Food blogging, choosing a new oven, cooktop and finding the nerve to make yogurt.
Disclosure: KitchenAid Canada has provided me with product as compensation for my services and posts but all posts represent my own opinion and experience.
When you’re a food blogger, and your kitchen is your office, picking new appliances is a stressful predicament, especially when it’s a few weeks out from a major holiday and you’re about to host 30 plus people for a dinner party. But what are you to do when your oven as well as your cooktop suddenly decide to produce their last meals and then throw in the dish towel?
When KitchenAid stepped in to help me with the replacement of some of my most vital office equipment I was grateful. Not only because, like I said, I had some pretty important cooking coming up but KitchenAid was a proven brand I used and trusted over the years. You can see my love of their Stand Mixer attachments here and here. I didn’t have a whole lot of wiggle room when it came to selecting the appliances I wanted to outfit my kitchen with since my previous cooktop and oven were built into the space. As a result, I knew I needed pieces that could fill the defined spaces but there was another tricky point I had to keep in mind. With an upcoming renovation, I knew I wanted them to have the look and performance I needed for the new and more modern kitchen space we plan on creating. In other words, these weren’t quick fixes.
For my current kitchen, I wanted them to take over where my old appliances left off but I also needed them to fit into the framework, style and performance of the new kitchen. It was a tall order but I think I achieved it nicely with my choice of the 4 Element Electronic Cooktop and the True Convection Self-Cleaning Built-In Convection Oven. (You can visit the link here to see all the latest appliances from the brand.)
I was given the help of a KitchenAid specialist to assist in my selection process, and we immediately discussed the cooktop options. While I did give some consideration to gas (something my current kitchen wasn’t equipped for) and induction, I very quickly arrived at the electronic cooktop that offered a lot of versatility regarding the size and shape of the elements. My cooktop has the traditional four elements, but two of them are dual zone meaning they allow for greater heating coverage. It was a very appealing feature to me since I would be able to accommodate a more varied range of cooking vessels. I could even see my ginormous grilling pan fitting nicely–not hanging over the element leaving that dead zone that never heats. If you have small space challenges, appliances that maximize your square footage are essential. This cooktop makes me feel like I have a commercial-style six burner cooktop in half the space.
At the time of installation I had a major dinner party pressing down on me so my cooktop got thrown into action. There was no room for that “getting to know you” period and, thankfully, my cooktop was built to bypass the usual trial and error stage of a new appliance relationship. Instead, it was obvious I could get a rolling boil versus simmer by using the Boost Level function; not to mention I could get the boil in less time too. On the other side of the spectrum, there was no fiddling about what setting to melt butter, chocolate or warm food. The Melt+Hold button just delivers the basic cooking need. But the most helpful feature for my party prep and the subsequent hectic weekday dinner’s in the months after its arrival were the cooktop’s Timer Set. By having the ability to set a timer for a burner, I’m able to walk confidently away from a pot. I’m sure you’re wondering why I’d ever abandon a pot on the stove but during dinner prep is when my daughter does her homework, so I’m often shuttling myself between the stove and her math. (Side note: If you want to tutor her on geometry, please come over.) Like most busy, family households, the kitchen is our hub, and I can easily be stolen away from the oven for no less than 1,000 reasons. It sounds very silly coming from a food blogger, but these simple functions help me feel more comfortable and confident in the kitchen, especially when my blogger hat has been hung up, and my mom hat is firmly on.
I have to admit the real treat for me has been my 24-inch True Convection Self-Cleaning Built-In Electric Convection Oven. Since I love baking and a lot of our dinners are family-friendly tray bakes, I was more than willing to welcome the oven’s True Convection Technology. Circulating preheated air around the oven cavity to guarantee more even cooking, the True Convection Technology allows for faster food preparation and when you’re a mom that means dinners on the table quicker. When you’re a food blogger, it means the workhorse of the kitchen can easily handle the repetition and relentlessness of recipe testing. In the beginning, I was worried that I’d have to stand over my food watching it roast since the cooking times are different but the built-in meat probe and coordinating settings for various types of meats erased those concerns. From my big dinner party to Wednesday night lightening-speed suppers, the oven has outperformed any oven I’ve ever owned. The one drawback is that this piece of equipment has so many settings I fear it will make other appliances in my kitchen obsolete including my slow cooker. Dear slow cooker, please don’t be upset. It’s not you; it’s me.
Organized into three categories including Professional, Traditional, and Special, the oven’s functions offer cooking options for anything you can throw its way. The professional category divides itself into Pro Pastry (pate choux, croissant, sponge cake and plum cake), Roasting (rare roast beef, medium roast beef, chicken, turkey, custom, veal-pork) and Bakery (baguette, traditional bread, malt bread, pan pizza, thin pizza and salty cake). For the traditional level, there is a choice between Turbo Grill, Forced Air, Convection Bake, Fast Preheating, Conventional, and Grill. While the Special setting offers Keep Warm, Defrost, Rising, Slow Cooking and, wait for it, Yogurt. Yes, you heard me, yogurt. This setting was like a lightening bolt to my brain. As a person who consumes enough Greek yogurt a week to pull the country from its financial crisis, the notion of being able to make my own was pretty wonderful. I’d thought about it before but having an oven setting to make it goof-proof was all I needed to feel inspired to make it, some day. Ok, after months with my oven, I’ve done a lot but I still haven’t tried the yogurt. Why? I don’t know. I feel like it’s the final frontier. Initially, when I first met my oven, I felt like I had to conquer things like the pate choux (post to come) or pan pizza (“super wow” according to my daughter) since the idea of cooking these items were less overwhelming. But, for some reason, I still can’t bring myself to make yogurt. I think it’s because I’m afraid it won’t come out exactly like my favorite store bought brand. Or, even more importantly, like the artisan one I buy in the summer from the lovely, old Greek proprietor of a teeny bakery by my cottage. If it’s not like hers, it will feel like the ultimate failure. I promise to get the nerve up soon and write about my adventures with yogurt. Soonish.
Today I’ve owned my appliances for a better part of a year and every day I’m still discovering reasons to love them. I baby them in the way you do after you get a new piece of jewelry–always using the self cleaning function and rubbing the bright blue inside trays clean so they keep their “new car” look and smell. One night recently, during our homework ritual, I asked my daughter what she liked about the oven. It sounds like a crazy question for a kid but for my mini pastry chef it’s a query I knew she’d take seriously. However, she took no time to answer, “Oh that’s easy, mommy. I love that whenever we’re baking cookies the light inside stays on so I can see them and know exactly when they’re done.” As a blogger and, more importantly as a mom, I couldn’t think of a better reason to love, of all things, an appliance.
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