Thursday, December 9, 2010


Actually, bread futures, not in the commodity sense but in the sense Terry Pratchett writes of pork futures... ghosts of loaves of bread yet to come, visible in the mind's eye of my own future.

The old defective stove has been replaced and the new one (well, OK, the new used one) hooked up. At my request, the landlord replaced the old electric range with a gas stove, the stove of my youth (though this one is much younger than I am), the stove I'm told many cooks prefer (and I'm one of them, whether I deserve the title "cook" or not).

Stella was at first terrified. She talked of pilots gone out and gas leaks and kittens leaping into ovens. I tried to reassure her that over 40 of my 62 years were spent living in homes or apartments with gas stoves (and sometimes with kittens), and that it didn't have to be the way she described. This stove has pilots on all burners and one more on the oven. The interface is exactly the same as the electric stove of which Stella was so fond, the one that quit on us. I don't know if she's convinced yet, but perhaps in time she will be.

Meanwhile, I'm thumbing through two of my bread books, looking for relatively simple recipes that don't use a bread machine. There are plenty of such; in fact, one of the reasons I want to bake with a "real" oven is to render myself independent of that little metal box. As wonderful as that box may be, the overwhelming majority of bread recipes are not adapted for it, and I want to try some of those recipes.

And so the ghostly images of loaves of bread yet to come appear before me, drifting futureward like the pork futures in Pratchett's books...


  1. Don't forget to get a good oven thermometer to check on the settings of the stove's thermostat.

    I don't know why he bothered with a used one, as you can get a new one at Sears for $250, although they have to check their web site to find it, because none of them stock that model.

    I have always used gas, and wouldn't do without it. Gas is on or off. A cat jumping on an electric burner can be injured for a very long time after you turn it off, as can a human who didn't know the burner had been used recently.

  2. Bryan, an oven thermometer was one of my first purchases when I decided to start baking. When set to 400°F, this oven runs about 25°F hot according to the thermometer. It's probably somewhat location-dependent within the oven; most ovens have hot spots and cold spots. But I haven't tested that far yet.

    The landlord does business with a used appliance shop just north of Houston. We bought a fridge from them once; the thing gave no end of trouble. Let's hope this stove doesn't follow that pattern. I'll say this for the landlord: the stuff that belongs to him... the stove and the A/C system... he maintains without any hassle.

  3. I've always had gas stoves. Never used pilots though, even on the stoves that had them - why waste the gas? Just shut down the valve to the burners, and keep the oven dial on "off" instead of "pilot". Use a piezo sparker to light things up - an empty butane "stick" lighter works fine, lasts forever and costs you nothing to acquire.

  4. Welcome, paintedjaguar! I've often enjoyed your comments on Bryan's site and others.

    What you say makes sense... but it would be absolutely unacceptable to Stella. With pilots lighted, rendering the interface exactly the same as an electric stove, we have an uneasy truce about the stove. But I believe Stella would literally move out in protest if I did what you suggest.

  5. Went to gas about three years ago or so. Totally different way of cooking. I love the response and control, but it is hotter and more messy than electric. But I can grill peppers on the flame!

    The only time I scared myself was leaving a pot on the boil and going into another room. I came back to the smell of gas. The pot had boiled over and put out the flame...

    But other than that, I don't think I would want to go back to electric...

  6. ellroon - I agree it feels very different. I'll probably have to relearn the stovetop, internalize again the notion that one can instantly reduce (or increase, for that matter) the heat going to the pot instead of having to wait 1-2 minutes, or lift the pot off the burner to reduce the heat. Who knows, after a while, I may actually cook a good omelet again!

    I have a pocket-sized kitchen timer, and anytime I leave anything on the stove and leave the kitchen, I set the timer and carry it with me. It's saved me many a time.

  7. I'm currently living with the worst range I've ever encountered. Electric with solid cast iron burners. Slow to heat up and even slower to cool - terrible to cook on. I can only assume that the designer had never actually used a stove. I also worry about the cats. I try to keep an empty pan covering turned-off burners until they've cooled. I learned young about electric burners by scorching my fingers on one that looked "off".

  8. Modern gas stoves have thermocouple cut-offs for the pilot lights that turn them off if the flame goes out. I.e., you do *not* end up with a house full of gas. Same deal with the burners themselves. Thanks to Sylvia Plath, you can no longer stick your head in a gas oven with the pilot light turned out, and turn on the burner, and suffocate yourself. Nope. Doesn't work anymore. Stove'll be dead as a doornail until the thermocouple is fixed or the pilot light is lit.

    In short, the only safety issue with modern gas stoves is with the connection to the gas supply.

    Finally, about that temperature issue: Get a pizza stone. Put it on the first rack of the oven. Put your food on the second rack of the oven. The pizza stone will moderate the temperature somewhat due to its thermal mass, rather than the immediate rise and immediate fall you normally get as the burner goes up and down. Makes your food cook *much* more evenly, rather than burning on the bottom and not getting warm enough on the top.

    - Badtux the Technology Penguin
    (Yes, gas stoves are technology, duh).

  9. Actually, I wonder why a newer gas stove would be using pilot lights at all, rather than a piezoelectric ignition system such as is found on many modern hot water heaters. Marketing segmentation, I suppose?

    Pizza stone trick sounds like a good idea. Also, a small one might work well for slow simmering on a gas range. Keeping a really low flame can be one of the few real drawbacks to gas cooking.

  10. PJ, Badtux...

    PJ, I'm sorry you have such a miserable stove. Our former electric stove was not all that bad, it just wasn't a cook's stove, so to speak. Stella grew up in an all-electric household, and the one time in her life she had a gas stove, it was frequently defective... with no help from the landlord.

    Badtux, I explained that to Stella... that a pilot going out pretty much assured the gas would shut off very soon. I need to remind her of the dangers of electric burners to cats, once the burners are turned off, as Bryan described. Little by little, she may come to understand why I made that request to the landlord. Or not. Either way, its a fait accompli. Oh, by the way, Stella has a pizza stone; I'll try what you suggest.

    PJ again, as I mentioned, this stove is not new. One of Stella's friends has a stove that has a gas stovetop (piezoelectric starters? I don't know) and an electric oven (defunct at the moment), so all kinds of combinations are out there.

  11. my present gas stove has the starter that paintedjaguar talks about, and while i would worry about my present batch of hooligans accidentally turniong on the stove, they're not allowed in the kitchen now [because they're super destructo kittehz, and the glasses, plates, and other crockery and glass would suffer].

    howsomeever, back in the day, when i had a gas stove with pilot lights AND a psycho kitten, he never once managed to turn the stove on or off.

    and yes, badtux is right. if the pilot light goes out, the gas is automatically shut off. i had a gas wall furnace in one apartment and if the wind was right, the pilot light would occasionally get blown out.

    last but not least, they add mercaptan [really smelly sulfur compounds] to the gas that comes into your house. if all else fails and you have a leak, you'll smell it long before a dangerous amount of gas leaks out.

  12. hipparchia - I've lived for about 40 of my 62 years in residences with gas cook stoves and/or gas water heaters, once in a while even gas heat for the house. So I've known most of that stuff from a young age. But Stella is relatively new to gas, and is (word chosen carefully) irrationally afraid of it. It's a done deal by now, though; I have no intention of asking the landlord to replace this perfectly suitable stove.



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