As you may know, the galley tends to be a key element in our cruising. And in the galley, the oven is the most important piece of gear. This is particularly important on passages where an inventory of home-made cookies is an essential component of our routing.
You can imagine, therefore, our chagrin when our Seward stove’s oven started to act up in Alaska. Discussing the symptoms with the guys at Sure Marine in Seattle led us to the belief that our “mercury valve”, which controls the oven, was again acting up (we’ve already replaced this once). What to do?
We decided to try to use our microwave oven for baking. Googling “Microwave Baking” brought forth a series of recipes to test.
Here’s our first experiment. We used a normal cookie recipe. We’ve found that placing the cookie dough on a piece of parchment baking paper works best. On our first try we baked for three minutes. That was a little too much. Between one and two minutes is ideal,depending on your personal preference. (Linda prefers crunchy cookies, Steve likes them soft.)
Here’s where this gets interesting. We’ve taken to freezing the cookie dough (first on a sheet like shown above, and then in a Zip Lock bag). Then, when we feel like a freshly baked cookie, we pop one or two dough balls into the microwave and a minute (or two) later we’ve got a warm, mouth-watering treat to sustain us. In the interest of science we’ve tested chocolate chip and raisin-walnut-oatmeal combinations with equal success.
There’s another advantage as well. The succulent level of baked goods is inversely proportional to the square of the time they are out of the oven. The logical result is that freshly baked goods tend to disappear while still warm. With the new system, the original batch of raw material can last for many days (or weeks) as you just bake one or two cookies at a time. This has a beneficial impact on your body’s block coefficient (to put this in naval architecture parlance).
We then proceeded to see what else we could do in the microwave. We found this “Betty Crocker Express Cooker” microwave baking dish in a hardware store. It comes with a rack on the bottom a vent at the top, and a simple set of instructions.
Our first use was this frozen sour dough bread. It was OK, but did not have the crunchy outside/soft inside we are used to from an oven-baked version. More experimentation is in order.
Next we tried a pork roast. The roast was first browned on top of the stove in a frying pan. It was placed in the special microwave baker surrounded with the usual garnish of herbs, onions, and garlic.
Here is the result after eight minutes – which was too long. Five or six minutes would have been optimal.
The pork does not look as good as oven baked, and It is overdone, but It tasted very nice just the same.
Eggplant with a marinara sauce. This was wonderful, even better than normal. The skin of the eggplant had a little more substance than we are used to – which we liked – while the rest was the same as oven baked. The eggplant cooked for five minutes.
Finally, king salmon. This was cooked for five minutes. It was not quite as moist as oven baked, but the taste was the same – It was really yummy.
There is a definite learning curve to using the microwave as a gas oven replacement. And there are a few things that It does not seem to do as well. But for most, It will get the job done. And there are some advantages. Speed, of course. The galley doesn’t get as hot. And you are not using propane – which is sometimes a pain to replace.
As for our faulty Seward stove, we have to say that we’re disappointed. When we had this problem last year we were a couple of weeks past a year in service – which is the warranty period. The repair was several hundred dollars. Looks like we’ve got to go through this again.
We could buy two microwave ovens for the cost of the repair. Hmmm.