Monday, March 3, 2014

Baking in the Dominican Republic

I've heard rumors of a device that allows you to bake on the stove top. From what I hear this this is called a "Dutch Oven". 

When asking the dictionary programmed in my computer what a dutch over was, it replied as follows: 

Dutch oven
a large, heavy cooking pot with a lid

chiefly historical a large metal box serving as a simple oven, heated by being placed under or next to hot coals. 

Because my pan is neither of those things I don't know if the thing I have is a Dutch oven or not, but I do know that I am now baking cakes and making brownies on my stove top and with a little trial and error, these things are coming out edible. What follows is a somewhat lacking-in-pictures description of the time I made a carrot cake from scratch on the stove. 

I should also use this time to thank my friend Andrea for showing me this pan. It had been previously described to me as looking like a bunt pan, but being as it is capable of miracles I thought the packaging would be much better than it is. Turns out it is just sitting on the shelf at La Sirena looking like a bunt pan… 

When I started the process of making things in this pan I started with brownies. Following the advice of Andrea I turned my gas way down so as to prevent burning. Turns out I turned it down so low that the stove actually turned off… whatever, I turned it on again, checked the brownies a lot, and had prefect brownies really soon. I actually finished them just as the volunteer family was leaving and I was able to share the spoils of now owning a magic pan. 

The next time the pan was used it was with my room mates sister trying to bake a gluten free chocolate cake. We turned the stove down really low, but the thing still cooked in about 10 minutes with the bottom burnt and the top cooked. We cut off the bottom and enjoyed the cake, but I was still determined to make a cake that allowed to eating it in its entirety. 

The next day I made a blueberry muffin mix and poured it in. I still turned the heat down low… it burned again. I left it covered on the turned off stove for a while and when I came back the top portion, which was previously undercooked, was cooked to perfection. 

Now I had a plan. I wanted to use the idea of the brownies… when the stove turned off and everything was perfect, and the muffins, in which they continued to cook when I left the top on and walked away. I was going to make a carrot cake, from scratch, and force it to cook without burning. I found a recipe and was on my way… 

First I went to the store and bought a bunch of stuff I never buy here. I bought carrots, powdered sugar, cream cheese and other cake type products. The one thing I didn't buy was baking powder. That stuff is expensive here. If someone knows where I could purchase it for cheap I would appreciate the advice. Let me just add that to the list of things to remember to get when I visit AMERICA! (BTW I am really excited to visit my homeland.) I also picked up a grater and measuring devices, because I decided it was time to invest in my kitchen again. 

Long story short, I grated carrots for a while, mixed things together, and eventually poured the batter in the pan. I turned it real low and when the lid was too hot to touch I turned off the fire. I went at it like that about five or six times. 

While I was playing the fire game with my pan I was also making cream cheese icing from scratch. I am so Betty Crocker now. Actually, I always thought that cream cheese icing would be hard. Turns out you mix cream cheese, a  bit of margarine, vanilla and powdered sugar together at room temperature then put it in the fridge… What world am I living in that I didn't already know that? Come on world, the art of cooking needs to be reintroduced into the American home. I haven't decided if it is cheaper than buying a container, but it is definitely more fun and works the brain more that popping a top. Pictures to prove how fun it is! 

Seriously… delicious. 

So I made cake and I made icing. As I was back and forth to the pan I was reminded of the holidays back home. I chose to stay here this past year for Christmas, but I don't know if I can do that two years in a row. The pumpkin spice seasonings were getting to me. 

Okay, so the batter was cooking, but I couldn't tell if it was done. Eventually i decided to eat some and bake one more round of turn on the fire, turn off the fire, wait for cooling. 
It was still very moist, but I gave some to my room mate to test. She too couldn't really decide if it was cooked and just moist, or undercooked. 

The next morning, after the cake had time to sit, it was a lot more solid. It was apparent that the cake was done. It was even better after spending some time in the fridge. 

The recipe I had was also enough for two cakes, so I am going to make a second one tomorrow for my first Chicas Brillantes meeting. I am excited. Hopefully the kids don't let me down the way the adults sometimes do. Kids tend to be a little more honest. They say they are coming. Let's see if they show. I'm confident. I don't want my planning and preparing to go to waste. Plus it would be nice to have some friends in town that don't ask if they can buy my things all the time. 

So that is my life as of this week. Cake, cake, and more cake. I am in love with the pan. It will be going to America with me in 2015. I could have used it in my studio apartment that didn't have an oven in the Springs. I also could use it if I don't want to make the house super hot by turning on an oven… 

okay, I am really done this time. I will stop talking… now.

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