I thought I was about to burn the house down last night in a baking incident gone wrong.
Of recent times, more often than not, I can be found wearing an apron by the oven. I’ve discovered the joys of baking. These joys include producing a successful baked product, the de-stressing that comes from constructing something with love and painstaking care and the accolades from those who are on the baked treat share list. My obsession with baking came to the point where a friend told me to back away from the oven and stop stalking it.
In a way that other girls are getting their vintage on pursuing grandmotherly crafts with considerable talent and success I’m getting my baker on. I’m trying new things that I’ve never made before, or things that I’ve been scared of attempting for fear of failure, and the results lie more on the success end of the measuring spoon.
Last night I faced up to the biggest possible failure when the element in my electric oven caught fire after the springform tin holding my cheesecake started oozing a buttery fat. I hadn’t noticed the smoky kitchen as I was in my room Facebooking or tweeting, or doing something similarly unimportant. It wasn’t until checking on it about 25 minutes into cook time that I discovered this and put a baking tray underneath the tin to catch the drips.
Two minutes later my eyes bulged with disbelief as the coil caught on fire. I watched it burn, as we all do around a campfire, entranced by the flames until I realised I needed to do something. I turned the oven off, but this didn’t abate the flames. I opened the oven door only to realise a moment later that the oxygen from outside the oven was fueling the flames. I yelled in a panicked voice to my housemate to come quick “The oven is on fire! I don’t know what to do!”
The flames started burning with bright blue bases and didn’t seem to be going out. I started thinking about calling the fire brigade, but was so panicked I couldn’t remember where my phone was and I didn’t want to leave the kitchen to set fire while I wasn’t watching.
After a second panicked call to my housemate because I hadn’t heard her answer, she appeared dripping and in a towel as she’d been in the bath. She didn’t know what to do either but suggested we wait. I wasn’t game to open the oven door again and played a waiting game in front of the oven, every fibre of my being tingling with adrenaline and wishing I had a fire blanket handy.
After what seemed like far too long, the fire eventually burned out and I left the door closed to make sure it didn’t re-ignite.
Eventually I opened the oven door with caution and was greeted by a cloud of smoke. I opened the front and back doors and made sure the ceiling exhaust was on high to clear the smoke. I took out the half-baked cheesecake and did what I always do, I phoned home for advice. It turns out Mum has never set fire to her oven before, so there was no comfort there, but she told me to give it a clean out where all the butter had pooled on the floor of the oven and see if it still worked.
Once the oven had cooled down, I wiped it out with paper towel, amazed at how much liquid butter was in there, and then with a damp soapy sponge. Leaving the oven door open to keep a close eye on things, I turned the thermostat on to a low setting and watched the coil heat up and glow red. Wisps of smoke rose and when I heard some crackling, I quickly turned it off again. After a pause, I tried it again and this time there was no crackling, just smoking from the cleaning and remainder of the fat. I hadn’t broken the oven after all!
Eventually, it was all good to put the cheesecake back in there to cook. I was worried that it would be smoky or burnt or just inedible, but I was pleased to find that despite some small burnt crumbs, it was a perfectly delicious creation and that my friends loved it.
Like a brilliant phoenix rising from the flames, so did my chocolate cheesecake.