Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ninja Notes - the Oven Setting

I'm continuing to give the Ninja Cooker a work out since posting my last Ninja Notes here.  I've done three things in the Ninja on the "Oven" setting - beer bread, a flan (custard), and pork roast.

For beer bread I used the recipe found here.  The cooker's instruction book says that there's no need to preheat; but if I understand correctly, you should never use the cooker on the oven setting without having water in it.  The purpose of the Ninja's oven feature is to do "steam infused" baking or roasting.  I put four or five cups of water in the cooking vessel, placed the rack in the water, and the loaf pan with batter in it on the rack.   The water level was just below the pan - not touching it.

The Ninja's lid has a vent hole that measures almost three-eighths of an inch - pretty large for a vent hole.  An incredible amount of stem pours out of this hole when on the oven setting.  I admit it - I thought about plugging the hole, but my more responsible genes kicked in and I decided to read the instruction book - yet again.  Plugging the hole is a big no-no, and I think I see why.   If the vent hole was plugged, the water would probably boil right out of the pot and flow into the heating unit that the cooking vessel sits in which would probably ruin the Ninja, electrocute any by-standers, and burn the house down - maybe even the whole neighborhood.  Perhaps I'm exaggerating the possible outcome, but don't plug the hole!

However, I'm using the Ninja almost daily, and all my kitchen counters have wall cabinets above them.  I don't like the idea of all that steam going up under the wall cabinets.  If I was building a new house, I'd design the kitchen so that there would be a few feet of free counter space with a vent fan over it just for the Ninja and all the other small electric appliances that put out steam and heat.  But the only vent fan I have is over the stove, so I put a cutting board on the stove burner grates and set the Ninja on it.  You can see all that steam going up to the vent exhaust fan. 

I have to tell you that this is a no-no, too, according to the instruction book.  It says not to put your Ninja anywhere near the stove or anything that is hot.  Ok, I get what they're talking about.  But my stove is not hot when I put the Ninja on it.  I won't try to use the stove and the Ninja at the same time.  Of course, this might not be a good idea if you have children or loony adults at your house who might come along and turn the stove on while the Ninja is in residence.  And it's really a no-no if you have an old gas stove with pilot lights.  But since we don't have children or pilot lights and neither Jerry or I are loony - yet, I think it's ok. 

Before the broiler

After the broiler
Now, back to the beer bread - after baking for an hour, the beer bread was done, but not brown at all - not very appetizing as you can see in the picture.  As far as I am concerned, bread that is sickly pale just will not do!  I put it in my regular gas oven  under the broiler - after moving the Ninja off the stove, of course. I kept a vigil because usually bread will burn after two or three minutes under the broiler.  It took seven minutes to get this bread to brown!

By now you might be wondering how the bread turned out.  I've baked beer bread in the regular gas oven before, and Ninja "steam infused" beer bread is - well, different.  On the positive side, the texture is very fine.  Once the bread cools you can get nice slices that don't crumble.  Beer bread baked in a regular gas (or electric) oven has a coarse texture and tends to be a little bit crumbly when sliced.  But the regular oven produces much better tasting beer bread.  The Ninja bread didn't taste bad, it was just sort of blah.  I just don't think infusing steam into bread is a good idea - it makes a fine textured, heavy, relatively tasteless bread.

To be fair to the Ninja people, they didn't tell me to bake beer bread in my Ninja.  I just thought I'd give it a try.  But from now on I'll be baking my beer bread in the conventional oven.  I'm inclined to think any kind of bread will be better in the conventional oven.

The beer bread may have been disappointing, but the flan and the pork roast were big successes.  But this post is already too long, so I'll save them for the next Ninja Notes.

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