We have been looking for a stovetop oven since this summer when we were baking for the Monday Markets. While baking for the markets, we operated at peek capacity most of the time. Something was usually in the oven from as early as possible in the mornings to just a few minutes before we left to set up our table. Even at that, demand exceeded supply. We could have fired up the Riverside Bakewell down in the summer kitchen (we did, in fact, on the first baking day), but the distance to the summer kitchen from the house was too great to make that really feasible. Furthermore, the heat radiating into the kitchen from the cooktop of Marjorie the Margin Gem was extremely uncomfortable, and it seemed like we ought to figure out a way to make better use of it.
New stovetop ovens are still being manufactured and can be purchased from Lehman Hardware. These are rather expensive, though, and we couldn't believe that we would make enough additional sales at the Monday Markets to offset the cost. We found a couple of ovens in antique venues, but the only one that was large enough to be at all helpful was not only quite expensive, but also had some visible insulating material which looked alarmingly like asbestos. Thus, Wednesday's find was a happy one, especially since its price tag was less than half that of the first suitable antique we had located.
Of course, I had to try it out as soon as possible. My first foray into the stovetop baking world was with a batch of from-a-box blueberry muffins. I'm ashamed to admit that I love from-a-box blueberry muffins. There, I've confessed; now we can be done with that and move on. I started with the oven positioned on the cookstove as shown below.
|The stovetop oven heating on top of the Margin Gem.|
I placed our trusty oven thermometer inside it because the thermometer in the door of it simply says "cold, BAKE, hot." Don't you get a kick out of thermometers like that?
|The oven thermometer inside the stovetop oven. The shiny piece|
of metal on the bottom is a baffle. The right and left sides are
open to the stovetop below.
I popped them in and began to monitor their progress and the oven's temperature.
I used one light pan and one dark pan to see which type of pan would work best. Just so the faithful blog readers who don't know me very well can get a glimpse into how tenaciously I hold onto the past, I'd like to point out that the pan on the left is one of a pair which belonged to my grandmother on my dad's side. The pan on the right is one of a pair which belonged to the aforementioned aunt Meme.
Obviously, I'm big into hand-me-downs. Many people know this and give various wonderful things to me. By the way, if you are the person (or know whom the person was) who left three pairs of blue jeans and a brown sort of mock suede shirt on our back porch, would you please make yourself known? I really appreciate both your generosity and your belief--albeit mistaken--that I have a narrow enough waist to fit the jeans. If you would like them back, you're going to have to forfeit your anonymity. Otherwise, we're going to forward them to the Goodwill.
Where was I?
The oven began to get too hot over the firebox, so I had to move it a little to the right.
After what was probably a little more than normal baking time, the muffins were done. They weren't quite as brown on the top as they might have been had I baked them in the regular oven, but they were quite presentable. You can also see from the second picture below that the bottoms were an acceptable brown also.
This was all very encouraging, but we don't sell from-a-box muffins at the Monday Market, so today I had to try baking bread in the stovetop oven. I made a batch of whole wheat bread which should really have had more whole wheat flour in it, but when you don't measure much of anything, you are bound to turn out the occasional less-than-perfect-but-still-delicious batch of bread.
|The oven beginning to heat while the loaves of bread rise in|
Marjorie's warming oven.
|The two loaves on the lower right were those which were baked|
in the stovetop oven. Their top crust is lighter due to the initial
presence of the third loaf.
|The bottoms of the same loaves of bread.|
Despite the difference in the complexion of the top crust, which I believe will be resolved next time since I won't try to cram too much into the oven, the loaves of bread baked in the stovetop oven were thoroughly cooked and identical to the other loaves in flavor. All in all, we figure we have successfully accessorized our cookstove. Not only have we increased our capacity for the Monday Markets, but as Nancy pointed out, we will be in better shape whenever we next host Thanksgiving dinner, too, since the foods that we traditionally make for that meal are mostly cooked in the oven.
As always, I hope this information is helpful to a reader, and if you've got information to add, please do so in the comments section. I enjoy hearing from readers!