How to Pick a Holding Cabinet for a Commercial Kitchen

holding cabinet

No matter what type of commercial kitchen you’re operating, there’s a holding cabinet that can benefit you. Holding cabinets are a crucial part of any kitchen that serves hot food. They save time and labor. Consequently, holding cabinets can increase your bottom line.

What is a holding cabinet?

CVap commercial kitchen equipment foodservice products

Basically, holding cabinets are heated appliances designed to hold cooked foods at a safe serving temperature. Some holding cabinets do this well and some do not. Of course, the quality depends on the manufacturer and design.

Notably, people sometimes refer to holding cabinets as hot boxes, warmers, insulated warmers, hold and serves, warming cabinets, and other titles. Nonetheless, their function is the same.

Winston’s CVap® technology started as a holding technology. Colonel Sanders (yes, really) challenged our founder Winston Shelton to invent a cabinet that could hold his famous chicken for an extended time. Critically, the chicken had to maintain the infamously high quality that Sanders demanded. Shelton was up to the challenge.

Although the Colonel didn’t live to see the final product, CVap technology was the result. It revolutionized the foodservice industry. Nearly four decades later, CVap is still the pinnacle of holding cabinets.

All holding cabinets have the same job; keeping food hot until it’s served. Clearly, some do this better than others. It’s dependent on their design. Holding cabinets fall into four basic categories:

  • Dry holding cabinets
  • Passive humidity cabinets
  • Humidified holding cabinets
  • Controlled vapor holding cabinets

What Can I Use a Holding Cabinet Holding Cabinet For

As the name implies, holding cabinets are used for keeping food hot while serving. Although they’re found in all sorts of commercial kitchens, they’re particularly well suited for high-volume operations. These include fast-food establishments and institutional kitchens (schools, hospitals, prisons, etc.).

 Notably, holding cabinets cannot be used to reheat food – that’s a food code violation. But used with a little forethought, holding cabinets can reduce labor by allowing staff to prepare food ahead of rush periods. Depending on which type of cabinet you choose, holding cabinets can help you serve fresh hot food to all your patrons.

holding cabinet

How to Select the Right Select the Right Holding Cabinet

When it comes to selecting the right cabinet for your commercial kitchen, there are several factors to consider. In the interest of transparency, we’re only talking CVap holding cabinets here.

Your Volume

How much traffic do you see in a typical day? Is it spread throughout the day, or does it come in rush periods? If your volume isn’t particularly heavy, you may be able to thrive with a smaller CVap unit, such as a holding drawer or half-size holding cabinet. There’s no point in paying for more capacity than you need. On the other hand, higher-volume operations may want to consider larger cabinets, such as an HOV5-14UV or HOV3-14UV. Clearly, larger cabinets increase your holding capacity, so you can maintain food at high quality throughout meal periods.

Your Space

How much room is available in your commercial kitchen? If you’re in a confined space, such as a food truck or concession stand, you obviously don’t have a lot of room to work with. Smaller CVap cabinets, such as warming drawers, holding bins, or under-counter holding cabinets are a good solution. Likewise, larger spaces can accommodate bigger cabinets, from the half-size HOV7-05UV up to the HOV5-14UV. CVap holding cabinets don’t require vent hoods, so there’s no need to utilize that valuable space. Optional stacking kits give you the option of stacking two cabinets, doubling the footprint capacity. There’s a perfect size for any operation or workspace.

Your Menu

What food products are on your menu? CVap holding cabinets provide an extended hold on any food products. CVap truly excels at moist foods, such as soup, pasta, and seafood. The moist vapor environment inside CVap cabinets really interacts with the food’s moisture, locking in freshness for a long time. Foods that you wouldn’t consider particularly moist, such as pizza, burgers, or steaks will also hold fresh for an extended time. Nothing can hold forever, but these foods will hold for a substantial time before losing quality.

At the upper end of the scale are crisp foods, such as french fries. Again, CVap provides a respectable hold. But the high differential temperature required to properly hold crisp foods will inevitably cause food evaporation to creep up. This shortens the time before quality starts degrading. Don’t get us wrong, CVap cabinets still provide a respectable holding time. But it’s important to realize that even the best cabinets have their limits.

Does your operation offer baked goods? CVap holding cabinets are also excellent proofers. You can proof and hold in the same cabinet, getting double duty from the same footprint.

Your Budget

The brutal reality of today’s world is that everything is getting more expensive. Geopolitical turbulence (we’re looking at you, Russia), persistent pandemics, and supply chain strain is ratcheting up the cost of everything. This is particularly true of stainless steel. Naturally, stainless steel is the primary component of virtually every holding cabinet.

Money is always an issue. But at rocky times like these, you may be tempted to go with the cheapest cabinet you can get, namely a dry or passive cabinet. But you need to look beyond the initial cost. Buying the cheapest cabinets will save money up front, but over the life of that cabinet, the decrease quality of the food served from it will add up costs over time. In the end, it may cost you more than you saved by buying the el-cheapo cabinet.

CVap cabinets’ precision and elevated food quality really are the better option. We admit, CVap isn’t the cheapest brand out there. But it is the best. CVap in your commercial kitchen gives you the assurance that you are serving food at the absolute peak of quality.

Winston offers CVap holding cabinets in three feature levels, tailored to fit a range of budgets.

Our lowest tier is Series 3. The 3s feature simple membrane controls. They’re easy to operate, even for untrained staff. Although they’re the simplest CVaps, they still deliver the precise hold that people expect from CVap cabinets.

Next up are our Series 5 cabinets. The 5s have capacitive touch controls, desktop programming, a USB port for programming uploads and data downloads. Eight programmable channels cover about every type of menu. Convection fans minimize hot and cold zones with the cabinet.

The top of the line are our Series 7 cabinets. Series 7 have all the bells and whistles as the Series 5s, plus a few more. Wireless NFC programming enables you to reprogram the cabinet with the wave of your Android phone. Convection fans can be turned on and off. And a probe option gives you accuracy the is simply unrivaled.

As you can see, there’s a CVap holding cabinet to suit every budget.

Your Mobility

Sometimes you have to move it, move it. CVap cabinets come stock with casters, so moving them around your kitchen, whether to clean or to rearrange, is no problem. If you need to really move it around, consider adding the optional transport package. This includes 5” heavy-duty casters, push-pull handle, cord wrap, and evaporator cover. It’s perfect for commercial kitchens that need to move hot food from one area to another, such as from a school kitchen to a classroom.

Ultimately, It’s Up to You

Nobody knows your operation as you do. In the end, you are the best judge of what you need. But if you need a little guidance, contact us. We’ll be glad to discuss your needs and options and suggest the best solutions for your commercial kitchen.

Wet Bulb, Dry Bulb, and the Science of Cooking with Water

thermodynamics wet bulb dry bulb

Cooking, in all its forms, involves controlling water. That’s a basic fact. Heat’s interaction with internal moisture causes changes to food as it cooks. After all, food is mostly water. Notably, some foods are more than 90 percent water. So, it makes sense that food behaves like water when heated. Let’s delve into wet bulb, dry bulb, and the science of cooking with water.

wet bulb dry bulb thermometer

Dry Bulb

Dry-bulb temperature is measured by a bare thermometer with no radiant heat affecting it (sunlight, radiators, Chippendales dancers, etc.). It’s what we think of as the air temperature. Wet-bulb temperature is a little trickier. Simply put, wet bulb is the lowest temperature possible under ambient conditions by the evaporation of water only. Sounds complicated, but it’s not.

Wet Bulb

Wet-bulb is measured with a thermometer covered by a water-soaked wick or other porous fabric. Remember, evaporation is a cooling process. Therefore, the drier the air, the faster moisture evaporates, and the lower the web-bulb temperature. Wet-bulb is always lower than dry-bulb. However, there is an exception. At 100% relative humidity, wet-bulb and dry-bulb temperatures are equal. Certainly, it’s physically impossible for the wet bulb to be higher than the dry bulb.

Author Nathan Myhrvold eloquently described the role that water plays in cooking in his book series, Modernist Cuisine:

Water is also the medium in which most cooking is done. Sometimes we use it directly, as when boiling, steaming, extracting, or cooking sous vide. Water plays a role in ostensibly “dry” processes such as roasting and baking as well, yet many chefs fail to account for its effects. Whether it’s a liquid boiling or simmering in a pot, a vapor rising from a steamer, the humidity in an oven’s air, the liquid circulating in a cooking bath, or the crushed ice in a blender, the unique properties of water come into play in all manner of culinary operations. Faced with such powerful and ubiquitous phenomena, cooks must learn how to manipulate water or risk being foiled by it.

food is water

Long before Myhrvold, our founder Winston Shelton discovered water’s role in cooking. He deduced that to control food’s temperature, you must control food’s internal moisture. This led to the invention of CVap® (Controlled Vapor Technology). Shelton developed it as a hot food holding technology. But he realized it could also revolutionize cooking.

New Technology, New Words

Never limited by existing language, Winston fondly coined new terms. A significant Winstonism was thermoisturization. He defined it this way:

Thermoisturize: Taken from the words thermalize and moisturize…to mean the process of thermalizing while moisturizing. Also, ‘thermoisturization.’ The scientific world uses ‘thermalizing’ to represent the heat transfer phenomena in each of the processes. ‘Thermoisturization’ is coined to represent the simultaneous thermalization and moisturization of foods.

Our Corporate Research Chef, Samantha Brown, explains thermoisturization in more layman’s terms here.

The Laws of Thermoisturization

Shelton wrote The Laws of Thermoisturization. These explain the mechanics of controlling wet bulb and dry bulb temperatures inside an oven utilizing two heat sources. Ultimately, the reason wet bulb temperature control is more important is as follows:

  1. The large amount of moisture in all fresh foods.
  2. The enormous heat energy in water vapor.
  3. The ability to accurately control the amount of water vapor in the food’s atmosphere.

Certainly, that’s a lot of scientific jargon. A much simpler explanation of CVap can be found in this quirky video.

CVap generates heated vapor from a water reservoir at the unit’s base. We refer to it as the evaporator. If food is cooler than the evaporator, the heated vapor condenses on food, heating it. On the other hand, food that’s hotter than the vapor temperature evaporates moisture, cooling it. Since evaporation and condensation are highly effective heat transfer phenomena, food temperature must equalize with the vapor temperature. Ultimately, food temperature is affected more by the vapor temperature than the air temperature. Food simply can’t drop below the evaporator temperature. This differs from other so-called “humidified” equipment. Only CVap directly controls food temperature via controlled-heat vapor.

thermodynamics wet bulb dry bulb

Conventional Cooking vs. CVap Cooking

In a conventional oven, evaporation increases exponentially with the food’s temperature. Evaporation slows as food’s interior moisture decreases. As a result, the food dries out.
Indeed, evaporation is counterproductive for several reasons:

  1. Evaporative cooling hampers the heating process.
  2. Energy is wasted evaporating moisture instead of heating food.
  3. Food quality decreases as moisture evaporates.

In order to serve at peak quality, food must be removed from a conventional oven as soon as it reaches the desired endpoint temperature. If not, food overcooks.

CVap Cooking

In a CVap oven, food moisture cannot evaporate until food reaches vapor temperature. Critically, food heats more rapidly in the absence of evaporative cooling. As food reaches the selected endpoint, its temperature stops rising. For that reason, food can remain in a CVap oven for extended periods without overcooking.

Relative Humidity is Bull$h*t

Some manufacturers throw the term “relative humidity” around. They claim better control over food quality via relative humidity. However, when it comes to food, relative humidity is BS.

Relative humidity is simply a measurement of how much moisture air can hold before becoming saturated. But it changes, depending on the temperature.

“Controlling” Relative Humidity?

“Controlling” relative humidity is a bit of a misnomer. Relative humidity can be the same percentage at a wide range of temperatures. You can have an RH of 50% with a dry-bulb temp of 62°F or 86°F or 150°F (and so on), depending on the wet-bulb temperature. Consequently, relative humidity’s effect on food temperature and quality is indirect, at best.

CVap is Different

That’s why CVap technology is so different. The other guys attempt to affect food by manipulating the oven’s air. But they have it backward. Only CVap directly controls vapor temperature, which dictates food temperature.  

After all, do you want to heat air, or do you want to heat food?

CVap® – Volume Cooking in a Smaller Footprint

s smaller footprint works in any kitchen

Near the conclusion of Disney’s 1992 classic Aladdin, the genie (voiced by the late, great Robin Williams) sums up the jinn condition by saying, Phenomenal cosmic powers … Itty bitty living space! One could paraphrase that quote to describe CVap® ovens: Phenomenal cooking power…itty bitty floor space! (Yeah, we know it’s a stretch, but bear with us.) CVap offers versatility and precision in a smaller footprint.

It’s no secret that space is at a premium in commercial kitchens. Clearly, the challenge is to provide the necessary equipment for the staff to do their job while maintaining the kitchen’s efficient flow. Critically, if your equipment requires a vent hood, that puts additional limits on placement and adds significant investment costs to the kitchen. To operate at peak efficiency, you need to be able to accomplish multiple processes with a single piece of equipment. Bonus points if it doesn’t need a hood. Ultimately, you need to cram as much power and versatility as possible into a smaller footprint.

s smaller footprint works in any kitchen

CVap Ovens Are The Solution

CVap ovens are a perfect solution and add a major punch to a wide variety of cooking applications. Certainly, CVap Cook and Hold Ovens, and Retherm Ovens are flexible enough to handle a wide range of cooking processes, including cooking, steaming, baking, retherming, holding, sous vide, and more in a single smaller footprint.

Available in a range of sizes, CVap ovens require approximately four to six square feet of floor space. Certainly, within that small space, CVap ovens provide capacities ranging from four to fourteen sheet pans. Indeed, the enormous cooking capacity is a game-changer. For example, if your operation does sous vide cooking, you’d need an unwieldy number of immersion circulators to match the ability of a single CVap oven. Because CVap uses controlled vapor as a cooking medium, it enables you to reach sous vide precision and consistency, with or without bags. Eliminating bags saves on the cost of bags and labor, not to mention the expense of the HACCP plan often required for bagged cooking.

foodservice products

Save Labor and Space

After a cooking cycle completes, CVap ovens have the option to transition to a hold mode automatically. Consequently, this frees staff from having to move food from the oven to a separate holding cabinet. Certainly, CVap keeps food hot and just-cooked fresh for an extended period, without overcooking.

Unlike some competitors, CVap ovens don’t require vent hoods* and don’t need to be plumbed to drains. Indeed, this gives you the flexibility to put them anywhere there is sufficient space and electrical power.

Put all that power and versatility in minimal space. It isn’t magic. It’s CVap.

*See EPA Ventless Approval and check your local requirements.

Enhance Your C-Store Food Menu with CVap® Equipment

Enjoying a C-store burrito

Shifting demographics are a catalyst for changes in convenient stores (C-Stores). It’s no secret that C-Stores make little profit on gasoline sales. In fact, this is the case even when gas prices spike. Naturally, operators need customers to come into the store to increase profits. Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to increase in-store traffic is by expanding your store’s food offerings. This trend accelerated during the pandemic. Even customers who avoided traditional restaurants during the pandemic likely visited C-Stores. Certainly, offering a wider menu can dramatically increase traffic and profits for your store.

Clearly, a terrific way to up your food game is by investing in better equipment. C-store space is limited. It’s critical that equipment be capable of a multitude of processes. Undoubtedly, the solution is Winston’s CVap equipment. CVap equipment streamlines your kitchen by eliminating unnecessary appliances. Indeed, CVap will help your C-store thrive.

Sizes to Fit Every Need

Granted, space is limited in many C-Stores. Fortunately, there’s a CVap model to fit any space. Need an under-counter oven? There’s a retherm oven and a cook and hold oven that fit the bill. There’s even a cook and hold oven model small enough to place directly on the countertop. Need holding equipment? CVap Holding Cabinets run the size gamut. Notably, CVap Hold and Serve Drawers are specifically designed for small spaces. 

C-stores are increasing their food menus

Versatility

Without doubt, you need multi-tasking equipment to make the most of limited space. In fact, CVap ovens can bake, steam, retherm, sous vide, hold, and more. CVap ovens automatically transition to a hold mode. Consequently, there’s no need to immediately remove food at the end of the cook cycle. It is true, food stays hot and just-cooked fresh until you’re ready to serve.

Enjoying a C-store burrito

Preset Programming

In fact, CVap equipment comes pre-programmed with eight popular settings. In addition, each channel can be customized to meet your exact menu. Clearly, no matter what grab-and-go food you offer, CVap is perfect for it. Moreover, you can lock the controls to prevent inadvertent settings changes. CVap produces perfect, consistent food, time after time.

No Vent Hood Needed

Indeed, CVap ovens don’t require a vent hood. In fact, Independent testing proved it (check local requirements). Consequently, this eliminates the need to utilize an expensive dedicated venting system. In addition, CVap equipment doesn’t need to be plumbed to a drain. In fact, you can place it anywhere with sufficient space and power.

Bathless Baking: Spotted Dick in a CVap®

It may be a surprise to some but bathless baking is possible in CVap®. We recently proved this cooking process on perhaps the most snicker-inducing food in the English-speaking world, Spotted Dick.

The etymology of this curiously named dessert is a bit hazy. It stems from the Victorian Era. There are theories that the name of this steamed pudding refers to its similarity in appearance to a spotted dog (spotted = raisins or currants, dick = dog (or perhaps, dough). Whatever the origin, the name continues to amuse those who have failed to achieve a sufficient level of maturity. Probably to reduce bawdy jokes, one local council in the U.K. has renamed the dish “Spotted Richard.”

Unlike the puddings that most Americans are familiar with, the spotted dick is spongey and only slightly sweet. Most of its sweetness is from the raisins, currants, or other fruits it contains.

Behold our grand experiment in British baking. Traditionally it’s prepared by steaming on the stovetop. We wanted to test it with CVap bathless baking, a safer process that still delivers fantastic results. You can find the base recipe on Tastemade.com. We tweaked the ingredients a little, and of course, for gentle steaming in a CVap oven.

bathless baking

Ingredients

  • 150 grams of Dried Fruit (Traditionally, you would use currants, but we used a blend of cranberry, blueberry, apricot, and golden raisins.)
  • 250 ml of Water
  • 250 grams Self-Rising Whole Wheat Flour (If you cannot find it at your retailer, you can “fudge” it quite easily; see below for ratios.)
  • 80 grams Sugar
  • 1/8 Tsp Salt
  • 100 grams of Shredded Butter (Pop a stick in the freezer for more effortless shredding.)
  • Zest of One Lemon
  • 280 ml Whole Milk

How to Make a Self-Rising Whole Wheat Flour

  • 2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 Tbs Baking Powder
  • ½ Tsp Salt

             Blend well before using.

The Bathless Baking Process

bathless baking
  1. Preheat RTV/CHV-05 ovens to 200°F Vapor/200°F Air.
  2. Weigh out all the ingredients according to the recipe amounts.
  3. Place the dried fruit into an oven-safe container, cover with water, and place into the preheated oven to rehydrate for about 10-15 (or until the fruits look nice and plump).
  4. Remove from oven, drain, and set aside to cool.
  5. While fruit is rehydrating, place butter into the freezer to firm before grating. Use the largest grain size on the box grater.
  6. The original recipe calls for suet. Suet is the raw, hard fat of beef, lamb, or mutton, for those unfamiliar. It often has a little flour added to it as well. The recipe said that butter is a perfectly suitable substitute for equal replacement. As suet is hard to come by in Kentucky, we opted for butter.
  7. Mix the dry ingredients and add grated butter, fruits, and milk until combined.
  8. Transfer mix to pre-sprayed pans (we used ramekins and silicone mini-bundt pans).
  9. Cook time will be dependent on the size of pans used:
    1. Silicone Mini-Bunt Pans – approximately 30 minutes
    2. Ramekins – closer to an hour
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan.

As mentioned before, spotted dick isn’t particularly sweet. To make it more of a proper dessert, they traditionally serve it with crème anglaise, a.k.a., English cream (or English vanilla custard).

bathless baking spotted dick

Bathless Baking Results

Preparing this dish the traditional way – steaming on the stovetop with extra bits and bobs- is inefficient and dangerous. Preparing it traditionally in a foodservice kitchen is particularly challenging. Creating this in a CVap oven is an excellent (and safer) way to bake this dish. Save yourself the time and trouble with CVap bathless baking.

All snickering aside, we thoroughly enjoyed our spotted dick. We made sure to accompany it with proper English tea, sipped with pinkies raised.

BATHLESS BAKING

Cooking Vegetarian in CVap®

cooking vegetarian
cooking vegetarian

Cooking vegetarian cuisine in restaurants and commercial kitchens is now a thing. There are many reasons behind this growing trend. For some folks, it’s a desire to eat healthier. Others may take up vegetarianism out of a desire to avoid harming animals. Undoubtedly, sustainability factors into some people’s decision to be vegetarians. Plant-based foods certainly have far less impact on climate change.

Although CVap is well-known in culinary circles as being excellent for cooking proteins, we wanted to test it by cooking some vegetarian dishes with a carnivorous slant. It’s worth noting that while these are solidly vegetarian, they aren’t vegan. The cauliflower recipe includes butter, a vegan no-no. Nonetheless, they were a tasty, guilt-free treat for our resident vegetarians and carnivores.

cooking vegetarian

Roasted Buffalo Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Frank’s Red Hot (or hot sauce of preference)
  • ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Tbs Butter
  • 2 Heads of Cauliflower (cleaned and cut into large bite-sized florets)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

The Process

  • Preheat RTV/CHV-05 ovens to 200°F/350°F.
  • Place butter, hot sauce, and extra virgin olive oil in an oven-safe pan and into the CVap to melt butter and heat through
  • Toss florets with the sauce and place them onto a lined baking sheet, single-layer, with space.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes (RTV) – 40 min (CHV), or until reaching the desired texture.
  • Remove from oven, then sprinkle tops of buffalo cauliflower with freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake for another two to three minutes.
cooking vegetarian

Serve with your favorite sauce (we used ranch), or enjoy as-is!

The base recipe came from allrecipes.com, but we adjusted it to suit our preferences, so technically, it’s our recipe now 😊

cooking vegetarian

CARROT BACON

This recipe is inspired by Tabitha Brown’s Carrot Bacon recipe. We’ll be the first to admit that good old-fashioned bacon is damn near the perfect food. But if you’re looking for a healthier substitute for bacon, this vegan bacon/jerky recipe fits the bill...

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp Liquid Smoke
  • ¼ Cup Agave
  • ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Granulated Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Granulated Onion
  • ¼ Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 6-7 Large Carrots (peeled)

The Process

Preheat RTV/CHV-05 ovens to:

  1. Cook Time – will be dependent on the size of carrot slices and expectations of “doneness.”
  2. Vapor OFF and Water Removed Air 300°F
  • Prepare the “curing spice” for the carrot bacon by mixing everything in a bowl and setting it aside.
  • Clean and peel carrots. Use a peeler, a Japanese mandolin, or a comparable slicer to make the carrot strips. The longer the pieces, the more it will look like “bacon.”
  • Toss strips with curing spices, cover, and allow to marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Transfer strips to a perforated sheet pan, single layer.
  • Bake in CVap oven until reaching the desired texture.

Remove the carrot bacon from the perforated pan immediately. Otherwise, it will stick to the pan as it cools.

cooking vegetarian

Note: We noticed that the strips get crisper as they cool.

Full disclosure – the original recipe was written for preparation in an air fryer. But we discovered that cooking in a CVap oven increased the volume output! We also realized that this spice blend is similar in flavor profile to Grippo’s Bar-B-Q Potato Chips! Happy accident!

All in all, our vegetarian cooking day was an interesting and
tasty success.

Guinness Brown Bread in CVap®

Guinness Brown Bread
Guinness Brown Bread

In a recent Winston blog, we prepared a full Irish breakfast. One of the key ingredients of that breakfast was Guinness Brown Bread. We thought this wonderful, dark bread deserved an entry of its own. We based it on a lovely recipe found on Good Food Ireland’s website.

This recipe takes a few liberties with the traditional Irish soda bread. One might think of brown bread as soda bread’s denser cousin. The original soda bread had just four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. That basic recipe stems from the 1830s when much of Ireland was facing a serious famine. For many poor families, there would have been meals that consisted of only this bread. It kept them alive.

Soda bread also had the advantage of not requiring an oven to bake. It could be cooked in iron pots, or even directly on a stone over the fire. Yeast would have been hard to come but, not to mention expensive. Rather than using yeast for leavening, soda bread uses the chemical reaction between the baking soda and the acid in the buttermilk to leaven the dough. This works well with the soft wheat grown in Ireland.

Brown Bread vs Soda Bread

Guinness Brown Bread shares the same roots as soda bread. The key difference is the flour used. Irish soda bread is slightly sweet, (think scones). It uses white flour, which gives it a milder flavor. It’s a perfect snack or accompaniment to a hot cup of tea or coffee. On the other hand, brown bread has a nutty flavor that comes from the combination of Irish wholemeal flour and oats. It should be sliced think, and enjoyed with a schmear of Irish butter.

As is the case with any standard recipe, the standard baking settings needed a bit of modification for the CVap® ovens. We also needed to tweak the ingredients just a bit, since some ingredients aren’t easy to come by here in the U.S.

Ingredients (for one loaf)

  • 600g Wholemeal Flour (we substituted Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 150g Plain Flour (we substituted All-Purpose Flour)
  • 75g Oatmeal
  • 2 and 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2-1/2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 40g Butter
  • 480ml Whole Milk
  • 200ml Black Treacle (we substituted Molasses)
  • ½ Pint Guinness® Draught Stout
Guinness Brown Bread
Guinness Brown Bread

The Process

Mix butter with the dry ingredients until the dough develops the consistency of breadcrumbs.

Add the milk, molasses, and the Guinness draught.

Mix until you reach a wet dough.

The Settings

Preheat CHV/RTV-05 oven

  • Vapor Cook– 200°F
  • Air Cook– 350°F
  • Cook Time – 1 Hour

Portion the dough into standard greased loaf pans. Garnish with a few oats.

Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes, or until done.

To speed the bake time, we portioned our dough into mini loaves. This shortened the bake time to about 25 minutes. We also prepared a batch of muffins, which only took about 20 minutes to cook thoroughly. To make this a perfect addition to the meal, we served the warm bread with Kerrygold Irish Butter.

The Extras

In case you’re curious, there is a difference between Irish butter and the butter we’re used to here in the U.S. It turns out, Irish cows live a pretty good life. They feed exclusively on the lush green grass of the Emerald Isle. As a result, the butter they produce is higher in nutrients like beta carotene and is a little higher in fat content. Although the fat is only slightly higher, it is a difference you can taste. In addition, that fat keeps the Irish butter-soft, so it’s much easier to spread without tearing the bread. We highly recommend that you splurge on Irish butter. It will make this dark bread that much more delicious.

Of course, the Guinness draught speaks for itself. It’s a wonderful, dark, creamy stout. We highly recommend it.

Guinness Brown Bread

King Cake is a Mardi Gras Tradition

king cake

Like so many of our favorite culinary treats, King Cakes hail from New Orleans. The tradition came with French immigrants. King Cakes first appeared in the Big Easy in the late 19th century.

The name “King Cake” refers to the Magi, the three kings of the Nativity story. As such the cakes usually enter the scene on Epiphany (January 6), the day on the Christian calendar when the Magi were introduced to the Christ child. Consequently, the cakes are enjoyed through Carnival, up until Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday.

Traditionally, a small baby figure is baked into the cake to signify the baby Jesus (although in our cake, we used a pink candy ball). The colors of the cake – purple, green, and gold, are quite symbolic. Purple signifies justice. Green symbolizes faith. Gold indicates power.

King Cakes are a staple of Mardi Gras parties. The lucky person who finds the baby Jesus in their slice becomes the king of the party and is obliged to purchase the cake for the next celebration.

With Lent approaching, we wanted to celebrate the season by showcasing the excellent baking capabilities of CVap ovens.

King Cake Settings:

  • Proof Program:  RTV705: Vapor 100°F/Air 103°F
  • Bake Program:  RTV705: Vapor 200°F/Air 350°F
king cake sliced

King Cake – The Process:

Although making the cake from scratch is completely fine, we took a shortcut and used a prepared white dough from Rich’s Products. They are individually quick frozen. However, we slacked them rapidly in the RTV with the Proof program.

  1. First, roll the dough roughly into a rectangular shape and slather with butter. Next, sprinkle with copious amounts of cinnamon sugar. Finally, stud with Amaretto plumped craisins and chopped pecans.
  2. Roll up the rectangle along the long side, pressing and pinching the seam to create a more seamless roll., If you’re going for a fully-traditional King Cake, don’t forget to add the baby Jesus (or trinket, or bean, or almond, or whatever suits you) before you completely seal it up. Critically, make sure that your guests are aware of the presence of this surprise inside the cake. You don’t want someone choking or chipping a tooth on an unexpected baby.
  3. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and shape into the traditional round ring, pinching the two ends together.
  4. Proof until doubled in size.
  5. Bake until internal temperature reaches a minimum of 185-190°F. We pulled ours out at 200°F. This took about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Allow cooling BEFORE decorating. Otherwise, the icing will melt off.
  7. Pour royal icing onto the cooled King Cake (if you need a quick refresher on icing, you’ll find an easy recipe in this blog).
  8. Sprinkle with colored sugars: purple, gold, and green.

The results were beautiful cakes worthy of the Carnival season. It was fit for a king! Joyeux mardi gras, y’all!

king cake

2-Top Turn & Burn Dinner for Two

dinner for two

Ah, Date Night. It’s a staple of romantic relationships. Like so much in our lives, the pandemic derailed it. But it finally looks like things may be getting back way they were before the virus. This means you’ll likely be seeing an uptick in the number of couples who want to get out of the house and have a good, old-fashioned evening out. Dinner for two has never been more important.

My goal for this presentation was to demonstrate how easy it is to prepare an impressive multi-course dinner for two, keeping the execution almost entirely with CVap. I also utilized an induction burner and a chargrill to assist with prep and finishing.

The inspiration for this comes from my days as a sous chef at Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Kentucky. This great restaurant is run by Executive Chef and owner Ouita Michel. During high-demand times of the year (such as Valentine’s Day), the Inn would be transformed into five rooms of “2-tops,” which is restaurant lingo for a table set dinner for two.

dinner for two

Virtually every fine dining establishment is packed with 2-tops that triple or even quadruple the amount of turns in a dining room for big holidays. The trick is to accommodate as many people as possible, without killing the kitchen. Having a set menu is key. It requires a kickass support team, kickass equipment, and some finely researched and executed techniques in the toolbox to pull it off! Dinner for two, multiplied!

Dinner for Two – The Menu

  • Soup – Tomato Basil Bisque, Buttered Croutons, and a Parmesan Tuille
  • Table Bread – Sourdough with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
  • Salad – Baby Kale, Lemon Tahini Vinaigrette, Roasted Beets, and Butternut squash, Toasted Pepitas and Sesame Seeds, Crumbled Goat Cheese
  • Intermezzo – Cherry-Berry Sorbet
  • Main – Sliced Tenderloin, Butter Poached Lobster Tail, haricot verts, and Hasselback Potato Gratin
  • Dessert – Chocolate Souffle
soup for dinner for two
baby kale salad for dinner for two
sorbet for dinner for two
dinner for two main course

The CVap® Programs:

RTV705UV: Cook Time Infinite/Vapor 200°F/Air 350°F

  • Roasted Tomatoes
  • Parmesan Tuille
  • Toasted Buttered Croutons
  • Diced Butternut Squash, Roasted
  • Whole Beets, Roasted
  • Toasted and Seasoned Pumpkin & Sunflower Seeds
  • Potato Gratin
  • Chocolate Souffle

RTV705: Cook Time Infinite/Vapor 200°F/Air 200°F

  • Blanched Green Beans

CHV705: Cook Time 1 Hour/Vapor 136°F /Air Sous Vide/ — Hold Time Infinite/Vapor 136°F /Air Sous Vide

  • Butter Poached Lobster Tails

CVH705: Cook Time Three (3) Hours/Vapor 130°F /Air Sous Vide/ — Hold Time Infinite/Vapor 130°F /Air Sous Vide

  • Whole, trussed, seasoned, and seared Beef Tenderloin

Drawer Holding: 140/+0

  • Tomato Basil Bisque
  • Green Beans
  • Beef Sauce

Drawer Holding: 140/+30

  • Potato Gratin

Dinner for Two – The Process

My intent with this write-up is not to share “recipes” per se. Instead, I think that the process is valuable, understanding how many different items can come together, quickly, using CVap. AND, I am not talking about 1-component dishes either. I am talking about complex, multi-ingredient, dishes with different components, textures, etc.

The main test kitchen here at the Winston factory has a full range of CVap equipment. It is always my goal, as the corporate chef, to ideate ways to execute dishes using as much CVap equipment as possible. In turn, this can be extremely valuable to you, the CVap end user. To be sure, maximizing CVap usage makes dinner for two easy. Hopefully, you can take away a few ideas here and run with them.

Soup Prep:

  1. Chargrill half of your tomatoes. Remove skins and place halves into a hotel pan.
  2. Vapor blanche the scored tomatoes. Remove skins and place them into the same hotel pan.
  3. Add large diced sweet onions in proportion to 1:10 onion to tomatoes.
  4. Next, add fresh thyme.
  5. Add a good drizzle of EVO, salt, and pepper.
  6. Roast uncovered in the 200/350°F RTV for about an hour to 90 minutes, or until the components are stewed-like and have reduced a bit.
  7. Remove pan from oven. Remove any thyme stems.
  8. Carefully transfer the mix to a blender/processor.
  9. Process (in batches).
  10. Add to taste: fresh basil, salt, and heavy cream.
  11. Transfer finished soup to 6” third pan and place into a CVap Holding Drawer set to 140/+0.

Soup Garnishes:

Parmesan Tuille –

  1. Place about 1T shredded parmesan cheese onto a silk pan/parchment-lined hotel pan.
  2. Bake in the RTV705 set to 200/350°F for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden around the edges.
  3. Allow to cool before removing from pan.

Buttered Croutons –

  1. Dice sourdough (or any bread of choice).
  2. Toss with melted butter, salt, and pepper.
  3. Place onto a lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake in the RTV705 set to 200/350°F for about 8 – 10 minutes or until desired.

Salad Prep:

Fresh Beets

  1. Remove tops and tails from beets.
  2. Roast in RTV705 at 200/350°F until tender – time will depend on the size of beet and desired tenderness.
  3. Allow slight cooling before removing skin and dicing as desired.
  4. Marinate with EVO, lemon, salt, and pepper.

Butternut Squash

  1. Peel, deseed, and dice the butternut squash.
  2. Toss with EVO, salt, and pepper.
  3. Bake in the RTV705 set to 200/350°F until tender and edges are browned – – time will depend on the size of cut and desire of tenderness.

Toasted Pepitas & Sesame Seeds

  1. Toss an equal amount of each seed together with EVO and choice of dry seasoning.
  2. Bake in the RTV705 set to 200/350°F for about 5 – 15 minutes or until the seeds are fragrant and slightly browned, as desired.

Intermezzo

Intermezzo is a European tradition. This palate cleanser is intended to allow the diner to savor the meal. As is the custom, we chose a sorbet.

Sorbet

  • Frozen Strawberries
  • Frozen Cherries
  • Apple Juice
  • Lemon Zest

Preparation is simple. Add ingredients to blender and puree. Serve immediately, or freeze for later use.

Main Prep:

Tenderloin
  1. Trim and truss whole tenderloin.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Pre-sear on chargrill for flavor and appearance.
  4. Sous Vide in the CVH705: Cook Time 3 Hours/Vapor 130°F /Air Sous Vide/ Hold Time Infinite/Vapor 130°F /Air Sous Vide.
Beef Sauce
  • Prep as desired – I’m not going to tell you how to make a beef sauce, but I will say that it will hold like a champ in a Winston CVap Drawer @ 140/+0.
Lobster Tails
  1. Remove lobster tails from their shell and transfer to a sous vide-type bag.
  2. Add butter and choice of aromatics. We used a lemon-herb compound butter.
  3. Sous vide in the CVH705: Cook Time 1 Hour/Vapor 136°F /Air Sous Vide/ Hold Time Infinite/Vapor 136°F /Air Sous Vide.
Haricot Verts (Green Beans) Prep:
  1. Vapor blanche green beans in the RTV705: Cook Time Infinite/Vapor 200°F/Air 200°F – time will depend on the size of the product and desired tenderness.
  2. Remove from oven and shock in cold water.
  3. Finished on the induction burner with EVO, shallots, roasted red pepper, salt, and pepper – just before serving out.
  4. Hot hold in drawer: 140/+0 (with the soup and beef sauce).
Potato Gratin Prep:
  1. Serious Eats website inspired this dish – https://www.seriouseats.com/hasselback-potato-gratin-casserole-holiday-food-lab
  2. Bake in the RTV705 set to 200/350F for about 1 hour or until the potatoes are tender.
  3. Transfer to a CVap Drawer set to 140/+30 for hot holding.

Dessert

Chocolate Souffle

  • Bake any souffle recipe of choice using setting 200°F/350°F.
  • **Timing for souffle is tricky. Ours took about 15 – 20 minutes to bake thoroughly. While it did deflate a bit within a few minutes of being removed from the oven, it kept its shape relatively well. I would say that these probably need to be “fired” once the main courses are expedited to the table.

Two-Top Turn & Burn

This is where the CVap advantage really comes into play. By staging these foods ahead of time, you can serve this gourmet multi-course dinner for two relatively quickly, maximizing the amount of table turns in your operation.

Estimated Timing of Plating to Serve a Two-Top:

  • Soup – Should take less than a minute to cleanly ladle and garnish.
  • Salad – Under two minutes to toss greens with dressing and top with beets, squash, seeds, and crumbled goat cheese.
  • *Drop bread and roasted pepper pesto on the table with salad.
  • Intermezzo – Less than a minute to scoop and garnish.
  • Main – You’re looking at about three minutes to plate gratin (holding), green beans (holding), slice tenderloin, slice lobster, sauce and garnish plate.
  • *Fire souffles once main dishes are completed.
  • Souffle – Plating and garnish in less than 30 seconds.
dinner for two main course

Overall, this multi-course dinner for two is simple and easy to serve for the BOH (Back of the House). It’s equally impressive for the dining couple – a win-win. Date night is back. And it’s a win for your operation.

chef samantha brown

About the Author

Chef Samantha Brown is Winston’s Corporate Research Chef. An industry veteran, she has nearly two decades of foodservice and food product R&D experience.