I try really hard to make preparing a lifestyle. I usually find something to do everyday that relates to preparing. Some days it is a big project, like cooking outdoors, or sometimes something small like picking up a few items at the store. Either way I like to always try new things and find what works for my family. I have been using my Sartatoga Jacks thermal cooker and have been experimenting with new recipes. One of my goals is to be able to make bread in the thermal cooker, and it is definitely a trial and error kind of project.
One of my favorite food storage websites is myfoodstoragecookbook.com and it is where I find inspiration for cooking with a thermal cooker. Megan is the author and she uses a wonder box to cook in (click here to view more on a wonderbox) and it is the same concept as the Saratoga Jacks thermal cooker. I have been trying to cook bread in my thermal cooker for awhile now and Megan has, what I think is, divine inspiration because she finds the coolest gadgets to use in her wonder box for making bread. She made muffins using Dredger Cups from Sur La Table instead of soup cans. (that I had been using which are ok, but they get rusty really easy) A Dredger Cup, I think, is used for shaking powdered sugar, etc onto food. I just went with it, and I'm still not sure what is really is :) Click HERE to see more info on Dredger Cups. What makes these so amazing is they are stainless steel, reusable, rust-free, and fit so well into the thermal cooker.
They are only about 3 1/4" high, so pretty small, but I could fit 5 into the thermal cooker.
The lids of the Dredger Cups are a wire mesh so I put tin foil on top of the lids to keep the moisture out. They are just tall enough that the small thermal cooker pan fits right on top to fill in the dead air space. Thermal cooking only works well when the pan is full of warm food or water.
I mixed up a batch of blueberry muffins (click here for that recipe) and I have a secret that will make your muffins come out cooked and not mushy. When thermal cooking, the moisture isn't released from the food because it is all enclosed, and sometimes the food comes out mushy. The secret is to use less water in your recipe. In this recipe I used powdered shortening and powdered eggs. Normally I would add water to my recipe to reconstitute these, but I only added the 1 C of milk called for in the muffin recipe and no water for the shortening and eggs. The dough was really thick and I wasn't sure it was going to work but it did!! Every time I have tried wheat bread in my thermal cooker it has come out slightly mushy, so I was so excited to see the muffins come out fully cooked sans the mush!! You'll have to play around with your recipes but I think 1/4-1/3 C less water should work.
I sprayed the inside of the cups with cooking spray and filled them about 2/3rd's of the way full. I placed the wire mesh lids on and then covered them with foil.
Place the cups into the pan and fill with warm water to about the bottom of the Dredger Cup lid. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes!! This gets the food warm enough to cook the muffins. Place the lid on the pan while it's boiling so it gets warm too. My lid went on after the picture was taken. I stacked my thermal cooker pans (the smaller pan was filled with boiling water) placed them in the thermal cooker and "cooked" the muffins for 3-4 hours.
I opened mine up at the 3 hour mark because my dinner was ready and they were perfect!!! You may be wondering how I got muffins out of a bunch of cylinders but watch....
They come out in a loaf and....
You slice them into "muffins"!!! I cut each loaf into 4 "muffins" and my kids gobbled them up with butter and jelly. I was really was so excited that this worked! I can't wait to try wheat bread again using the less water method. This same method works in a Wonder Box as well. My trial and error with using a thermal cooker just keeps proving to myself that NOW is the time for trial and error. Even in an emergency I don't think my family would eat soggy, mushy bread and muffins, but I have figured out what works now. Don't wait any longer!!! Find a food storage project that you have been putting off and try it today!!!