Oven in our apartment

Baking in Costa Rica

Ovens are not very prevalent in Costa Rica which makes baking a bit of a challenge.   Cooking is done on stove tops.  They have cook tops, small refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, and blenders.  We looked at several apartments and shied away from them because they had no ovens and I love to bake.  I had lofty goals of baking for our boat workers each week.

All of the apartments at Manuel Antonio Estates have ovens, but they are all a little different.  When I asked the two lovely ladies who keep the apartments ship shape how to work the oven, they smiled and said that they don’t bake.  They don’t have ovens in their homes.  So, why did I need help with the oven, let me explain.

Back in America – most ovens have gauges that have temperatures starting around 200 and going up to 550 in increments of 25 degrees.  So, if you need your oven at 325 you have a pretty good idea where to set the gauge.  And unlike the rest of the world, everything in the States is in Fahrenheit.

Here, like other parts of the world, everything uses the metric system and reads in Celsius.  Conversion is easy enough to figure out with google.  But, then you need to figure out how to read the actual settings.

The first apartment we stayed in had 5 settings for the oven.  Minimum, 175-200, 200-225, 225-250, and Maximum.  It is a wide range when you are trying to figure out 182 Celsius.

Our current apartment is a complete mystery.  It has 1, 2, 3, 4 and then a bunch of dots….

Image: Top is American Gauge, middle is one gauge here in CR and the bottom left is my current gauge.

Cooking in Costa Rica

Cooking in Costa Rica

Luckily, I had an oven temperature gauge from the boat and was able to get the oven within 25 degrees of my desired temperature.  What a funny experience.  Took nearly all day to bake banana muffins and my mini raspberry cheesecakes (click for the recipe).

Mini CheeseCakes

Mini Cheesecakes

I think I finally got into the baking groove after a few burnt and under cooked batches…luckily you all won’t be subject to eating these baked goods.  That was really hard to admit as those who know me know I am an excellent baker.  Maybe not a great cook, but certainly a great baker.

With our good friend Wayne coming, sugar cookies were a must.  Managed to bake several dozen without incident.  They just came out small and fat rather than larger and flat.  Tasted ok, but not my best.

Sugar Cookies For Wayne

Sugar Cookies For Wayne

Everything is just a wee bit smaller than back in the States.  The fridge will not accommodate a standard pizza box, but it does manage to keep things cold and make ice!  Dad modeling our Frigidare.

My dad posing by the fridge - which won't fit a pizza box

My dad posing by the fridge – which won’t fit a pizza box

May be small, but it works…

Oven in our apartment

Oven in our apartment

Our visitors also find it “unusual” or “weird” that when using the bathroom they have to put the toilet paper in the trash can and not the toilet.  All of Costa Rica is on the septic system.  So, restaurants, hotels, public and private bathrooms are like that.  Not a problem for us as we follow the same process on the boat, but our fellow Americans tend to have a hard time.

I will spare you the photo of the trash can 🙂  I wonder how many people will read all this way down on the blog.  If you did, send me a funny comment.

5 thoughts on “Baking in Costa Rica

  1. Cindy

    Old fashion oven thermometers work everywhere! If I was there, I would be your taste tester as all your baking is terrific!

  2. Christine Post author

    Trust me when I say that you would not want to taste the first batches! They were a bit of a disaster, but funny with burnt bottoms and mushy tops….

  3. Brad G

    My dads farm is septic as well. City folk do not
    Get it. Still a far cry from digging a cat hole and
    Burying all waste like when backpacking.

  4. Caroline

    Hi Christine,
    I am about to move to Costa Rica and love baking! I stumbled on your blog when googling what to expect. Are there any items you have had trouble finding that you would recommend bringing? I have a few silicone pans, my lightweight mixer, etc. but I got rid of a lot of our heavier/metal items for the move. I plan on getting an oven thermometer after reading about your experience as well as brushing up on my dutch oven baking for a stove top. Anything else you would recommend purchasing in America that would make baking easier in CR or is just too expensive to justify buying in country?

  5. Christine Post author

    Costa Rica is absolutely beautiful and there is lots of wildlife. Where in CR are you moving to? San Jose has all the big stores and is where most people go to do their shopping. We are in Quepos which has a limited supply of everything. Shipping into CR is time consuming and expensive as well, so bring what you can when you move or ask visitors to bring stuff when they visit. You will certainly need an oven temperature gauge and any silicon items you can bring. There is an excellent website for silicone spatulas that I’d recommend called Manu Kea (www.manukea.com/boat-galley-gear). Also, bring airtight containers as we have not seen many that are truly “airtight” like from Bed Bath & Beyond. Ovens are super small, so cookie sheets or pans need to be small to fit. The cookie sheets I use on my boat (which also has a small oven) worked in their ovens no longer than 15″ and no wider than 12″. Other than that I am not sure as the apartment where we stayed was stocked with small appliances, cutlery, kitchenware. But for the most part, everything is just smaller. I hope this helps

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