The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 23, 2012

Cheryle Finley: Convection is perfection when it comes to baking

By Cheryle Finley
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — As I settle into my almost-complete kitchen, I’m finding more and more to love about it.

The best item so far is my new Frigidaire stove. When it came time to buy a new oven, I wanted a free-standing stove, as opposed to the wall oven and cook top. I’ve said before how much Ryan Knell at Lowe’s helped me with many kitchen decisions, including steering me toward this particular stove.

When we first moved into our home, it had a built-in oven about the size of an Easy Bake. Honestly, it would not even accommodate a 9-by-13-inch pan.

We replaced it with a convection oven, not on purpose, but because I found it at a good price. That oven eventually lost its lighted display, but I never missed it once I got used to it being gone.

The first thing I baked in my new oven was a big batch of cupcakes for my grandson Atlas’ birthday.

Thanks to convection, I cooked 24 cupcakes in eight minutes.

The big difference is the fan. With fans circulating the heat around inside the oven, heat evenly surrounds the food so there’s no hot spots. The steady heat supply cooks food faster and helps it brown more evenly.

I can take advantage of the extra racks in my oven and won’t have to rotate the baking pans to ensure even cooking. I could easily have made 48 cupcakes at one time just by using two oven racks instead of one. It’s perfect for parties or big family dinners.

Another benefit of the convection oven is the improved energy efficiency. I can lower the cooking temperature by 25 degrees or shorten the cooking time. All ovens are different, and trial and error will be your best option to learn what works best for your oven and cooking needs.

Something else I like about my new oven is the quick-boil cook top. I put on a half-full pot of

water for some pasta, then stepped away for a few minutes. When I came back, there was about an inch of water boiling in the bottom of the pot.

There’s a lot to be said for reading the owner’s manual completely and thoroughly. It seems as though the new stove boils water in three to four minutes. It’s much faster than what I was used to with my old cook top.

I have always said I like to cook, but I love to eat. After only one cupcake batch and one pot of pasta, I see loving to cook in my future. When it comes time for you to purchase a new oven, look at a convection, especially if you like to bake, or if you’re interested in spending less time in the kitchen.

My brother-in-law, Bruce Finley, sent me an email with some ideas that I would like to share:

I am excited to share the sausage hash brown bake recipe today. It’s from my sister-in-law, Pam Roets, who found the recipe and perfected it with a couple of changes. I love this casserole so much, I could eat it three times a day. For me, the surprise ingredient is the French onion dip.

With a nice crop of Vidalia onions available, it’s that time of year to share the onion recipe from That Joplin Woman Ñ a family favorite. I share this recipe every year about this time, and I always have readers who try it for the first time and are surprised by the results.

You can eat these onions alone or add them to anything that you would usually put onions on, plus a few more options. You will want them on your sandwiches and burgers for sure, even if you are not an onion fan.

I always seem to go back to the cookbook Barbara Scheerer made for me several years ago. It has such great recipes. I can always find something good to fix, such as cream cheese brownies. Take these to a family dinner and you will be the one everyone follows around, asking for the recipe. You might want to make a double batch.

Have a wonderful week and happy eating!



Sausage hash brown bake

2 pounds bulk pork sausage

21/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided

1 can cream of chicken

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

1 cup (8 ounces) French onion dip

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup each red and green pepper, chopped

1/8 teaspoon pepper

40 ounces frozen shredded hash browns, thawed

In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain on paper towels. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups cheese and the next seven ingredients. Fold in potatoes and sausage. Pour into a shallow greased 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 to 25 minutes longer or until heated through. Yields 10 to 12 servings.

 

Vidalia onions

In a 2-quart bowl, slice very thin enough onions to almost fill the bowl. Marinate overnight in 2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup vinegar. Drain. Mix with 1 cup mayonnaise and celery salt to taste.

 

Chocolate cream cheese brownies

1 (4 ounce) package German sweet chocolate

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Filling:

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, melt chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring frequently. Set aside. In a bowl, beat the eggs. Gradually add sugar, beating until thick. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to egg mixture. Stir in melted chocolate, extracts and nuts. Pour half the batter into a greased 8-inch square baking pan; set aside.

For filling, beat butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl until light. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Blend in egg, flour and vanilla; mix well. Spread over batter in pan. Dollop remaining batter over filling. With a knife, cut through batter to create a marbled effect.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until brownies test done. Cool and store in refrigerator. Yields about 24 brownies.



Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.