Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pride Goeth Before Spill

Today I was doing some baking, as I often do on Saturday. Two loaves of whole wheat bread for the coming week, and then some pecan sticky buns. As I put the bread in the oven I thought, somewhat smugly I'll admit, how seldom I've had to clean my oven. I do a lot of baking, all our baked goods for the two of us, but hardly ever roast anything that splashes and makes a mess. So today I suffered the worst oven spill ever.

It came about this way: our good friends, L and M, celebrated their 25th anniversary this week with a party last night, a barbecue, to which I had promised to bring two buckets of home-made ice cream. Yesterday I bought 3 bags of ice, a gallon of homogenized milk, a quart and a half of whipping cream, and coarse salt. I had decided to make strawberry ice cream and pralines and cream ice cream.

For the strawberry ice cream I got out a quart of cleaned, chopped, frozen strawberries from last summer's harvest (since so far there are only flowers in the strawberry bed, no berries yet). I made that into a quart of strawberry topping (same as freezer jam), which I added to the two quarts of vanilla ice cream when they were finished.

I use a fairly large ice cream freezer that operates the old-fashioned way with ice and salt, but has a motor to turn the paddle. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to freeze a batch. When it's ready it's very soft, and benefits from spending some time in the freezer to harden up a little. Just don't let it freeze all the way or you get an impenetrable brick.

Then I made pralines according to a recipe from Epicurious. It called for boiling brown sugar, white sugar, cream, salt, up to 238ºF. But it had called for a 2 quart sauce pan, and because the pan was slightly too small to achieve that temp without boiling over, the pralines never really hardened. I put them in the freezer as a slurry on two cookie trays.

I made a batch of butterscotch ice cream and dropped in the praline mixture in small chunks, and we were off to the party.

By the time we ate the ice cream the praline mixture had melted into the ice cream as flavoring, and the pecans were simply in there as in butter pecan. Oh well, it tasted just fine. Next time I'll use a bigger pan and be able to boil the mixture up to the proper stage.

However, I had OODLES of praline mix left over. So this morning I thought: wouldn't that make a nice batch of sticky buns? Unhuh! It did. But I put the buns on my largest cookie tray, not in a pan with taller sides.

Jim and I were sitting in the solar space, reading the Saturday Globe and Mail from Toronto, watching out for the occasional customer while the buns baked upstairs. When I came up to take them out of the oven the kitchen was full of smoke, and more smoke was streaming out of the oven vents. Help!

I quickly turned off the gas, pulled the buns from the oven (they turned out just fine), and surveyed the damage. About half of the oven floor was covered with a bubbling mixture of sugar and butter, and some had even dripped down the sides to the underneath part.

I immediately started scooping up what I could, the part that was still liquid. But there were large areas that had hardened into a black crust. As the oven cooled I cleaned. When it was cool enough, I removed the floor of the oven and was able to reach down to the lower level and clean off the spills there. It took over an hour to get almost all of the mess cleaned up.

Now I think I'll put the floor back in and turn on the self-cleaning feature to get it all the way back to pristine again.

What's the lesson in this? Maybe not to be proud of a clean oven? Maybe, use a bigger pan so the sticky mix doesn't boil over and make a mess!!!!

P.S. It was too horrendous to take any pictures!

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