Sunday, February 10, 2013

Easy Does It


The set up. (In the board room, no less.)
There are a lot of reasons I love my job. The fact that every day I encounter a new challenge. The fact that there's never a boring moment. The fact that I can see and feel how my work makes a difference in the organization. The fact that I work with a super supportive group of people who have seen me through the best and worst of times. But most of all, I'm thankful for a boss who, after a string of really grueling weeks, will bring in her daughter's Easy Bake Oven and allow me to cook to my heart's content.

No, I'm not kidding. Yes, I have a real job.

I know you're probably wondering how Easy Bake Day at the office came about. See, there are a few of us ladies (and the office is currently made up of only ladies) whose Easy Bake Oven wish never came true as children. And those few of us still have easy baking on our "bucket lists," so to speak. Since we've been working so hard lately, and since we have the best boss on Earth, we were lucky enough to take a bit of a baking break on Friday afternoon.

Now you're probably wondering why I chose to compromise my blogging integrity (or just my general integrity) by writing about my Easy Bake escapades. Well it turns out that if we hadn't had a baking professional (me) in the office, Easy Bake Day may have been quite the blunder. So here I am to share the knowledge and experience I've gained from non-easy baking (hard baking?) applied to the infamous Easy Bake Oven.

You can always add, but you can't take away

A sticky situation.
I found this cooking adage has never been more true than when applied to Easy Bake kits ... while it's near miraculous that a combination of powder and water can produce an edible cookie, the ratio of powder to water that you find in the directions isn't always on the money.

This was first evident as we ventured down the path of pretzel sticks. It's understandably tricky to produce a viable dough from a mix, but you'd think that following the instructions carefully would yield the right results. Not so. Turns out these pretzels require about half the water the instructions call for, which we learned on the second batch after the first batch ended up mostly stuck to Laura's hands. On round two, I (took over and) started slow, adding just a teaspoon of water at a time and pressing the mixture into a dough instead of stirring it into the sticky situation we created the first time. Viola! Chewy pretzel sticks came out of the oven and were promptly dunked in the mysterious, neon orange cheese sauce (also created from powder and water).

Patience is a virtue

I tried to follow instructions, but it turns out mine are better.
Bear in mind: you're cooking with a light bulb here. You can't be surprised when the oven takes 20 minutes to heat up and your cake, albeit mini, takes two 16-minute passes to bake. You also can't be surprised at the lack of a temperature gauge and timer on the oven itself (both present in decorative sticker form on the device, but clearly inoperable!).

What's curious, though, is that the instructions claim to bake that mini cake in just 16 minutes. Well my cake (and the pretzels, and the whoopie pies, and the cookies) came out half-done, so I borrowed from a pretty standard baking rule and rotated the pan. It may not be rocket science, but you'd be surprised how many people would have given up in defeat when those goodies came out gooey. And with a little patience, the delectables were perfectly done with dual passes.

Easy does it

At this point, we've learned there are (more than) a few tricks to breaking off an edible easy bake batch. And this includes working with the accessories that come with the oven. Now, if you had an Easy Bake Oven as a child, you might be familiar with the "pusher." (I can't imagine that it's a newfangled contraption, because it's not exactly high tech.) The "pusher" serves the dual purposes of pushing things into and pulling them out of the oven. It takes on the form of a spatula, just a lot less intuitive.

Truffles! Next time I'll supply extra sprinkles.
The instructions allude to this, but you have to be very careful with the pusher to make sure your pan ends up in just the right spot in the oven so the doors on either end are completely closed. Then, when your time is up, you use your pusher again to make sure the pan ends up in just the right spot in the cooling chamber. Now, if you don't take it easy with the pusher, and you haphazardly shove everything in the oven, guess what's going to happen? You're going to get the cupcake pan stuck and you're going to have to shake the oven upside down to get it out. And in the process, you're going to panic for fear that you've just broken your boss's daughter's favorite toy and wonder if you're going to get fired. I speak from experience

You're probably wondering, after all this trial and error, how did the finished products actually taste? You know, that whole powder and water thing made me nervous. I don't even use boxed cake mixes, so I was understandably skeptical. But surprisingly enough, most of our baked goods weren't half bad! We produced some pretty tasty truffles, some scrumptious sugar cookies with lemon icing, and some marvelous mini cupcakes. They weren't exactly enough to feed a crowd, but they're just right for a taste. We'll keep that in mind next week, when we bring our teddy bears in for the afternoon tea party. J/K!

Enlarged to show detail. Just like the photos on the packaging.

1 comment:

  1. We call this team building, a boost to office morale. Looks like great fun, but I'd still rather play with the real oven.