Baked in my oven for the first time a couple of weekends ago. I can’t call it a disaster, but I can’t call it a raging success either. It was a bumpy road, but I think I got my oven’s “character” figured out in the end. I baked three different recipes (we called this my birthday baking spree)
- Lemon Yogurt Cupcakes with Lime Frosting (aka Sprite cupcakes)
- Blueberry Muffins
- Cheddar Herb Corn Muffins
Each recipe taught me different things about my own oven and about baking with an unfamiliar oven in general.
Starting with the cupcakes may have been a mistake. I was all set to make a lemon version of the yogurt cupcakes I fell in love with in July. I halved the recipe, substituted lemon extract for vanilla and didn’t realized until I’d started mixing it into the wet ingredient that I was using whole wheat pastry flour.
Other than those things I followed the recipe exactly. After about 15 minutes, a glorious lemon-y done-cupcake smell wafted from the oven. Which I ignored. But there’s five minutes left according to the recipe, I thought. Alas, but my nose was right. By the time the 5 minutes was up, there was a slightly troublesome, lemon-y over-done cupcake smell wafting from the oven.
They didn’t burn, thank goodness, but they were rather dry. Not at all the wonderful fluffy but moist bites of heaven I’d envisioned. Oh well. In the end the lime frosting was good enough to hide some of the dryness. I just wished there was better cake for singing “Happy Birthday” with.
LESSONS LEARNED: 1) My oven is a bit hotter than my last. 2) When getting to know a new oven (and experimenting with a recipe in a familiar one), follow your nose – if it smells done, it’s time to check on it.
I decided to kept things simple when I started on the muffins the next morning and not substitute anything in the recipe since it was one I’d never tried before. I was using the recipe posted by Smitten Kitchen back in August and followed it to the letter, but, figuring my oven too hot, reduced the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
This time I kept my nose working as well. About 5 minutes before the designated time, I started to notice the done-muffin smell from out in the living room. I ran to the oven to check on the muffins. They were done! (As indicated by the clean toothpick). They were so delightful that I’ve made them twice since my birthday weekend.
LESSON LEARNED: 1) My oven is even hotter than I originally suspected. 2) Using an un-tweaked tried-and-true or new recipe from a reputable source makes monitoring progress in a new oven easier.
Cheddar Herb Corn Muffins
After the morning’s muffin success, I was feeling confident enough to try a tweaked version of Spicy Santa Fe Cornbread from Pie in the Sky by Susan G. Purdy. It’s a recipe I made many times back in Santa Fe. However, my apartment in Santa Fe was at an altitude of ~7500ft above sea level, so I used the high altitude recipe in the book. My Brooklyn apartment is ~50ft above sea level, clearing calling for the modified version of the recipe. (Thank you, Susan Purdy, for putting sea level directions in that cookbook) All I changed in the ingredient list was addition of frozen corn instead of salsa, jalapenos and olives and oregano, sage and cumin instead of cayenne pepper.
As for the oven, I lowered the oven temperature by 25 degrees and set my timer for 5 minutes less than the time indicated in the recipe. And… it worked! The muffins smelled perfect when the timer went off and were perfectly done! Success!
LESSON LEARNED: 1) My oven won’t burn everything I put in it! 2) Do apply observations from previous trials to make even an experimental recipe come out perfect!
Oh. Recipes? Soon, my darlings. Soon.