Sorry I've been quiet so long. But there's a very good reason why. We just moved in to our new house! Yes, we sadly said goodbye to the beach (or not so sadly to those ancient appliances) and gave a warm hello to our new California home!
Since I had a more flexible schedule when we first moved here, I did a lot of the "weeding out" part of the house hunt with our real estate agent while my husband was at work. There were a few "no way!"s, a lot of "nice, but I'm not quite sure it's right for us" and a few "I have to bring Mr. ValleyWriter back!" This house was the first house I said that about. Two of the main reasons - the amazing kitchen and the wonderful fruit trees in the backyard. More on the fruit trees in another post. Today - we'll tackle the kitchen.
After we bought the house and met the neighbors, I learned the wife of the former owners was a home ec teacher and a big cook. I believe this explains the array of ovens at my disposal. Within a 3 door Kitchenaid wall unit, I have a microwave/"Ultima" oven combo and a convection/conventional oven combo - plus a set of warming drawers. I have to admit, other than the microwave and conventional ovens, I have little idea of how to use them or what the various benefits might be. Sure, I could read the manual that the previous owners left us, but what fun is that? Instead, I decided to try out my favorite chocolate chip recipe in all 3 ovens.
My main categories for "evaluation" were bake time, appearance, texture and taste.
First up - bake time. The "Ultima" oven cookies, which get baked on a special crisping pan in the compartment that I usually use for a microwave (this in and of itself seems very odd to me) baked up in a speedy 8 minutes. This is a pre-programmed time set by a code I found on the label inside the oven (there are various food items listed - desserts, meats, casseroles, pizza, etc.). The conventional oven took about 13 minutes and the convection oven 15. So, I guess the benefit of the Ultima oven is cutting your cooking time by almost half - when you need a cookie STAT!
Next - appearance:
As you can see, "one of these things is not like the other." In front on the left, we have the "Ultima" cookies, which spread out a lot thinner than the conventional oven cookies (front right) and convection cookies (back). They also didn't get that dark carmelized color. The other two sets looked similar - nicely browned and just the right thickness.
Texture: The Ultima cookies were soft and a little bready. I think that was because the sugar didn't really get to carmelize. The convection oven cookies were crisper, though they still had pretty soft centers. The conventional oven cookies had the most crunchy, chewy texture (which is what I'm used to getting from this recipe).
Taste: Taste was pretty close (and very yummy) all around. I'd say the Ultima cookies just had little less depth, since they didn't get too much carmelization going on. But the convection and conventional cookies were pretty much identical.
The winner? It's a tie. I'd take convection or conventional. Both had good texture and flavor - and I don't really mind that they took a little extra time to bake. I don't see the Ultima oven getting much use - at least not for baked goods. We'll see what other codes I decide to test out...
So - are you craving chocolate chip cookies yet? As promised, here's my favorite recipe:
The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER!
(makes 2 dozen)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. salted butter, melted
1 c. brown sugar (loose, not packed)
1/2 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a small bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended (no lumps). Add vanilla, whole egg and egg yolk and beat until creamy. Beat in flour and baking soda mixture until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
Refrigerate dough for 10 minutes to help firm it up.
Meanwhile preheat (conventional) oven to 350 degrees (or set convection oven to 325). Line baking pans with parchment paper.
Drop heaving tablespoons of chilled dough onto parchment paper at least 2" apart.
Bake for 13 minutes (15 in an convection oven) until cookies are evenly browned.