Thursday, November 3, 2011

Toast a Stove, Bake a Flower?

This morning I woke up hungry for muffins--steamy, moist, full-of-yummy-bits muffins, fresh out of the oven. There's only one problem: We don't have an oven.

Remember Hurricane Irene? Well, during our four-day power loss, (which involved two freezers full of chicken and lots of escaped pigs), our Helpful Neighbors offered the use of their Really Big Generator for a few hours each day to keep our freezers from thawing. It was a very generous offer and we were pretty worried about losing so much meat. We were also pretty exhausted from chasing six pigs around, since they'd discovered their fence was entirely uncharged. So, when the neighbors offered, we didn't think everything through. We just said yes.

Helpful Neighbor--a contractor by trade--ran some nifty wires into our electrical panel and told us to unplug everything we didn't need before he switched the power on. We don't have a lot of electrical appliances that draw much power, so I figured I wouldn't have to unplug much. I unplugged the toaster oven and the coffee maker and a couple of nearby lamps. Then I paused a moment to ponder what else I should unplug. Helpful neighbor mistook this for a pose of completion and flipped the generator on...followed a second later by the sickening *pop* of two lightbulbs exploding, then another louder *POP* and a puff of smoke rising from the Piper's desktop computer. Our little farmhouse had apparently just been hit by a power surge that fried every solenoid and microchip on the premises. That included all our clocks and radios, our CD and record player, our rechargeable drill, and--oh dear--the digital panel that controls the oven portion of our gas cookstove. The range still works just fine, but the only way to turn the oven on is with that little panel, which--according to our extensive post-*POP* research, is no longer made and cannot be replaced.

Sooooo, we've been without a regular oven since the first week of September. We could surely find a used cookstove for under $100, but the cost to unhook the old one and hook up the new one would be an unavoidable $200 extra, and that's not in the budget. But, hey--we're creative, resourceful farm women, aye? We can manage, 'cause we still have this toaster oven...

We can cook almost anything without the big oven, except for muffins or popovers (the tins don't fit) and large roasts. So, what's a woman to do when she wakes up dreaming of muffins? Ah: make healthy oatmeal cookies instead, 'cause cookies will fit on that tiny baking sheet in that wee toaster oven just fine.

I started with a basic oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe. Then I started playing, in that lovely way an early morning baker can play before the Inner Critic wakes up and kicks in. I imagined a cookie full of floral notes, something elegant and uplifting but not overly rich or cloying. I pulled out a bottle of this and a jar of that, got out a wooden spoon and the big blue-and-white mixing bowl, and commenced to play with my food.

Here's the result:


1 and 1/2 cup sucanat (unrefined cane sugar granules)
2 very fresh eggs (gathered from the henhouse the day before)
2 sticks salted butter (you can use unsalted ones if you like)
1 cup or so rolled oats (not too thick--"quick oats" work well)
1 cup or so ground or slivered almonds (I toasted mine first)
1 and 1/2 tsp orange flower water
2 and 1/2 cups unbleached wheat flour (or gluten-free alternative)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt (adjust to your preference)
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 cup each semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips

Set butter near stove while you cook scrambled eggs for "breakfast, part one" so the heat from the skillet softens it up a bit. Measure the sucanat into a nice big ceramic mixing bowl, add the butter, and stir with a wooden spoon until blended. Remind yourself that this method burns calories, uses no electricity and produces almost no noise, so you can make cookies early in the morning without anyone else waking up and catching on.

Preheat oven (hopefully bigger than ours) to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Add the eggs, one at a time, working the first egg in thoroughly before adding the second one. Blend thoroughly with wooden spoon. Good job: you're burning more calories. Think about your grandmothers. Next, add the orange flower water. Dab a little on your wrists for good measure. My, don't you smell nice!

Fold in the almonds and rolled oats. Consider whether to stop at this point and just call it breakfast. Decide cookies will be worth the extra effort. In a fine-meshed sieve over the mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Shake mixture onto wet ingredients, then fold gently but thoroughly together until fairly well-blended.

Line metal baking sheet with parchment paper and drop spoonfuls of dough so that there's about an inch between the dollops. Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on the vagaries of your oven and your preferred level of done-ness. Remove from oven and admire with all available senses. Remind yourself that three cookies is probably enough for breakfast. Wake the rest of the household up and share or, if you live alone, hand-deliver a few flower cookies to someone who could use a bouquet.

NOTE: These cookies probably don't need much tweaking to be made gluten-free. Just replace the wheat flour with your preferred mix of GF flours,(coconut flour might be especially apt), and--if needed--binding agents, and be sure to use gluten-free rolled oats.

P.S. Don't ask me how those amazing sticky buns jumped on to the plate behind the finished cookies. That's a whole 'nother story from a whole 'nother baker. If you want to know more, go ask our WWOOF volunteer, Andrew.


Mama Pea said...

Did you hear me uttering my wailing, "Oh, no!" when you described the sickening *POPS* when the generator was flipped on? Was the computer killed?

MaineCelt said...

Computer died instantly. Fortunately, it was already old and sickly. Unfortunately, it still had a lot of useful stuff on it. *sigh.*
A friend came to our aid and gave us a radio/CD player, but the two things we miss the most are the oven and the record player. We have a LOT of old records--mostly traditional music that may never catch the attention of the digitizers. We'll get another record player and another oven eventually. Just not now.

Anonymous said...

Have you called your Homeowners ins. all these things are covered by that ins. policy Deffinetly worth paying the deductable
We own an Appliance Service Business and our customers have filed with thier ins. companys after the storm wiped out thier appliances

Hannah B said...

What a lovely cookie delight! I can smell them coming out of the toaster oven already. Perhaps once Jon and I actually have a kitchen and food in the yurt, we will learn to bake on the stovetop and can offer some ideas for stovetop baked deliciousness... it has definitely been on my mind! Sending kisses your way...