CoffeeA few days ago I wrote an article titled A Commonsense Guide to Basic Baking where I talked about what makes a good bake. Essentially good quality and fresh ingredients, a departure from refined foods towards whole foods, and incorporating native and seasonal produce into our menus. What goes in is what you get, but also equally important are the tools of the trade. It’s prudent to realise that quality bakeware and appliances make a huge difference.Tols of the tradeWhile I touched very briefly on kitchen tools, I mentioned ovens as well but didn’t go into the nitty gritty. That said, I get a dozen or more reader emails every month asking advise on which oven to buy, and how to pick the right one. The questions vary from the kind of oven, the ideal size, features, to price and often to brands. Just yesterday I received another similar query, and thought it might be a good idea to jot down a small post.

3 Questions to Ask When Buying a New Oven

My kitchenA quality oven is the cornerstone of a functional kitchen, but many people are surprised to find how little they know about these machines when it’s time to buy a new one. Shopping for your next oven can be more than a little intimidating with the sheer number of features, options and specs available in the marketplace, and although sorting through them can seem like an overwhelming prospect, understanding what you need to look for when you’re buying a new oven can help you get the best bang for your buck.
Baking @ PABDo I Want a Traditional Oven?
When most people call an oven to mind, they picture a standard single box powered by either electric or gas. However, there are many more options that could be the right choice for you depending on your needs, such as dual-fuel ranges that use both gas and electric to provide the ideal heating source for each cooking method. Consider whether your old stove was meeting the needs of your kitchen before committing to a similar or identical model. It’s always a good idea to ask around within your online community or circle for recommendations. For me, it’s also very worth the while reading online reviews too.
Vanilla beans in bakingWhat Features Do I Need?
Modern ovens can be highly specialized, so it’s important to consider the exact features you’re looking for, or more specifically, how you will use these features. If your needs are fairly basic, you’ll likely be served well by a premium standard oven like the Blanco Freestanding Cooker from Harvey Norman, but if you bake frequently or often prepare large meals, you may want to consider a double oven, which combines two self-contained chambers that can be set at different temperatures to keep one food warm or even prepare two totally different dishes.
You might want to ask whether you need a counter top ‘stand alone’ oven, or a fitted one. Other common options are an increased number of stovetop burners, built-in griddles, self-cleaning and advanced heat distribution features and other customizations that make a given oven perfect for a specific kitchen.
Baking, eggs, oatsHow Much Do I Want to Spend?
Like with any other higher-end purchase, you should always determine a hard budget before examining the available options. There is little use in falling for a Rs35,000 oven when your budget is closer to Rs1o,000, so set your budget from the start of the process and be on the lookout for seasonal sales, online deals which commonly take place around holiday weekends. It can be extremely helpful to subscribe to email alerts from major appliance retailers in your area to get an idea of the best prices in-store as well as online.

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Food for thought | What’s the one kitchen appliance you couldn’t live without?

“I put the kitch into kitchen.”
Nigella Lawson

Kitchen appliancesI have a confession to make: I love baking. Bit of an understatement? I love doing things from scratch and pushing my own boundaries to get creative in the kitchen. A recent post I did for the Home Bakers Guild got me thinking. There I talked about my passion for baking and the ingredients I enjoy using. Today my mind went a step further … What’s the one kitchen appliance you couldn’t live without?

Baking ingredientsThose who know me know that I don’t have a sweet tooth. My joy lies more in the making than in the devouring. Without my kitchen and my favourite kitchen utensils, would I be able to create the same great food? Would I find baking therapeutic? The answer’s probably no. AmulPerhaps I’ve grown so used to working with them I take my beloved kitchen appliances for granted, and a  tribute to my favourite and much-loved cooking tools is never too late! Do you have favourites? Other than my heavy duty machines, these are 2 things I often turn to on a daily basis. Irish Creme Chocolate Cakes with an Irish Creme Caramel Sauce

 Sieve

One of the most popular kitchen appliances, some people only use a sieve when they need to strain vegetables, rice or pasta. However, for a baker like me, a sieve can make all the difference between a bad cake and a good cake. Actually I think it holds the key to macarons too. Think sieve, think airy, light and dreamy!

Blood Orange Macarons with Maple Orange Chocolate Pastry CremeLearning that I had to sieve flour to make cakes that not only looked good, but also had a light and fluffy consistency whilst tasting great was probably one of the first lessons I ever learned in the kitchen. Have you ever had a cake that hasn’t had some of the ingredients sieved? I’ve made the mistake once, and I can safely say it’s not very nice! Coffee Chocolate Mascarpone Layered Cake It’s better to play safe … and bake yummy!! Did I forget to add that a sieve is also handy for a quick dusting of icing sugar or cocoa powder to finish off a cake? That’s why I love my sieve.

Hand Mixer

Swedish Prinsesstårta, princess cupcakes Years ago, I used to mix my cake mixture by hand. In the beginning it was kinda fun, had the promise of stronger and leaner arms, but it was very tiring. The lean arms didn’t happen of course!!

Oven Roasted Plum & Almond Cakes Julia Child 500My first hand mixer arrived as a birthday present from my husband who heard me whine quite a bit about the woes of hand mixing and elbow grease issues! It changed the way I have baked since that day. In my early years of baking, this was one good piece of advice I handed out to new bakers especially in India. It makes mixing ingredients together so much easier, quicker and it’s a lot more fun to do too!

Hyatt Chef Maurizio Masterclass I remember the Italian chef at a Masterclass at the Hyatt whipping up egg whites to stiff peaks in seconds with a HUGE bowl and a balloon whisk. I just gaped. Tried to emulate him, and can safely say I was back to the hand mixer really soon. One press of the button and it’s like magic!

Food photographsYou can see how much these mean to me, two appliances that I couldn’t live without. If I didn’t have them in my kitchen, then I truly believe that baking wouldn’t have been the cake walk it currently is!! So, which kitchen appliances can’t you live without? Do you have favourites?

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India