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Choosing a new oven: Some thoughts and a recipe for Choc Bit Biscuits

KitchenAid oven on eatlivetravelwrite.comDisclosure: KitchenAid Canada has provided me with product as compensation for my services and posts but all posts represent my own opinion.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter will know that in late August, the eat. live. travel. write. kitchen welcomed three new members appliances courtesy of KitchenAid Canada and it was quite the transformation:

Before and after in the eatlivetravelwrite.com kitchenYup we went from white to stainless steel appliances – a huge change and one that still makes me do a double take every now and then when they catch my eye! I never thought I would like stainless as a finish in my kitchen but it’s definitely grown on me these past months. I was a little worried about keeping the surfaces clean but in fact, it’s not been much of an issue (we don’t have little people at fridge door level touching the doors which I could imagine might create smudge marks) and it’s turned me into “that person” (the one who cleans the cooktop surface until it’s sparkling each and every time I use it. I might be a *little* obsessed but cleanliness can’t be a bad thing, right?

Ok so about the oven. I chose a KitchenAid® 30-Inch Freestanding Electric Range with Even-Heat™ Technology and Warming Drawer and I’ll admit it was not an easy choice. Having never had to purchase major appliances before in my life (how did I get to be over 40 and never have to make those decisions?), I actually was surprised at how many things I had to consider (other than the finish which, I will admit, I did agonize over!)

Electric vs gas? We don’t have a gas line to our house so the choice was easy. Given the choice, I’d choose a gas cooktop and an electric oven.

Induction vs regular Even-Heat™ Technology cooktop? This was a decision I literally spent months pondering (I was in France for much of the summer so I had a lot of time to think and research).

I went to the KitchenAid Canada showroom just before leaving for the summer to look at these appliances up close and personal and was given a demo of both the cooktops and the ovens. I’ll admit that after that session, I was all ready to choose an induction cooktop (even though it would have meant changing much of our cookware – according to this excellent resource on induction cooking:

any cookware to be used on an induction-cooking unit needs to be able to well support a magnetic field in it–that is, to be substantially “ferrous”. If you recall a little of either Latin 101 or Chemistry 101, you’ll know that “ferrous” refers to a metal that is iron or iron-based. But, though steel is certainly iron-based, in fact not all stainless steel is readily magnetizeable. There is a widespread misunderstanding about that as relates to induction cooking: but, again, merely being made of stainless steel does not make a piece of cookware “induction ready”.

But the more I read about the way cooking with induction works (the pans must not lose contact with the cooktop, for example, otherwise the hotplates will turn off) and the more I realised what a very steep learning curve it would be for someone who is, after all, just a home cook (and one who likes to lift pans off the cooktop mid-cooking!) the more wondered whether I was ready to change my entire way of cooking on the cooktop. When I read David Leite’s post about outfitting his new kitchen and choosing his appliances, I knew that I wasn’t ready for induction and all its subtleties.  Don’t get me wrong – I love the concept (and I love the fact that the hotplates don’t stay, well, hot, once you remove the pans – very useful for someone who is always putting things down on the cooktop surface – and I loved watching chocolate melt and the heat turn off once the chocolate was melted) it’s just not for me, right now. I figured that even the regular Even-Heat™ Technology cooktop would be so much better than the coils we had before and that might just be enough to get used to for now!

Single or double oven?

Well now, that was a huge decision. I wavered between my final choice and this double oven for a long, long time.  The double oven allows you to cook several dishes simultaneously, at different temperatures if you really must, and this was very appealing to me in concept. But in theory, I wasn’t sure how often I really need that feature, if at all. I’d never had that option in the past and have cooked some pretty magnificent meals (nine-course dinner anyone?) with no issues because I didn’t own a double oven.  The idea of having the smaller oven available to reheat meals etc… was very appealing as well. I mean, when you are reheating leftovers, who needs a huge oven? It’s rare, right? But at the end of the day, I figured that the lesser size of the bottom oven would counter the positives of having two different ovens in one. So far, I have not regretted my decision at all.

So, Mardi, how’s it going getting to know the new oven?

Well it’s funny you should mention “getting to know” the oven because these past few months have been exactly that – a “getting to know you” period! Who would have thought, huh? One of the things we have been getting used to is the convection setting. Our old oven didn’t have convection so learning what temperature and how long to cook basics like roast chicken and macarons (yes, in our house, macarons are “basics”!) required a bit of re-thinking and experimenting.  Our old way of roasting a chicken was to cook it at very high heat (like 450˚F) for about 20 minutes then lower the heat to about 385˚F for the rest of the cooking time. After a little experimenting, we found that 400˚F Convection Roast is the perfect temperature to cook a roast chicken to ensure even browning and cooking. But it took a while. I guess I wasn’t used to the idea of such even heat. I’d say I use the convection the majority of the time now.

What I love about the oven, speaking of roast birds, is the sheer size of it. I mean look – we can roast a fairly large bird on one rack and still have room to roast the veggies/ sides below.

Chicken roasting and two sides in KitchenAid oven on eatlivetravelwrite.comThis is something we were not used to having in our old oven. And something I didn’t expect. When I was looking at the measurements for the new oven, I didn’t even think to measure the insides – in fact, I stupidly thought that all oven insides were the same size. But because the technology is better I guess they can insulate the heating elements with less bulk, thus, freeing up a ton of space inside. Same thing with the door – it’s way less bulky and you can open it fully and are able to use the bottom rack (as in, it can roll all the way out – in our old oven the lumpy surrounds of the window prevented the very bottom rack from being fully opened which made removing larger items like a roasting pan quite tricky as you had to reach all the way into the oven).  That being said, I find the thinner door does get hotter (as does the very top edge of the cooktop). But the less bulk leads me to one of my favourite features – the window…

Can I just say that I and everyone who sees the oven, well we are all totally in love with that window. As you can see from the picture of the old oven window above, it’s 1. tiny and 2. kind of dark. It also had that weird dotty texture across it which made it so very difficult to see in – crucial for someone who bakes macarons. I mean, you NEED to look in there to check on the formation of the feet! But there is no such issue with this gorgeous, large (and clean, cos I am a little obsessed!) window. Check this out…

Cookies baking in the KitchenAid oven on eatlivetravelwrite.com Chocolate chip cookies baking in the KitchenAid oven on eatlivetravelwrite.comWell and never mind the window and how large and easy to see through it is – how about the fact that I can fit TWO trays side by side on one rack. So, potentially six racks of baking in there at once. SUCH a timesaver. My old oven was a fraction too narrow for this unless it was my cheaper cookie trays which I barely bake with anymore – I use my European-sized trays (wider and shorter than the ones we tend to get here) which are heavier and which I prefer so the fact that I can fit so many in at once is perfect. Lucky I lugged six of those back in my luggage one summer from France ;)

Oh and in case you are wondering, yes, you can bake 6 trays of cookies at once because of the even heat – again, not something I was familiar with until now!

Let’s talk about the Even-Heat™ Technology, shall we?

Two trays of macarons side by side in a KitchenAid oven on eatlivetravelwrite.comSee that up there ^^^  Yup, it’s macarons. Baking. Side by side (which is awesome enough as it is).  But wait, how do they turn out?

Macarons baked in the KitchenAid oven on eatlivetravelwrite.comYup, they turn out perfectly, using my tried and tested recipe. I reckon that macarons are a pretty great way to test whether the heat in an oven is even or not and have been very pleased with the results so far. I’m working on perfecting a new recipe right now and will share the results with you all as soon as I can. It’s even easier than my standard macaron recipe! I do find the oven takes a lot longer to pre-heat than my old one (around 20-25 minutes depending on the temperature and setting) but that the heat, once the temperature is achieved, will remain constant and even – my old oven tended to get hotter and hotter the longer it was on.  If having even heat is an important factor in the way you cook and bake, I’d definitely look at making sure this technology is a part of your new oven.

Of course another great test of even heat is cookies and my colleagues can attest to the fact that I have done a LOT of testing in that area! And because I have a few more posts reviewing different features of the oven coming up in the next couple of months, I will stop with my “thoughts” and leave you with a Michels family favourite recipe.

Choc bit biscuits on eatlivetravelwrite.comWhen I think of my dad watching TV at night when I was little, I think of these biscuits (cookies) – his faves and what we called “Choc Bit Biscuits” but which are labelled “Toll House Cookies” in this leaflet where the recipe comes from:

Nestle Choc Bit recipes on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Choc-bit biscuits
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A shortbread-y cookie packed with chocolate chips
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 24 cookies
Ingredients
  • 85 g unsalted butter
  • 85 g sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 225g all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 200g chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Prepare 2 baking trays with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Stir in the sugar and mix until dissolved.
  5. Set aside and allow to cool.
  6. Add the egg to the butter mix.
  7. Add the flour and baking powder to the butter and mix until just combined.
  8. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  9. Place tablespoon-sized scoops of the mixture on the baking trays.
  10. Flatten slightly with your fingers.
  11. Bake 18 minutes until slightly golden (the cookies should still be soft to touch).
  12. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.

 
These are not your thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies like you are probably used to – they are more shortbready and crunchy. Just like I remember them being! My colleagues finished a plate of these before morning recess on the day I brought them in. I’d say that would mean they liked them!

Nestle choc bit biscuits on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Check out the full range of KitchenAid Canada ovens here.

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14 Responses to Choosing a new oven: Some thoughts and a recipe for Choc Bit Biscuits

  1. Mr. Neil January 15, 2014 at 07:58 #

    It’s interesting the features you *expect* to love – and those that surprise.

    Oven door and window size sound minor: but they are a huge bonus. Love them. And I’ve always wanted a convection oven, so just love that. Obviously I haven’t experimented as much as Mardi with “critical temp” items like macarons…but very pleased. And the SPACE inside is insidiously amazing. Worth the upgrade right there. I am intrigued by the longer preheat time. It’s counter-intuitive. Not really a problem in any way…but you have to remember that and get used to it!

    The cooktop for me has taken more getting used to. The glass surface already has a teeny chip and another slight scratch in it, which irritates. The fact it’s made Mardi a cleaner is of course great – ;-) – but I always feel a little more precarious on the glass versus old ceramic. I feel the same with hard pans on the nice glass…which I suppose I shouldn’t, as that’s what it’s designed for. And swiping food off, it gets caught at the edges…something all such cooktops will have issues with, by design.

    As far as cooking itself, having an extra burner spot is nice, as are the burners where you can “pick the size”. (Am sure that saves electricity use, as well.) One burner has a “turbo boost” option, which is great for boiling water. (I wish they all had – boiling water for pasta is the one thing I find the other burners do not do well.)

    The controls are numerous and easy once you get used to them, if a bit touchy (forgive the pun) on the flat-screen.

    Overall, this has been a great upgrade. The macaron baker in our house wondrs how she ever lived without… :-)

    • Mardi Michels January 18, 2014 at 21:07 #

      I think a lot of the initial “whoah” was just features we needed to get used to. As I said, who would have imagined that there was so much to research and learn!

  2. Paula January 15, 2014 at 08:41 #

    This review was great and you provided some wonderful photos! Getting used to cooking and baking with your new appliances is definitely a bit of a learning curve but it’s obvious that you are an eager student and one that catches on very quickly! The new appliances look great in your kitchen. Good info about the induction cooktops that I never knew about too.

    • Mardi Michels January 18, 2014 at 21:05 #

      Right – I can imagine you understand the whole “getting to know you” thing! There is SO much to learn!

  3. rebecca - theambitioustraveller January 15, 2014 at 09:28 #

    Hey Mardi,
    those cookies look yummy!
    When you say sugar on the recipe do you mean caster sugar?
    ta
    Rebecca

  4. Aimee @ Simple Bites January 15, 2014 at 11:59 #

    I love how you put your oven through the paces, Mardi. It seems well suited to your needs.

    That door IS spectacular and the appliances look fit and fine in your kitchen. =)

    • Mardi Michels January 18, 2014 at 21:04 #

      Thanks Aimée. I’m pleased so far, for sure!

  5. Coco in the Kitchen January 15, 2014 at 15:22 #

    Congrats on the new oven! I was pregnant when we found our Bertazzoni. It’s a bit tempermental, but I love it nonetheless.

    These chocobit biscuits are calling my name.
    I will have to answer.
    It would be rude not to. ;)

  6. Ann Mah January 15, 2014 at 17:55 #

    This post was surprisingly fascinating — surprising because I never knew there was so much to learn about ovens! We chose our convection oven rather quickly and so far I’m very pleased with it. Wish I’d read this post first, though, so I could’ve made a truly educated choice!

    • Mardi Michels January 18, 2014 at 21:04 #

      Well you know me Ann – always the planner! And to be truthful, I could have picked this much faster – I had the time though and am glad I did the research in the end.

  7. Geoff January 15, 2014 at 20:32 #

    And I can attest that, should a chocolate chip cookie emerge from the kitchen these days, their shelf life is still extremely short. Love ‘em
    Reading your post, Mardi, who could know the complexities and intricacies of oven purchase/use. It’s a long way from my mother’s initial stove upon arrival down under in 1953 – a wood stove. How on earth they regulated oven heat in those days is still beyond me.

    • Mardi Michels January 18, 2014 at 21:03 #

      Like I said, I had NO idea that there was so much to consider!

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