How can I bake or make bread without using my oven during the summer?
May 2, 2014 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Late last year a few friends and I started an informal bartering club. My contribution is baked goods, usually bread of some kind, but as the first heatwave of the season kicked in I realized I’m going to need an alternative to oven baking. Cooks and bakers of MeFi, hope me some bready recipes that I can make during red flag season.

I know that there are lots of refrigerator/no-bake cookies recipes, but for the purposes of this question I’d like to avoid sweets or desserts. Things that freeze well or at least keep for a few days is important, since I don’t see everyone at the same time. “Quick and easy” is not a requirement.

I have all the tools you’d need to bake or cook from scratch. What I don’t have are a lot of small appliances, although I’d be willing to consider buying something small (I have a tiny kitchen) and versatile. A bread maker is a non-starter. Do not want!

Bonus question: Should I consider a small counter top convection oven for this purpose? I’ll leave the specifics to a new question if people think it’s a good idea.

(I know that even the stove top generates a lot of heat, but it’s much more easily dissipated so I’m willing to try that.)
posted by Room 641-A to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a grill? We have a barrel grill with a temperature gauge so it can be used like an oven. It was $65 from Lowe's and heavily used during the summer so that the house doesn't heat up.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 9:38 AM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would stick to things like homemade naan, pitas, or tortillas - the flat breads that can cook on a stovetop.

There's also skillet cornbread. (I've never made any of these, so no recipes to recommend.)

Edit - one more idea. How about frozen pizza dough that's not been baked?
posted by umwhat at 9:41 AM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: Searching for "bread baking solar oven" pulls up all sorts of ideas, and I'm under the impression that you can make a simple solar oven with a cardboard box and aluminum foil.
posted by straw at 9:41 AM on May 2, 2014

Response by poster: Oh, good point. This is going to have to be an indoors-only thing. Also, I do have a toaster oven but it's not really suitable for baking.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:41 AM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: I have read recipes for bread cooked in a slow cooker.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:44 AM on May 2, 2014

Response by poster: Crap, I don't mean to threadsit. That solar oven idea is cool (especialy building one!) and I do have rooftop access and 15 hours a day of angry ball of sun. Any more advice about that would be awesome. Okay, I'm leaving now.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:44 AM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: You can make a great sour dough in the crock pot.
posted by spunweb at 9:46 AM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: Especially as there's freezing already involved -- could you barter dough? Ready-to-bake stuff for the freezer?
posted by kmennie at 9:49 AM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh and peanut butter banana bread, which is really easy and you can swap around the ingredients to make other sweet breads. Except for apple, that didn't work well.
posted by spunweb at 9:49 AM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: Do you have (or would be willing to purchase) a rice cooker? I've made delicious bread in it (and other great foods).

Link here for rice cooker rosemary bread. There's also banana bread, etc recipes on there.
posted by inevitability at 9:50 AM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Jacques Pepin makes a Tibetan inspired bread in a non-stick pan on the stove top, looks super easy. You can watch the whole episode here. I love Jacques Pepin.
posted by Craig at 10:00 AM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Building on kmennie's idea: make simple bread dough and chill it in one-pound balls, bagged individually. Mail order some spices -- basil, oregano, etc. -- in bulk and then portion the mix into small containers.

Viola: homemade pizza stuff, and your barter buddies just have to add cheese & bland, store-bought red stuff!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:22 AM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: The key words for your angry-sun-ball powered bakery are "solar cooker". There are lots and lots of plans to check out, but yes, they mostly boil down to reflective surface and box. For example:
Solar cooking . org
Many of these are developed by hopeful NGOs to be used at very low cost in places that have unreliable/no regular power source, so check out several plans to find one that is best suited to you and the amount of work/money you want to put into this. Contact me if you need anything specific.
posted by whatzit at 10:24 AM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Various types of steamed buns might work. You could fill them or not, as desired--filling it just done in a pan and doesn't take long, and then the buns themselves go into a steamer (either an actual steamer or a steamer tray over boiling water) to bake. They freeze great--for a while, I was making them in huge batches with assorted fillings, and then defrosting them to send to lunch with my kid. MeMail me if you want filling suggestions.
posted by MeghanC at 11:22 AM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: Pitas, tortillas, flat bread, naan, can all be cooked on a griddle or grill.

But I'd be super thrilled to get a bag of uncooked (could be frozen) pupusas with a jar of slaw, with a note card with cooking instructions. The slaw can also be lacto or wild fermented, if you swing that way.
posted by fontophilic at 11:22 AM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could you arrange a sort of "summer kitchen" on a porch? Or install a wood-fired oven outdoors?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 12:15 PM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: You can shorten the oven cycle by baking smaller size breads. I do buns that cook in 13 minutes.

I have done naan on a pancake griddle.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:47 PM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: Buy a saj and make Lebanese flat bread. I did this recently and it is super simple and quick. They pack and freeze well, and go with everything.
I make mine with a mix of plain and whole wheat, water, yeast and salt, and then I "paint" the flattened dough with olive oil before baking them on the griddle.
Right now I am baking them on my gas burner, but when summer comes, I will put the griddle on my grill or the fire.
posted by mumimor at 12:48 PM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: Someone upthread suggested a crockpot recipe; my experiences involving summertime and a small, enclosed kitchen, and a crockpot went really badly. That heating element is only set to 200F but it's on for 8 hours, which makes a huge contribution to the heat load, and my kitchen was absolutely unbreable when I got home.

Countertop ovens are an option, but it's a smaller volume so you'd end up doing multiple batches, which again causes problems. Since we're not just talking heat, but also heat*time, maybe go ahead and bake, but keep it restricted to things that cook for 20 minutes or less. Biscuits, crackers, popovers, cheese puffs, etc. Load up every tray that you can possibly fit into the oven at once, open the kitchen window(s) with fans pointing out; you can even switch the oven off when you're about 5 minutes from done and let it just coast to completion. 30 minutes after you started, you've vented the kitchen almost back to normal.
posted by aimedwander at 1:26 PM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: Real Traditional Irish Soda Bread.
posted by Houstonian at 2:03 PM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: I make bread in my crockpot all summer as to not heat up the kitchen. Seconding skillet cornbread, flatbreads on a griddle, and steamed buns/bao, also.
posted by desuetude at 5:46 PM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: I started making bread in the microwave for the same reason. I couldn't believe how well it worked! There's not much crust to speak of but it makes excellent toast. Here's my recipe if you have a digital scale:

Dissolve 25g sugar in 375g room temperature water. Sprinkle a packet (7g) active dry yeast over the surface of the water and let stand for a minute while you measure the dry ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together 250g bread flour, 250g whole wheat flour and 12g salt. Stir the yeast into the water and pour into the flour. Stir until the water is absorbed and knead in the bowl for a minute or so until all the flour has been incorporated. Shape into tight ball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it proof until it more than doubles in volume, about 60 to 90 minutes.

Shape the dough into a rectangular loaf, dust it with flour and place in a 9×5 glass loaf pan. Cover loosely with platic wrap and proof until the dough is maybe an inch past the rim, another hour or so.

Carefully, so as not to deflate it, remove the plastic wrap and gently position the pan in the center of the microwave. Cook on high for 10 minutes and unmold, using a kitchen towel to hold the sides of the pan and catch the bread.

Place the bread back in the microwave upside down and cook for 3 more minutes to dry out the bottom and sides. Cool right side up on a wire rack.
posted by STFUDonnie at 10:17 PM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My Garland has a big oven, and turning that sucker on in July is like firing up the furnace... ugh. So I bought a countertop unit - it's pretty much a jumped-up toaster oven, but with convection - and dang that thing is handy, I've been very pleased with it. It easily fits a pie, or a batch of biscuits, or a pan of brownies, or a pizza for two people. Limitations: hot spots (how could there not be, it's such a small volume) and the thing is rather big (18" wide, 11.5" deep, 11" high - I keep mine up on a custom-built shelf). If you wanted to use it for small breads (hamburger buns? dinner rolls? scones?) you'd have to work in batches.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:29 AM on May 3, 2014

Response by poster: Wow, so many great ideas.

The most obvious thing I overlooked was that of course I could give away frozen dough; the suggestions for filled buns and other flat breads are perfect!

For now, it just so happens that I have everything for fontophillic's pupusas (and the slaw!) so I'm going to give that a try today. The down side is that the whole reason I give this stuff away is so I can still bake and not eat it all, but these are going to be hard to part with.

Most of the bread in heavy rotation -- bagels, bialys, and pita -- require such a hot oven that just preheating is a dealbreaker, but I hadn't considered other types of breads in the oven. My oven is small, so I usually need a lot of batches to keep the oven temp up anyway, but if I replaced the microwave with a convection oven I could actually save space by giving away the toaster oven, too.

I'm leave this unresolved for a few days in case anyone else comes along with more suggestions.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:30 AM on May 3, 2014

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