Over Easy is a weekly food column by a 20-something woman who can barely cook an egg and just wants to learn how to throw together an elegant three-course meal for her friends.
“Is that an Easy Bake Oven?” the woman asks me.
We are sitting next to each other on the 2 train, the entire right side of her body smushed up against the entire left side of my body, like two sweaty marshmallow Peeps. I look down at the large box in my lap, which has “EASY BAKE OVEN” emblazoned on the side and is covered in pictures of children eating tiny cookies fresh from a tiny oven that says “EASY BAKE OVEN” on it. I tell her that yes, it is an Easy Bake Oven.
“What a great gift! Those girls look a little old to be playing with an Easy Bake Oven though, don’t they?” she says, pointing at the group of preteens on the top of the box. I laugh and agree with her because I don’t want to admit that (1) the oven is not a gift, and (2) it is I, a 26-year-old woman, who will be playing with it.
Growing up, I never yearned for an Easy Bake Oven. Cooking always seemed like a chore to me — it involved measuring and time management, and also it had nothing to do my favorite childhood activity, devising elaborate and murderous love triangles for my Barbies. And I would not be tricked into abandoning my duplicitous dolls for chores by fun ads and colorful packaging.
But recently, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, a colleague of mine was sent an Easy Bake Oven. When she suggested I use it for my column, I tried to think of something fancy I could feasibly make in an Easy Bake Oven, something slightly more elevated and involved than brownies. I settled on quiche.
For my experiment, I decided to try the Quiche With Herbs and Goat Cheese from David Tanis at the New York Times. It seemed simple enough, and I love both herbs and goat cheese. I decided to make a regular-size quiche as well, because I needed lunch for the week, and it’s hard to find tiny Easy Bake portions of most ingredients.
The first step was to prepare the dough, which is a pastry crust. To make it, I mixed a cup of flour, a stick of butter, some salt, and three tablespoons of ice water in a food processor, pulled the mixture out, and wrapped it in plastic before it had to rest in the fridge overnight.
Unable to do anything else for my quiche that night, I used the rest of the evening to practice with the Easy Bake Oven. With the help of the accompanying illustrated, step-by-step instructions, I made the batch of Mini Sparkle Cakes that come with the oven — little packets of dehydrated cookie and icing mix to which you just add a little bit of water. It was a very messy process that took place on my bedroom floor, and made my dog, who watched warily from the top of my bed, very uncomfortable. I learned that, to probably no one’s surprise, the Easy Bake Oven doesn’t cook evenly, and when my teensy desserts came out, the ones at the front end of the small tray were essentially raw, while the ones at the back were burnt into little hockey pucks. They still tasted good, though, and I concluded that perhaps more recipes should have step-by-step illustrations and be written for 8-year-olds.
The next day, it was time to make the quiche. I pulled the dough out of the fridge and, per Tanis’s recipe, let it warm to “cool room temperature” before rolling it out. The day before, the dough had been a gluey mess, and I thought maybe the overnight chilling would have made it more manageable. It did not.
When I tried to roll it out into a 13-inch round, the dough revolted. Some of it tore apart, some of it clung obstinately to the table I was rolling it out on, none of it complied with me. After struggling with it for 20 minutes, I finally gave up and gathered the dough into a ball that I plopped into a cake pan and unceremoniously mashed it into a crust shape. With a small pile of dough I had set aside, I repeated the process in the small Easy Bake tray. Things were off to a rough start.
Note: The recipe called for a “fluted tart pan with a removable bottom,” which I had to look up on Google images before I was like, “Oh yeah, that!” There weren’t any fluted tart pans with removable bottoms at any of the stores near my house, but I did find a cake pan with a picture of a quiche on it.
Tanis’s recipe says the crust has to be pre-cooked for 15 to 20 minutes. Though a regular quiche crust is much larger than an Easy Bake quiche crust, the quiche crust would be baking in a miniature oven, so I decided to bake them both for the same amount of time.
To have enough filling for both my real quiche and my Easy Bake quiche, I increased the quantities in the recipe by a third. An Easy Bake tray is not a third of the size of a cake pan, but the original recipe called for three eggs and I didn’t want to get into splitting an egg up into fractions, so I just cracked four eggs in a mixing bowl and increased the amount of half-and-half, scallions, parsley, and thyme that I poured in by a third as well. It forced me to do some basic math, which I hated.
By the time my custard mix was done, my crusts were ready. The Easy Bake crust didn’t look bad, but the regular pastry crust had constricted like a Speedo-clad penis suddenly exposed to the icy, rough waters of the north Atlantic. It was less a crust and more a limp disk of dough at the bottom of the pan.
Maybe it’ll be fine, I thought. Instead of having a nice crust around the outside, there’ll just be crust on the bottom. So I plowed forward with the recipe, spreading goat cheese slices over the bottom of both the Easy Bake tray and the regular pan, covering them with the custard mix, and letting them cook for just over 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, I took the Easy Bake quiche out to flip it around, and was pleasantly surprised to see that, while half of it was still raw, half of it was completely cooked. Fifteen minutes after that, I took both of the quiches out, and found that they both looked pretty good!
The eggs on the Easy Bake quiche were cooked all the way through, and the goat cheese was soft and melty. The herbs had for some reason congregated to one half of the tray, but that’s their choice, I guess. The regular quiche also looked surprisingly edible and appetizing despite my initial dough struggles.
I cut into the Easy Bake quiche first, and it tasted pretty good, for an Easy Bake quiche. The cheese was warm and gooey, and even though the dough was soggy on one side, on the other side it was actually kind of flaky. It was also the perfect snack portion if you’re ever feeling like, “Wow, I need a snack and I’m craving quiche but it’s 10:30 a.m.” Voila, Easy Bake Quiche! I really kind of loved it.
Next, I tried the regular quiche. The flavors were good, but it was completely soft. I thought maybe the crust had just gotten soggy, but when I looked at it, I saw that the custard had gotten under the crust and floated it up into the middle, so instead of a quiche with a firm, crispy crust on the outside, it was a frittata with a soggy crust on the inside. “Ew,” I thought, and finished my whole slice.
Would I recommend making all of your savory snacks in an Easy Bake Oven? No. But if you happen to have one lying around, maybe try and get creative with it. I would recommend a nice little quiche.
My report card
Mastery of the Easy Bake: A-
My Overall Performance: B