Yesterday, I tried a new bread recipe. It's a "5 minute" artisan bread. It doesn't actually take 5 minutes, of course, but the working portion is about 5 minutes - mixing together water, salt, yeast and flour for a batter like dough that is not meant to be kneaded.
The first hitch came when it was time to measure in the salt. It seemed like a huge about - the same as the yeast measurement. Turns out it was supposed to be *course* salt. So maybe that's why the dough didn't want to rise? Possibly. The dough was supposed to rise until it fell in on itself, a stage it never reached.
To give my bread dough a warm, draft-free place to rice, I use my oven. I turn it on to the lowest heat for a while, then shut it off, leaving only the oven light on to maintain temperature. The covered bowl of bread dough stays warm and toasty.
Because it wasn't rising well, I ended up leaving it overnight. With that length of time, I did actually re-heat the oven a bit a couple of times.
So I *know* that, last night, my oven was working.
This morning, I went to bake the bread and discovered my oven no longer working. I'd already shaped 4 small loaves and had them on a pan to rise before for about half an hour before I started pre-heating the oven, so I was kind of stuck. The rest of the dough (I'd made a double recipe) was already in the fridge, so it was fine, but what to do with what I had?
My initial thought was that I'd accidentally hit the timer button on the oven. I've done something like that before, so I fiddled with the knobs, ensuring that it was set to manual.
Nothing. The "on" light wouldn't even light up. The stove top was working fine, but the oven was doing nothing. It was warm only because of the light bulb being on all night.
The only number I have for the maintenance guy is an emergency cell number, so I called the co-op's office to see if there was another one. Unfortunately, there was no one there, so I left a message, explaining what happened.
After a while, since I was getting the mail anyway, I went to the office in person. Still no one there. I asked some people there, and was told she would be back later. Unfortunately, we had stuff we needed to do away from home, so when I got back, I called and left another message saying we'd be out, but that if he was available, the maintenance guy had permission to come in while we were gone. Then we left, making sure to cover the shaped loaves with a damp cloth.
When we got back several hours later, the oven still wasn't working and there were no messages, so I had no real idea if he'd come in. A few minutes later though, there was a knock at the door. It was the maintenance guy, and he managed to squeeze in a few minutes to check on us. His first thought, like mine, was the timers. He also checked the fuses, but they seemed fine. He took the 2 fuses for the oven anyways to check them properly, saying that if they were the problem, he'd be back with new ones. If not, he'll have to come back on Monday, since he only works 3 days a week (this is his "retirement" job).
He hasn't come back.
Which left me with 4 loaves under a now-dry cloth, and no oven to bake them in.
Time to get creative.
I got out my wok.
After putting 2 butter knives across the bottom, I added water. I have a pan - a stainless steel frying pan that lost its handle many years ago - that fits inside the wok, with the butter knives keeping it from touching the bottom. The water was enough to go partway up the sides of the pan. The loaves on the baking sheet were on cornmeal to prevent sticking, so I'd put cornmeal on the bottom of the pan, too. I was going to put a lid on the pan, but it has a handle on the top that prevented the wok lid from fitting, so I didn't use the pan's lid at all.
Only 2 loaves fit in the pan, and when I put them in, they looked all flat and dry from being out all day. A while after the steam did its work, they were puffed up and moistened beautifully.
I had no idea how long to leave them, or even if it would work at all. Talking to a foodie friend on MSN and doing some research online, I found that I probably should've at least tried to use aluminum foil to cover them. The loaves were also pretty large for this technique.
After a while - an hour? More? I never looked at a clock - I added some boiling water to the wok to top of the water levels. Maybe half an hour after that, I stuck a knife in one of the loaves to see if it was ready. It seemed hard-ish, so I quickly took one out, leaving the other still in the steam, and cut it in half to see if it was cooked through. It seemed to be. Then I took the other one out, brought the water back to a boil and popped in the remaining 2 loaves.
The end result is... strange. But good. The loaves are pale and dense. The bread is chewy in texture. But it tastes good (though much saltier than I like - no surprise there). The whole family has tried it, and Youngest REALLY likes it.
I still have the remaining 2 loaves steaming away. Since we won't have an oven until Monday, at the earliest, I at least know that I can still cook the dough that's in the fridge.
Hey, whatever works, eh?