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Programmable multicookers, stew, and cakes

I am making a cake. Since I have the little electric oven all set up for my dose of pizza (see below), I am doing a cake in the traditional method.
It is a Betty Crocker vanilla loaf, but lacking a loaf tin I poured the mix into a regular round tin. I'll have to keep an eye on it as the cooking will likely change due to the different surface area. But, then, this oven has completely different thermal properties compared to a regular oven, so the cooking is best described as "it will be done when it is done". ☺
Cake in the process of becoming
Cake, in the process of becoming.

 

I did find some out-of-date pasta the other day, which I used for a test run of the Evolu Cook. Let's just say that I don't think I'll be using it to cook anything that needs to boil. The user guide states "Pour nettoyer le joint d'étanchéité du couvercle, utilisez un chiffon ou une éponge tiède avec un peu de produit vaisselle, puis séchez-le bien", which means to clean the cover seal, use a warm damp cloth or sponge with a little washing-up liquid, then dry it well.
Clearly written by somebody who has never used the device and thus doesn't realise that it'll take more than a little bit of damp and soap on a cloth to sort out the mess.

 

Now, I was thinking about stews and cakes in multicookers as I was preparing the cake batter, and it struck me that what I really appreciated in both my trusty Philips multicooker and the new Evolu-thing-with-the-non-removable-lid was the provision of a customisable mode of cooking.
That is to say, rather than using a pre-defined option, you can specify a temperature and a duration. This gives flexibility for when you want to do something that isn't provided by the n programmed cooking options.
Moreso when your device can go from 40°C to 160°C.

The Philips simply calls it what it is - Manual - and it is at the end of a long set of programmed options. I have already used this (50°C for 3 hours) to make honey runny again.

Philips multicooker
Philips multicooker, setting 70°C.

The Evolu Cook calls it Multifunction and even has a dedicated button to go directly to that option.

Evolu Cook multicooker
Evolu Cook multicooker, setting 70°C.

And this is where the Moulinex 9-in-1, 12-in-1, etc models don't measure up. I use my little Moulinex to make Koshihikari (Japanese) rice, as I know the method and measurements that give a good result...and I have to give some concessions to that particular cooker as it is essentially a glorified single-person rice cooker (hence it is small) and it is too old to support frying/baking as new models do.
The bigger Moulinex does all of that, but, you know, I just find the Philips so much easier to use. I have made a not-terribly-great cake in it, I often use it for making pasta on the soup setting, and on the frying pan setting it does stir-fry premade meals.

For the stir-fry, I have to be there to stir (clue in the name!), but for the pasta I simply pour in water boiled in the kettle and set it to the Soup setting for twenty minutes. I do this first so it can be heating up as I add the pasta and a pinch of salt, and stir so the pasta is underwater and not a lump stuck together. Then I close the lid, walk away, and come back twenty minutes later...

While I would imagine the bigger Moulinex could do similar, it lacks a customisable mode. And, it... just doesn't seem quite as friendly.

 

The only thing that I am hesitant about is how they would behave in a short power cut (as does happen from time to time, especially around milking time when a whole lot of heavy equipment switches on). With a slow cooker, it's a knob on the front. Set it to Low and it'll do that so long as there is power. If the multicooker can resume where it left off, then that would be good, but if it resets the controller to "waiting for instructions", that would be the loss of an entire meal if I had left it on while at work (think about it, heating meat up to about fifty degrees and then leaving it for several hours - that would be bacteria playtime).

This isn't such a ridiculous request. One of my breadmakers said it would auto-resume so long as the power hadn't been off for more than five minutes.

Well, you know, only one way to find out.

I set both to the Yoghurt programme (so wouldn't heat up too much, given they were empty). Eight hours both.

When the timer dropped down to 7:59, I unplugged the Evolu Cook for a count of ten, and plugged it back in.
It reset.

I then unplugged the Philips for a count of ten and plugged it back in. The heater clicked on and the timer said 7:59.
As the timer dropped to 7:58, I unplugged it for a count of twenty and plugged it back in. The heater didn't click on, but the timer still said 7:58. And after a few seconds, the heater clicked on, and off again.

Philips, I love you.

Actually, given how utterly well designed the Philips HD4726 "Daily Collection" is, I would have been surprised and upset if this failed the test.

Now I know which multicooker I can trust to slow-cook me a stew while I'm away at work. Or rather, my idea of using the Evolu Cook is a non-starter for when I'm away. Just stick with the trusty Philips.

 

Sadly, it seems that Philips has left the multicooker market. They make air fryers and toasters, and the odd pasta-pusher. I'm by no means a multicooker expert, but this is really the best thought out and capable model I have ever personally used.
Though, to give dues to Philips, I think the multicooker market itself has imploded as, well, the Cookeo is the big guy now. Who wants a glorified rice maker when you can have something that claims to do it all and has a nice comforting colour display and rotating knob shiny shiny shiny bling bling bling.
Now, I don't deny, Cookeo might be a magical thing, but have you seen the price? Not to mention that they seem to come with a selection of recipes (that determines the price?). The problem I have is that I'm very much a beans-on-toast kind of guy. I look at the example recipes in the multicooker booklets and it's stuff like chicken roasted in fennel served upon steamed asparagus. I guess it's pretty cool you can do something like that in the device, but what the hell? That's so many levels of fancy more than I eat!
How about a nice soup recipe? And no, I don't mean creamy kale and tomato with fennel and quinoa. I mean "here's stuff from the garden, now soup it".
I can imagine a Cookeo is more than capable of doing that, but what can it do that a device a third of the price can't? Talks to an app on my phone? Is this a necessity, or just a secret way to ping the mothership?

 

Back to the cake. Being British, and Betty Crocker, this was more or less guaranteed to be a success. The pack said 35-40 minutes. It was ready in 23. Like I said, more surface area in a round tin.

The cake became
The cake became.
It has been covered with a very simple glaze. I looked online and found various ideas of glazes and icing, but most of them were American so you'd have weird measurements like cups of confectioner's sugar and tablespoons of water, milk, molten butter, etc.

So here's my simple recipe for a simple glaze. At it's most basic, it requires only two ingredients. This makes enough to cover a cake the size of mine (about 7 inched?).

  • 220g icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
  • 20g milk (semi-skimmed by preference)

Sift the sugar into a bowl. This is important. If you aren't familiar with the phrase, it means to pass it through a strainer. This makes it uniform and fluffy, breaking up clumps and lumps.

Measure the milk into a glass or mug.

Now, using a solid spoon, add half of the milk to the sugar and mix it.

Now, add the milk dribble by dribble until it reaches a good consistency. You're aiming for it being smooth and runny enough to be able to smoosh it over the top of the cake, but not so runny that it just pours off and leaves you with a cake sitting in a sugary puddle.
Do not be fooled by the fact that you'll spend most of the time trying to mix hard lumps of soggy sugar. Glazing is a pretty freaky thing, and the difference between difficult lumps and too runny to be useful is literally a few drops. It's like it reaches a certain amount of wetness and suddenly turns into liquid. So, really, little dribbles at a time.

If you cock it up, don't worry. I'd be lying if I said I never added too much milk. If the icing is too thick, you can always add more milk, and if the icing is too runny, you can always add more sifted sugar.

When it looks right, slather it upon the cake. Don't put too much close to the edges, it'll slowly spread and smooth itself out. And yes, some might dribble. It's not the end of the world so long as most stays on top.

Then pop it into the fridge for half an hour to harden.

Variations - obviously you can swap some of the sugar for cocoa powder. Or you can add ground vanilla. You could use liquid vanilla, but add this into the milk and stir well so it doesn't make the icing too runny.
If I'd have thought about making a cake (this was completely unplanned), I would have bought some hundreds-and-thousands to put on top.
Avoid those metallic coated sugar balls - only children have teeth good enough to crunch them.

But, most of all, enjoy your cake!

 

PS: If you're like me (and possibly on the spectrum), I'd suggest also giving a miss to those little ricepaper stars... unless you have a handy star chart in order to get all of the positions correct, and then be annoyed that they don't come in different sizes to represent the different visual intensities of the stars.
And, before you ask, yes I have.
Then I was like "Mom! you just killed Vega!".

 

Pizza!

I mentioned pizza earlier. Well, Marie pizzas usually cost around €3,50 or so each. So imagine my surprise to find a special offer of three pizzas in a buy-two-get-one-free pack (that's a kilogram and a half of pizza) for a price a little over €5, instead of the expected ~€7.
American pizza
American pizza.
It's called American because it has all the stuff you'd expect to find in a burger on a pizza. And no, I wouldn't call it extreme. I know what a deep pan is supposed to be like and this isn't it. It is, however, rather more substantial than the usual French pizza that is barely thicker than a crêpe.

Dinner last night? Pizza.
Dinner tonight? Pizza.
Dinner tomorrow night? Go on, take a guess.

I'll be heartily sick of pizza by then, but I will have fed myself for the three nights of the weekend for only a fiver. Can't argue with that. ☺

 

Oh, the rain!

I finished writing my blog article on Thursday and uploaded it. Then, in order to try Dave's new printer things, I turned on the HP 3630 inkjet. We will get this thing to respond sensibly!

But it was not to be. The sky flashed white and a loud boom rattled the building. So in a mad panic I powered down everything.

I went out to feed Anna, and it was gusty with a near-black sky. Yup, that did not look good.

No sooner than I got to Anna, she ran out, yelped loudly, and ran back in ignoring her food and diving into her box to hide.
I turned to look behind me, expecting a bear or a zombie or at least an apparition. But no, just torrential rain.

I don't know how far it is between the front door and Anna. I've never actually measured. I think the front of the house is fifty metres, so so it's two thirds of that, plus that much again, plus a bit more. So let's just guestimate a hundred metres.
I didn't bother to run. I got drenched in under ten seconds, so running seemed a little pointless.

What I did do was something that seemed quite logical. I went in the back door, grabbed the shampoo from beside the bath, then went back out into the rain to do my hair. Yes, it was raining that hard.

Sadly, I had forgotten it was also a thunderstorm (albeit less active than usual) so I had to wait about an hour and a half before I could plug the hairdryer in.

By then it was getting on (dark, around 11pm) so I made dinner and went to bed.

 

 

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J.G.Harston, 3rd September 2022, 19:47
You're making me homesick for Hong Kong. :) When it rained like that I liked to go for a walk with an umberella, just... being amongst the weather. And probably the locals all thinking: weird gwailo, doesn't he realise it's raining.
Rick , 3rd September 2022, 21:03
Ah, but Hong Kong is in Asia. Doesn't rain like that count as "mere drizzle" in Asian terms? 
I mean, if the water is hitting the ground hard enough to bounce to your waist, the standing water is five inches deep at least, and visibility tails off after about thirty metres, *then* it is raining... right? ;)
Mick , 6th September 2022, 15:38
You need to add 'fix guttering' to your todo list :- What no water butts!

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