The recalled model of the Easy-Bake oven®, getting its temperature taken.
Come August, we’ll be launching a new line of mixes for kids. We want to introduce children to the fun of making their own baked goods from quality ingredients. Of course, during our chitchat about kids’ baking, the subject of the Easy-Bake oven came up. My mission was clear.
Halley Silver, who works on our web team, has two young daughters and an Easy-Bake oven (an older version), and she brought it in so we could experiment. The newer model at Hasbrotoyshop.com looks more like a microwave than the one pictured here.
The first thing we do when we test any new piece of equipment is take stock of all of the pieces/parts. Halley’s oven came with 2 round pans, a mixing bowl, a pusher, a retrieval device to put into the oven that’s supposed to capture the hot pan and remove it without little fingers getting burned, and our favorite piece: a multi-armed measuring spoon that looked like the culinary version of a Japanese throwing star. In pink.
I grew up with the earlier models, manufactured by Kenner. Today I learned that the EasyBake oven is the invention of one Ronald Howes, who also worked on such iconic toys as Play Doh and the Spirograph. When the EasyBake first debuted, its heat source was a single 100-watt light bulb. Since 2003, they’ve been made with a real heating element.
The first order of business was to see what temperature the oven maintained. Luckily, we have remote probe thermometers. I set one up, using the retrieval device to hold it in place, set a timer for 10 minutes, and plugged in the oven.
I know it’s hard to see here, but after 10 minutes the inside of our little machine measured 347°F. Which is pretty much dead on. The temperature cycled up and down as all ovens do, but stayed in the range of 325 to 350°F as long as it was running.
Time for the next test. I was working on some blueberry muffins, and decided to give some of the batter a spin in the EasyBake. I dutifully greased on of the two pans, filled it 3/4 full with batter, and sprinkled the top with a little sparkling sugar.
Now, since I was only baking a teeny tiny bit of batter, and I knew the oven could hold a decent temperature, I decided to try baking my muffin for 15 minutes before checking to see how it was doing. That’s when bad things started happening to this well-intentioned test kitchen person.
I used the big pink shovel device, which needs to be shoved all the way in, to surround the hot cake pan, then removed with the pan inside. There’s a lever that opens a trap door in the front of the shovel, and you open that to slide the cake pan out.
Much to my dismay, once the pink shovel was put in, it didn’t want to come out. At all. Much jiggling and body English ensued, and I finally extracted the muffin, which was half done, at best. Back in it went, with the timer set for another 3 minutes.
After all that, the top of the muffin was kind of mangled, because it had domed just enough to get scraped off by the top of the pink shovel. I returned it to the oven, thinking “there’s got to be a better way to get this out of here 3 minutes from now.” I was beginning to see why this model had been recalled.
While I waited for the 3 minutes to elapse, I speculated about how to avoid the chicken dance I’d just performed trying to extract my muffin from the oven. Monte, a new mother who was much involved in working on the kids’ mixes, said: “If we only had a little peel, like you use in a pizza oven.”
I said, “We do. It’s called a spatula.” Thus inspired, I armed myself and waited for the timer to go off again.
Easier said than done. I tried holding the trap door open with the plastic pusher, and sliding the spatula under the pan. No go. Next I tried a pair of silicone tongs that we sell in the catalogue.
Seemed like a good idea, but the silicone was just too slippery to get a grip on the little round pan. In desperation, I went for my old restaurant standby, a sturdy pair of metal tongs. They worked.
After 27 minutes, I finally had a muffin that didn’t look raw in the middle. It also had the look of a baked good that had fallen down and scraped it’s knee, but it tasted pretty good.
So here’s what I think. If you have kids, have an Easy-Bake Oven, and want to get them involved, it’s an easy thing to do. If what you’re baking can reasonably be cooked in a 350°F oven, tell the kids to fire up their toy and give them a few ounces of your batter or dough. If it’s liquid, like a cake batter, a scant quarter cup is about the right amount. There’s no reason you couldn’t put one cookie’s worth of dough in the little pan, either. I’d say give whatever you’re baking 80% of the baking time called for and then take a peek.
Trust me to find the hard way to go Easy-Bake.