New toy, old favorite bread

July 19, 2016

The CSO in its new home on top of the microwave. Gotta love a small kitchen.

The CSO in its new home on top of the microwave. Gotta love a small kitchen.

I have a new kitchen toy.

For some time, I have wanted a small countertop oven, to use when I want to make toast with something on top of it (to which the toaster does not lend itself), and to bake small things without heating up the oven, particularly in the summertime, when it heats up the kitchen, which in turns heats up the whole house when the a/c is struggling to keep up, anyway.

In the food forum I frequent, many of the posters sing the praises of the Cuisinart Steam-Convection Oven. I watched it on Amazon for a while, and while they didn’t put it on a super deal, they did cut it to $218, which I figured was close enough. So I pulled the trigger.

It arrived yesterday. Within two hours, it had tried to kill me.

The premise of the steam-bake and steam-broil functions of the CSO is that one fills a reservoir with water and fits it to the side of the oven, much like the water “tank” for a Keurig. So I did that, and while my bread was rising for its maiden voyage, I busied myself canning tomato sauce from my garden tomatoes. And I stepped away from the stove, and into a puddle of water that had leaked from the CSO, covered a significant portion of countertop, and flowed off into the floor.

Down I went. Fortunately, I managed to do so without damaging either the healing ankle or the healing knee, never mind the “good” knee now has a little twinge it didn’t have before.  (BTW, I went back to the ortho this morning; I’m released from doctor’s care with the ankle and knee injury! Yay, me!)

Anyway, I mopped up water, cursed, and began searching for the source of the leak. Another half-tank of water later, I found a valve on the rear of the oven, distressingly close to the electrical supply, that needed to be tightened. (No mention of same valve was ever made in the instruction booklet, btw.) Thank you, Sweet Baby Jesus, for not letting me get my fool self electrocuted.

At this point, I was not particularly enamored of the CSO. This opinion did not increase greatly when I used it as a proofing box in which the loaves of unbaked bread were to rise. The instruction booklet said 20 minutes at 100F on steam should accomplish this.

Wherein the CSO redeems itself.

Wherein the CSO redeems itself.

It did not. It took in fact, something more than an hour, and I think I’ll jack the temp up a bit next time, because it surely didn’t FEEL like it was very warm when I stuck my hand in there.

So at that point, I was feeling somewhat disgusted with the new kitchen toy. And then it went and redeemed itself.

I switched the oven over to the “bread” function and dialed the temp up to 350, and went away. The bread recipe called for 50 minutes’ baking time; I cut it to 40, as the convection function shaves time off the entire process.

At 37 minutes, I peered in at it. Those were two of the most lovely loaves I’ve ever turned out. The steam bake function for bread results in a shiny, crackly crust that looks as though it’s been brushed with an egg wash (which it had not). The inside is moist and chewy. And the kitchen is Not Hot!

OK. I’m sold. We’ll write off the rough start, and consider this baby a success on the strength of its maiden flight.

Beautiful stuff, this bread. Tasty, too!

Beautiful stuff, this bread. Tasty, too!

A word about this bread. It’s Anadama bread, a New England standby that features a cornmeal-and-water soaker that’s started the night before, and is flavored the next day with molasses. I used Peter Reinhart’s recipe in The Breadmaker’s Apprentice, which is reprinted from his For the Love of Bread, and is reproduced here. You don’t taste the cornmeal, but you DO taste the molasses, so I strongly urge you to use a mild version instead of a strong blackstrap type. I used local sorghum molasses, and it provides a vaguely sweet taste with a little tang to it. You could use honey for a different flavor profile.

It makes most excellent toast, another product at which the CSO excels. I had a piece of toast with a poached egg on it for lunch, and it was admirable.

eGullet has been responsible for significant expenditures in my kitchen, including my Anova (which my Memphis Guinea Pig got me for a combo Christmas-birthday present, after my old SideKic circulator passed on); my Instant Pot, my spiralizer, and my newly discovered love for Rancho Gordo beans, as well as several other marvelous things. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em ought to check them out at, but be forewarned — it’ll cost you more money than any free site except Amazon!



3 Responses to “New toy, old favorite bread”

  1. cleavelin Says:

    I expect a full demonstration when I visit next. 🙂

    It looks quite a bit like my Cuisinart toaster-convection oven, except it has fewer buttons in front (if I’m seeing your picture right).

  2. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    This one has a dial function that you use to access everything, which then shows up on the LCD screen.

  3. cleavelin Says:

    I should have made clear that my oven also has a dial function that works like yours does; it also has six buttons in addition to that:

    1) “+30s” (adds 30 seconds to the timer when the oven is in toasting/cooking mode),
    2) convection on/off,
    3) oven light on/off,
    4) “Super convection” (a “convection on steroids” mode that permits the oven to skip the usual preheating cycle; I’ve never had a chance to use it, myself),
    5) “Dual cook” (“programs” the oven to shift from one cooking mode to another after a preset time (e.g., from “bake” to “keep warm” after a given time)), and
    6) Start/stop (turns the oven on/off).

    Your picture shows only three buttons, though I suspect some of the other cooking functions I have on my front panel are accessed through your dial.

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