I could fill you with stories - like how I accidentally read the wrong page while trying to bake the Christmas Rum Cake when I was home for break from college, and ended up mashing the ingredients for two different cakes (the other one was strawberry, I think), necessitating an extra trip to the grocery store on Christmas Eve. Or the time I attempted Chocolate Mousse for a supper club and wasted three cartons of eggs. My final mousse had the consistency of chalky pudding. Or the time I was cooking dinner at an evening shift at the home for people with schizophrenia in college, and ended up almost setting the kitchen on fire trying to follow one of my client's recipes for home fried potatoes. Or the time I decided to bake chocolate covered peanut butter balls with my daughter for all of the teachers at her school for Christmas, and I got the wrong kind of chocolate that wouldn't solidify unless it was refrigerated (not to mention that I forgot peanut butter wasn't allowed at the school, so me and my cold peanut butter balls were ushered frantically out of the building the next morning by a teacher's aide - you would have thought I was trying to smuggle cocaine into preschool). Luckily the temperature was in the twenties, so I enjoyed all the peanut butter balls myself as they sat happily in the front seat of my car over the next week.
When I went to pick out a birthday present for my daughter Sicily's 7th birthday last March, I thought the Easy Bake Oven was just the thing. I remembered having one when I was little, enjoying baking tiny brownies, and decided it would be perfect for me and her to do. I would create fond memories with her, baking tiny desserts that required little to no cooking ability.
It's now August, and the Easy Bake oven has sat unused in a cupboard for months. My daughter pulled it out this morning.
"Hey mom! I think I'll finish this sock puppet on another day." She pulled out her sewing kit from Ramona this morning and made a wonderful sock puppet with a lime green sock, a button eye, and hair made from the cut off fingers of an old mulberry-colored mitten. They end result was fabulous. My only assistance was threading the needle in between YouTubing barracuda attacks with my son Jack. "Can we do the Easy Bake oven?"
At first I hemmed and hawed about how we didn't really have time and it would take too much effort.
"Please mom? I don't remember who got me this, but I'm really excited to use it. You can even pick out what we make first."
I felt guilty at the months that had gone by. "I got it for you." I looked at the clock - only 9:30 a.m. Her dad wasn't coming to pick her up for lunch until 11:30. "OK. Let's figure this thing out."
Luckily, my dad set it up with the proper bulb back in March so it would be ready to use. I plugged it in, thinking the 15 minute warm up time would be too much to prepare the mixes. I was wrong. While Sicily was back in her room making her bed, I asked Jack what he wanted to make. "Chocolate chip cookies."
When Sicily returned, Jack convinced her that I decided on the chocolate chip cookies. "Come on, mom, don't you want to bake a cake?" I told her if the cookies worked out OK maybe we could do both.
I found the recipe and we poured the tiny packet of powdered mix into a bowl. I prepared butter and paper towels to grease the tiny pans and made a little plate of flour for shaping the cookies. I read 3/4 on the amount of water to add to the mix, and realized after pouring less than half of 3/4 cup of water into the mix that it was way too much. I consulted the recipe and quickly realized my mistake. 3/4 of a teaspoon, not 3/4 cup. Oops. We started from scratch with a new mix.
After Jack and Sicily each made three cookie dough balls to place in their pans, I grabbed the plastic pan holder and attempted numerous times unsuccessfully to shove the pans backwards into the oven through the cooling rack. Finally Sicily said, "Mom, maybe it goes in this way?" I told her that wasn't likely, it was probably a design flaw, and searched out the instruction booklet. She was right.
8-9 minutes later (isn't that the same time it takes for regular cookies?) we had tiny conglomerated flat cookies that looked like they weren't fit for our snake. Sicily looked crestfallen, but I assured her that looks aren't everything, and they probably tasted OK. She and Jack happily devoured their cookies, and we moved onto the cake.
Once again, the amount of water to add was negligible, but the consistency didn't seem right, so we added a little drop by drop (I felt like I was back in Chemistry class doing a pH lab titration). The frosting was similarly difficult. Sicily became angry when Jack ate all of his frosting, so instead of a two layer cake we just made a tiny cake sandwich with a chocolate frosting center and I found some tube icing and sprinkles in the cupboard to decorate the top. The entire process took about an hour longer than if we made a regular cake, and the end result was paltry. Despite liberal greasing by Jack, the cake came out of the pan piecemeal like a uterus in a laparoscopic hysterectomy. Jack took two bites and wandered off to his room to play. Sicily cut the half dollar-sized piece of her cake into three pieces - nibbled one, gave me one, and gave the other to her dad when he arrived.
While we were waiting for the second layer of cake to bake in the oven, Sicily was enjoying the last bites of her cookie flatbread and absentmindedly cleaning the flour from the table with a baby wipe (Love them! Still use them! Make-up remover to counter top cleaner!). "Mom, isn't this just wonderful? Isn't it the most fun you've ever had? Can we do it again soon?"
A better cook might me more successful than myself with the Easy Bake Oven. But as Sicily smiled up at me this morning with cake batter and cookie dough spattering her mouth and cheeks and flour dusting her nose, I had no regrets on the money I'd spent for her birthday present.