What's important to consider before buying your toaster oven

The toaster oven is fast becoming one of the must have kitchen appliances for many family homes. Throughout the United States more and more people are purchasing toaster ovens along with the more traditional appliances that are usually found in the kitchen such as cookers, refrigerators and washing machines.

All of the different ovens that are available come with many different features and programs that can help you to cook a wide range of different things. Regardless of the need or requirements of anyone who is in the market for a new toaster oven, due to the wide range and selection that is available they can be sure to find the best toaster oven that will suit your needs exactly.

Before buying a toaster oven it is important to consider what sort of oven you require. You could opt for a special toaster oven such as one that has a rotisserie feature or one that has an infrared oven that can shorten the cooking time of many different food types.

You could opt for a more conventional toaster oven that offers you a multitude of different solutions so it will be more likely to have more cooking capabilities. Some of these types of ovens are easily capable of toasting, boiling, baking, broiling, roasting and defrosting, making them the perfect addition to any kitchen. Combined into one small and stylish kitchen device, this type of oven can also act as pizza oven, toaster and rotisserie cooker. Depending on the size of the oven they can be great to cook anything from a couple of slices of bread to large chickens and even pizzas.

The more expensive types of toaster ovens will usually come complete with a glass covered door that are more energy efficient, offer better insulation and safety features. They will also have a timer and maybe even a temperature display which will be incredibly helpful when cooking and makes baking even easier when using a toaster oven.

Compared to a regular oven, a toaster oven will use a lot less energy, yet will still have many, if not more of the features that you can commonly find on a normal oven. This could also help to reduce energy bills, saving you a considerable amount of money in the long run.

Some of the most common types of cooking that a toaster oven is capable of is as follows:

Conventional – This is on all models of toaster ovens and works in the same as a regular oven, with an electrical heating element at the bottom of the oven is used to cook food.

Convection – This works by circulating hot air around the oven and comes as an option to most conventional toaster ovens.

Broiling – This is great for cooking chicken breasts, steaks, pork chops and fish. It can be a healthy way to cook too as the fat is quickly and easily drained away from the food during cooking. This is option is found on many types of toaster ovens.

Infrared – This works by using light energy to cook your food and can use up to 40% less energy than an oven that uses hot air to cook. It is a very safe and efficient way to cook and leave foods full of flavor instead of drying it out.

Rotisserie – This is a great way of cooking chicken or pork and it means that you can great that great tasting meat, just like you find at your local deli store.

Addtional reading: Ehow - Convection vs toaster oven

When buying a toaster oven you should consider a few key factors that could play a deciding part into what sort of toaster oven you choose. Important factors are cost/budget, size and what options and features are available on the particular oven you are looking to buy. It might help to give some thought to the points below before making your purchase.

Size – Consider how big the oven you will buy need to be. If you have a small kitchen or cooking area then you might only have room for a small toaster oven. If you are planning on cooking whole chickens, large frozen pizzas of baking bread ten you will probably need to buy a larger oven.

Cost – If you are looking at a large oven that is full of the latest features and options then you will obviously pay more than if you were purchasing a conventional toaster oven. Also, depending on the brand of the toaster oven this could also determine how much you are likely to pay. Ovens made by leading brands such as DeLonghi, Black and Decker and Sanyo will be more expensive but they will be of higher quality and have more features.

Features – It is important that you consider what features you will need to cook the food of your choice. Features can include anything from none stick coating, automatic ejection racks and baking trays. What features you choose will also play a part on how much the oven will cost so think about this when deciding on your budget.

Versatility – Next, think about what type of cooking you will be doing. If you mainly enjoy eating roasts then it will probably be in your interest to choose a rotisserie oven. Because of this you might be able to forgo some of the features that can be found on other toaster ovens to ensure you get one that has superior rotisserie features and that is available to best meet your budget.

Ease of Use and Aftercare – Pay close attention to how easy the toaster oven is to use. Ask for a demonstration in the shop, or if you are looking online read reviews on what other people have to say about using the oven. Also make sure the oven is easy to clean, with parts that can be removed and are dishwasher safe, to make cleaning even easier.

Reviews – The last and one of the most important things that you need to know is what people are thinking about the different toaster ovens available on the market. The benefit of toaster oven reviews is that you avoid problems by reading the opinion of people who actually bought a toaster oven.

Source: http://www.hintsandthings.co.uk/kitchen/toaster-ovens.htm

 

Bread machine tips for beginner

If Santa brought you a bread machine, you may be wondering where to start.

You could read the manual. (Just kidding! Who has time for that?)

Once you unpack and wash all the parts, here are a few recommendations you may or may not find in the manual.

1. START SIMPLE.

  • (If you are already an experienced bread-maker, skip this one.) If you have never ever made bread before, use a bread machine mix from the grocery store and observe the consistency of the dough in various stages.
  • Start with a simple recipe like pizza dough. This is my favorite recipe and it’s almost fool-proof. Try focaccia using the same recipe.

pizza and foccacia

Foccacia and Pizza–A very good place to start

  • Make a simple dinner roll or loaf of white bread as seen in the first picture above. Whole grain flours can be a little tricky so I suggest saving those until you’ve had a few successes with white flour.

My Favorite Dinner Rolls

2. BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT SUBSTITUTIONS.

In the beginning, try to follow the ingredient list as closely as possible for the greatest chance of success.

  • Substituting whole wheat flour for white or even all-purpose flour for bread flour is not necessarily a 1-to-1 proposition. They each absorb different amounts of moisture and have different amounts of gluten.
  • All yeast is not the same. I  use bread machine yeast which is a close relative of instant yeast. Most recipes recommend dissolving regular yeast before adding to the other ingredients. It’s an extra step I can skip by using bread machine yeast.

3.  DO NOT FEAR OPENING THE LID.

5-10 minutes into the mixing process, take a peek. I cannot stress this enough to avoid inedible surprises!!!

  • If nothing is happening the blade may not be present or engaged. Many times I have had to plunge my freshly washed index finger through the unmixed ingredients to push the blade down into the proper position so it could do its job. I’ve even forgotten to install the blade before adding ingredients to the pan.
  • If dough is too moist, it will level out like thick soup. Add flour one tablespoon at a time until it makes a tacky ball that touches the wall of the pan and then pulls away.
  • If dough is too dry, it will form a ball that doesn’t touch the sides or may slap loudly against the sides of the pan. (If it’s really dry it won’t even form a ball.) Add water one tablespoon at a time till you get a tacky ball.

breadmachine-story-board_edited-1

Top left–too wet; Top right–too dry; Lower–Just right

When you learn how to gauge the consistency of the dough and can add water or flour as needed, the bread machine world will be your oyster. This is best learned through experience but I’m hoping you’ll have beginner’s luck and your bread will turn out perfect the first time.

4. STICK WITH THE DOUGH CYCLE.

In case you haven’t read my blog before, I rarely–as in almost never–actually bake bread in my machine. I use the dough cycle to mix the ingredients and remove the dough to shape and then bake in a conventional oven.  This method gives me more control, more shaping options and a better crust on the finished product. If I’m going to ingest luxury calories, they better be worth it and bread actually baked in a bread machine rarely makes the cut in my book.

My favorite button on my bread machine

5. INVEST IN QUALITY BAKE WARE AND ACCESSORIES.

If you want a nice crust on your bread, purchase good pans.  Here’s my personal list to get you started. The last 3 items listed are  nice to have if you plan to bake much bread.

  • 2 heavy-duty pizza pans with a dark finish.
  • 2 (8 or 9-inch with 2-inch high sides) heavy-duty cake pans with dark interior finish.
  • 4×8-inch loaf pan for recipes containing approximately 3 cups of flour.
  • Instant-read thermometer to take the guess-work out of knowing when the bread is done.
  • Dough scraper.
  • Freebie shower caps–perfect for covering pans of formed dough for second rising.

Heavy, dark-colored pans, instant-read thermometer and a dough scraper

6. ONE LAST WARNING…

If your house is cool, the dough in your machine may not rise to double in the time allotted by the dough cycle. If necessary, leave it in the machine to continue rising. If the ambient temperature is really cool, consider moving your machine to a warmer spot in the house. Even though bread machines contain a heating element, the room temperature can make a huge difference in how fast the dough rises.

If you have a question or things aren’t working out like you hoped, leave me a comment and I will get back to you ASAP.

Happy bread baking from your friendly bread machine fanatic.

A tips from http://www.salad-in-a-jar.com

More: How to use a bread machine from Wikihow

Ordered the best bread machine from Zojirushi

I am a fairly experienced baker who can modify recipes to use what is on hand and still end up with a tasty product - MOST of the time! Received my Zojirushi two days ago, fully intending to make bread immediately upon receipt. After all, I owned a DAK bread maker for years and had consistently good results, even with the gluten-free recipes that I have begun using in the last two years.

When I ordered the Zojirushi bread machine, I also ordered "125 Best Gluten-Free Bread Machine Recipes" by Donna Washburn, Heather Butt, Mark Shapiro and Colin Erricsson. Both arrived quickly and in good shape. But when I unpacked the bread machine and began reading the manual, I slowly began to realize that I'd entered a whole new realm of bread making. We aren't in Kansas any more, Toto... this was w-a-a-a-y more complicated than the days of making bread even by hand (which I hadn't done for years since the DAK was so extremely simple to use). 

The instructions for the machine are very specific about the temperature and freshness of ingredients, as well as how they are put into the machine. With the DAK, I never worried about the temperature of any ingredients except that I tested the water on my hand to see if it was warm enough (but not too hot) to activate the yeast. Measuring was less than perfect, everything was dumped in together, I pushed a few buttons, and a few hours later, I had fresh bread. I was a little more careful with measuring for the gluten-free recipes, but still basically threw everything in the pot and walked away.

Feeling a smidge intimidated by the manual, I decided to read some of the recipes from the 125 Best book. Talk about going from the frying pan to the fire! These authors recommend warming the eggs to room temperature (seriously??), programming each cycle in the process separately, opening the machine after kneading to remove the paddles... sheesh, why would I buy a breadmaker if I wanted to stand over it and do all that?

But I began to doubt myself and wonder if I should have just bought a cheaper model that didn't expect so much out of me. It took me two days to work up the courage to try the darn thing. To go easy on myself, I bought a Bob's Red Mill Mix (Hearty Grain Gluten-Free), figuring that there was less measuring and worrying about the right temperature, since I store most gluten-free ingredients in the freezer as recommended. Well, I followed the Bob's directions exactly (no egg warming needed), and also followed the manual as to the order of placing the ingredients into the pan. I chose the Quick cycle, pushed Start, and held my breath.

The Zo began the preheat cycle, which "stabilizes" the ingredients to optimum temperature. After about 5 minutes, the motor kicked on quietly and began mixing. WOW - my DAK always sounded like a weed eater had gotten loose in the kitchen. The bread machine was barely audible from twenty feet away! When it started beeping to let me know that I could add nuts, fruit, etc., I was pleasantly surprised. This was not a loud obnoxious beep as others have stated in their reviews. Maybe Zojirushi has changed this feature due to prior complaints? Not sure, but it's not a problem with the machine I received.

When the moment of truth arrived, I opened the lid and tested the loaf temperature with an instant read thermometer. It read 200 degrees. According to the 125 Best book, I should have left the bread in the machine on the Keep Warm cycle until it reached 220 degrees, since that is allegedly required for gluten-free breads to be fully baked. However, since I'd already turned off the machine before opening (per instruction manual), that option was foreclosed. Oh well, too late.

When I removed the baking pan and turned it upside down, the bread came out with a few shakes. The top was a little misshapen, but I've bought bread at the store that was far worse as to shape. This stuff smelled so great that we cut off two pieces immediately. Guess what? THEY WERE PERFECT!

So, contrary to the instructions in the 125 Best book, I did not warm the eggs, did not program each cycle to run separately, did not remove the paddles, and did not smooth the top of the bread. I did reach in once during the first minute of mixing to scrape some flour off one side of the pan with a silicon spatula, because the 125 Best Book insists upon that for each recipe. Next time, I won't do it and we will just see what happens.

Clean up was easy until I tried to clean the posts to which the paddles are attached. This was tricky, since no scrubbing is allowed, and the posts have a few crevices that need close attention to get all the crusties out. But other than that, this whole thing was way less complicated than it had been made out to be. I am VERY happy! When I have tried some of the recipes from scratch, I will add some updates to let you know if they work as well as the Bob's Red Mill Mix.

UPDATE July 11, 2011: I've been using the Zojirushi bread machine regularly, making bread from scratch and from mixes (mostly Bob's). I've completely ignored all the dire warnings about warming the ingredients to room temp, since the ZO has a preheat/warming cycle built in. I've also ignored all the warnings about super-exact measurements, super fresh yeast and flours, etc. (I do store my flours in the freezer and my yeast in the fridge, however). I also refuse to use egg whites, and have substituted one whole egg for the two egg whites in most of the gluten-free recipes. This does require me to use the lightest crust setting to avoid crusts that are too dark.

Despite all this rebelliousness, every single loaf has turned out GREAT! Unlike some of the other reviewers, I really don't care about the holes in the bottom of the loaf from the paddles. I really don't care about having a perfectly shaped top, either. The bread tastes great and works much better for sandwiches than most of the gluten-free bread in the store. Plus, it doesn't have any weird chemical ingredients, either.