Update: for those wanting the recipe, here it is!
I’ve always loved baking. Cooking, I’ve had my ups and downs with, but baking has always been a leisurely, therapeutic activity for me… the only problem therein being that the end result is something spectacularly unhealthy.
This love of baking quickly translated into an urgent need, once I moved to Ukraine last November. My best guess is it was a combined desire for relaxing, familiar activity and a need for nesting in our new home. Unfortunately, we were stuck in a hotel from November until February, with nary an oven in sight. I was restless like Martha Stewart confined in minimum-security lockdown (although I bet they let her have oven access).
When we moved into our new apartment, I was ecstatic. Space! A couch! Drawers! An oven! But we didn’t even have the basics. We moved to Ukraine with only a few suitcases, primarily filled with clothes, books, and equipment for scuba diving and snowboarding. No dishes, pans, or pantry contents. So we ran through a whirlwind day of shopping that left us with some basics–dishes, a set of pots and pans, flour–but each time I pulled up a recipe online, I’d realize there was a key ingredient or tool missing. Baking powder? Cinnamon? Casserole dish? Foiled again!
Finally last week I had it all together, and picked out a recipe for protein-rich brownies (yay, a somewhat-healthy indulgence!) in which I could use baking soda in place of baking powder (still haven’t found the equivalent for that here). I started mixing up the batter, and set the oven to preheat (after using my trusty conversion app to figure out what 350 F is in C, as well as converting cups to milliliters).
It started smelling… weird. A little like something was burning, but also like melting plastic. Um. Yikes? Alex and I rushed to open to windows (it was probably about 20 F outside) to air it out, and I turned off the oven. I got down on my hands and knees to figure out what was going on, looking under all the racks. Understand, only the top rack is wire, the other three are solid, almost like cookie sheets. I had inspected them earlier, but only with a perfunctory glance–the oven was new, why would there be anything inside? Oh, silly me!
There, wedged beneath the bottom rack, was a user manual. Excuse me, a stack of manuals–twelve of them, in twelve different languages. (I haven’t found an English edition among them, even though it’s listed as one of the options on the top paperwork. French is the closest.) Not only had the bottom pages begun burning, but there was a plastic bag holding four metal screws underneath these manuals. Naturally. So the plastic was melted into the pages and completely stuck to the bottom of the oven.
It took me three days to get the plastic cleaned off the oven. I used water, soap, three cleaning solvents (of which I’m only minimally sure how they should be used, since the labels are in Russian), and three different scrubby pads. Each time I thought I got it all, I’d turn on the oven and bam–instant headache-inducing smell of melting plastic death. Back to square one.
Finally, last night, I preheated the oven and–success! It didn’t smell like I was trying to melt a GI Joe army inside. So I took my very-patient half-mixed batter, added some cocoa powder, and we enjoyed some very chocolatey, cakey brownies… it only took five months. NOM NOM NOM.
note: i started using one of the drawing apps on the iPad in an effort to get back into comic-blogging. the results are a bit messier even than usual, but ah, well–the comic drawerings are back!