You may or may not remember me lamenting, when I first moved into this apartment, the distinct lack of an oven. When I'm stressed, I bake, so what am I meant to do now? (The answer is avoid all other chores as usual, and sleep more.)
Anyway, since then I've been trying to find some alternatives to baking that will still produce cakes and other various confections that require an oven. Everyone else says to just buy one on GMarket, but even at the lowest quoted price of about 30,000 won, I don't want to spend all that for something I'll inevitably have to get rid of or leave behind when I leave Korea, not to mention the distinct lack of space we have for appliances.
So, my first adventure was with a banana bread recipe I found that uses a rice cooker. I've baked in a rice cooker before, back when I was big into Yakitate!! Japan and the manga provided a recipe for Azuma's suihanjapan, so I knew it was possible to bake actual bread with a thick crust, but what about a soft, spongey cake?
Turns out that's possible too! It'll take some work, considering baking products are either really hard to find here, or really expensive. In particular, butter and other dairy products aren't too cheap (which is why I'm not just making cheesecakes by the dozen) so the taste to me was a bit...off. It kind of tasted too healthy. I've got a lot of brown sugar now, though (I keep forgetting to cross it off my mental shopping list, so I keep buying more and more bags of the stuff. Oops.) which might help with making the flavour a bit richer. All in all, it was pretty successful.
Now, there's also some sort of weird contraption in the apartment that just looks like either a) a toy or b) a metal box of doom, but either way I was kind of scared by it and so naturally just shoved it into a cupboard and tried to forget about its existence.
But then I had a thought. What if it was an oven? Or a toaster oven? I wasn't sure what a toaster oven was or what it did (other than, presumably, toast things) but I looked for a recipe and lo, toaster oven cupcakes are a thing.
I gave it a dubious whirl, and actually wasn't too disappointed.
They came out patchy and uneven, despite my efforts to rotate the tray and rearrange the cupcakes to sit in certain hotspots, but apparently the hotspots move. Huff.
I tried some though, and they were great. The sugar on top had gone crispy and the improvised bit of lemon juice I'd thrown in didn't really come through as lemon but it did add something nice and sweet. I took the least burnt ones into school the next day and the other teachers in my office said they tasted good, and nobody got sick afterwards, so I can only class that as a success, haha.
And finally, while I know it's not a cake, it's good to know of some other sweets I can whip up if need be, and our lovely friend Rachel inadvertently gave me a great idea. As she was moving back Stateside, she was emptying cupboards and during this process offered us a bag of what looked like cakey doughnut balls. They're made by Shany and came with a promising warning from Rachel that they taste kind of weird, but not in a bad way.
In snack desperation a few days later, I cracked open the bag and started eating and found out that, yes, they do indeed taste "kind of weird, but not in a bad way". They actually tasted kind of familiar and I wasn't sure why. It wasn't just the stale texture. There was something about the flavour and the crispy topping that reminded me of...
Sponge fingers. If there's one thing I've learnt from my Nan and family dinners, it's that sponge-based desserts are delicious and easy to make. So I thought I'd take a risk and make a sort of improvised tiramisu. And what do you know, it worked! The balls of sponge actually made portioning easier than the usual finger-shaped slabs you get, and I've got enough ingredients left over to make at least one more batch.
So, all is not lost in this sad, ovenless life. But I'm going to keep experimenting until I can get myself some decent roast potatoes!