This weekend, the ladies in my family attempted to start a tradition of Christmas cookie baking.
Baking Christmas cookies takes a lot of planning and shopping and measuring and mixing and of course, baking (which includes cooling and sometimes rotating, if your oven lacks convection).
My soon-to-be sister-in-law chose to make these Russian Tea Cakes for the first time ever. The recipe calls for a cup of softened butter, but because we were making 6 dozen instead of 4 dozen, we needed a cup and a half of softened butter (that’s a lot). And although I am horrible baker, she asked me a question I could actually answer:
“How do you get butter to soften without melting it?”
Because of our early morning start, the butter I brought to my mom’s was still refrigerator-hard. So we needed to intercede.
Perhaps your experience with softening butter in the microwave involves you — nose pressed up against the glass — nuking the flavorful fat ingredient in short intervals and praying it doesn’t melt.
But that’s not how it’s supposed to be at all.
To soften our cup and a half of butter, we microwaved each stick for a minute a piece at 10% power.
Based on your microwave, you might want to amp up to 20% and adjust the time or even use the defrost setting (which is 30% power).
Later, we also adjusted our microwave power to soften cream cheese for Peanut Butter Balls (which are amazing, by the way).
Microwave power levels can also come in handy for reheating foods, I’ve found. Foods like pizza and French fries revive less soggier when microwaved longer at lower power.
Just like you might get an oil change before going on a road trip, you might have considered cleaning your oven before hosting a holiday party.
Here’s some advice:
Every holiday we get a panicked call from a well-meaning customer who ran the self-clean on her oven and afterwards, the oven didn’t unlock (in this cautionary tale, Northland Service was able to unlock the oven in the nick of time). Of course, this isn’t what’s supposed to happen; the self-clean mode should just work like a charm.
But we all know that things don’t always turn out as they should, and if it’s going to malfunction, Murphy’s Law dictates that it will be right before your in-laws show up.
Many stoves choose to end their life right around the time you’ve finally finished thawing, brining, trussing and stuffing that huge bird on Thanksgiving morning.
Now your oven very well might be dead, but sometimes you just need to give it the ol’ Fonzie treatment.
Now, I’m not actually suggesting you punch your juke, er…range; but try shutting off your circuit or unplugging your appliance for 20 minutes. It’s always the first advice I give customers before we attempt service — and it’s worked before! Best case scenario, you’re back in business once you plug it back in or reset the circuit.
If you have a gas range and the cooktop is working but the oven isn’t, flip the regulator switch (which automatically cuts off the flow of gas at a certain pressure).
If you’re still getting an error code or the unit is still dead, you’re probably going to need service. You can call us on Friday at 651-222-0011 (opt. 4).
If your oven is setting off the smoke alarm every time you make a pizza, it might be time to give it a good cleaning.
Self-clean ovens have a setting that allows it reach very high temperatures and burn food mess off into ashes. Do NOT use oven cleaners on self-clean ranges, and make sure to take the racks out before you start a cleaning cycle to ensure they continue to glide well.
If you don’t have a setting for cleaning your oven, you’ll have to manually clean it of course. (I can hear my grandpa, who started Warners’ Stellian, making some sort of joke related to manual-clean ovens actually being self-clean: “Of course it is…you clean it yourself!”)
To manually clean your oven:
1. Make sure you’ve allowed the cavity to properly cool down. We don’t need any heroes on our hands.
2. Remove the oven racks. These can be cleaned with steel wool, water and dish soap. To get off trickier messes, put racks in a garbage bag in a cup of ammonia overnight in the backyard and rinse with the garden hose in the morning.
3. First try scubbing the oven cavity with soap, water and a soft cloth or sponge. Hopefully, this will do the trick.
4. If more rigorous cleaning is needed, our customer service rep, Amy, suggests the following natural oven-cleaning remedies:
Pour ¼ cup ammonia and 2 cups of warm water in a bowl in your oven, and close it up tight. If you’re at home during this, make sure you open a window so no one gets sick. You can clean out the dirty oven with a scrubby sponge after a few hours or overnight.
Fill a spray bottle with 1 tablespoon Borax (which works great as a cheap laundry detergent booster), 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil dishwashing soap and a quart of warm water. Spray the oven walls, scrub it clean after an hour and rinse thoroughly.
A paste of baking soda and vinegar left on the oven cavity surface could work well, but be careful to cover the holes of the gas line if you have a gas range really REALLY well, because if they get clogged, that’s a bad thing. If you go this route, you should be able to scrape off food mess with a spatula. Wipe out the oven thoroughly afterwards.
Anyone ever try these tricks? I’m going to have to pretty soon on the manual-clean oven in my new house. I’ll report back.
To avoid possible heat damage to your oven, we do not recommend using aluminum foil to line the bottom of your oven. Rather, we recommend that you place a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil on the oven rack beneath the pie or casserole you are baking. The foil should be only a few inches larger than the baking pan to allow for proper heat circulation. The foil will catch any drips before they reach the oven bottom.
There you go. Smart play on Reynolds part, right? Because you know people will end up getting rid of the sheet of foil and using a new one next time…
Noticed some streaks and stains on the inner oven glass that weren’t there before?
Hold up! Step back from your Jump To Conclusions mat — it’s not a bad seal.
Several vents (highlighted in fig. 1) open directly into the inner door to vent the hot air away from the glass. And because of their proximity to the stove top and its mess, people often spray cleaner near the vents that sneaks inside the door and drips down, causing streaks and stains.
What to do?
Our smart and helpful customer service rep Amy cautions you against pulling the door apart yourself.
Officially, if it bothers you enough, pay a service company to clean it — otherwise you’ll void the warranty, she said. Unfortunately, this aesthetic nuisance falls outside of warranty coverage because the customer did it herself.
But if your range is older than 10 years — and in some cases, five years — warranty is no longer a concern.
So, unofficially, you can check out this HOW TOs on espares.com and find more on fixya.com — at your own risk.
Don’t get all “Red Green” inspired and duct tape the vents, like one customer informed Amy he’d being doing. That hot air needs to go somewhere.
A better way to prevent stains between the glass is to not spray near the vents. Better yet, spray cleaners directly onto the rag, rather than the range.