March 21, 2010

Cooking School: What's the Deal with the Easy-Bake Oven?

I have always been intrigued by this machine. I wanted one so badly growing up, but my mother was a purist and believed in the big bad oven and teaching us how to use it. She did borrow one from a friend's kid for a summer to appease my interest. I remember being so anal as to actually slice the cakes into perfect portions to give to my family. Yes, there is something so fascinating to young bakers about cooking food with a 100-watt light bulb.

Since spending time with my nieces this weekend, who just got one for Christmas, I've started wondering about it all over again. I simply need to understand how this stuff works with the simple heat of a light bulb! After much Googling, I learned that no one really can say how it works, except that it does. NPR went so far as to conduct a gourmet cooking face-off with two industry notables, Caprial Pence of PBS cooking show fame, and Oprah's chef, Art Smith. Wikipedia and About.com both chronicle the efforts of the toy companies who've owned the Easy-Bake patent over the years. None of these resources really explain how a 100-watt light bulb can bake a wild mushroom flan. But it does! I would need to consult an engineer, but my best guess would be the ratio of heat to space. If you stick a light/heat source of that magnitude into a less-than-a-cubic-foot space, it'll probably cook anything!

I'm glad the Easy-Bake Oven is still around and entertaining kids across America. Hopefully, now that gourmet chefs' recipes can be executed in them, it will encourage wee ones everywhere down the path of culinary success. I hope to have that influence myself here in the coming weeks, as I've just accepted an opportunity to teach baking and pastry arts at a local youth center for the spring term of its after-school program. I won't be Easy-Baking, that's for sure, since the goal is to teach these kids really cooking and baking with a convection oven and electric stand mixer. But I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their learning process. I am truly enjoying my change in career, and I'm looking forward to helping Chicago youth choose this avenue right out of the gate!

1 comment:

Lorna said...

This made me remember a science challenge my daughter's class did back in junior high. They had to design a 'solar' oven and cook a dish. The kids met with various levels of success, but it sure was fun seeing the shiny aluminum foil "ovens" all lined up on the sidewalk. About half the class ended up with dishes that were safely cooked and edible---all from sun power!