December 25, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Making dessert child's play for three Portland pastry chefs

They mark the 50th anniversary of the Easy-Bake Oven by using it to cook up some confections.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

When Santa stopped by last night, chances are he found a plate of milk and cookies waiting for him.

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Kim Rodgers, pastry chef at Hugo’s in Portland, created a dessert she calls “For Santa” using an Easy-Bake Oven.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Addie Davis, executive pasty chef at 555 on Congress Street in Portland, with her gingerbread buche de Noel that she created with an Easy-Bake Oven.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Some of those cookies may have been baked in an Easy-Bake Oven. Or perhaps they were made with the hands of a child who had this iconic Christmas toy on the wish list and was hoping to find it under the tree this morning.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Easy-Bake Oven, the toy that has gotten millions of children interested in cooking, so we thought it would be fun to do something special to mark the occasion. We bought three of the ovens and gave them to pastry chefs at three of Portland’s best restaurants to see what they could create using the oven’s limited tools.

The original Easy-Bake came on the market in 1963 and looked like a real oven, complete with a pretend stovetop. It was turquoise, and sold for $15.95. Over the years the oven has evolved to suit the times. Cindy Brady would have felt right at home baking cookies for her five siblings in the avocado green Easy-Bake of the 1970s.

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, the oven had morphed into a bulky microwave with fake keypad and a defrost button.

If today’s version followed modern kitchen-design trends, it would be stainless steel with gas burners on the stovetop and might cook with convection. Instead, it looks like a toaster oven and, instead of cooking with the famous little lightbulb (Hasbro ditched that concept in 2011) it uses a small heating element similar to the kind found in a real oven. It costs $40.

Last year, after a teenager gathered more than 40,000 signatures in a petition on behalf of her little brother, who wanted one of the ovens but not in pink, Hasbro began making the ovens in gender-neutral black.

The company said the change was already in the works, and pointed out that the ovens have come in a variety of colors over the years, including green and red.

The “Ultimate” Easy-Bake Ovens we bought for our chefs were all purple, and came with one small, rectangular pan, a big purple spatula and a single package of chocolate chip cookie mix.

The chefs were given few boundaries, the better to unleash their creativity. They could use the provided mix, or not. They could include other ingredients besides baked items, but the main part of their dessert had to be baked with the toy oven.

They approached this challenge gleefully, and here are the results:

Kim Rodgers, executive chef, Hugo’s: 'For Santa'

Rodgers will most definitely be on Santa’s nice list next year after he sees her Easy-Bake dessert, which is a take on the traditional Christmas Eve cookies-and-milk plate.

It’s just like something you would order off the menu at Hugo’s – a dish that teases your brain and its notions of texture and taste.

“There’s a glass of milk, or what looks like milk,” Rodgers said. “I made some sugar cookies and then steeped that into milk and made that into a pudding. But it’s still white, like milk is, so it looks like a glass of milk, but it’s actually pudding in there.”

Rodgers baked the sugar cookies in the Easy-Bake Oven. She was the only one to use the cookie mix in her dessert, carefully sifting out the chocolate chips before adding the mix to the sugar cookie dough.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Brant Dadaleares, a pastry chef at Fore Street, created a maple creme brulee napoleon at the restaurant using an Easy-Bake Oven to make a portion of it.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Kim Rogers, executive pastry chef at Hugo’s restaurant, created this dessert she called “For Santa” using an Easy-Bake Oven.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Brant Dadaleares, a pastry chef at Fore Street, makes his maple creme brulee napoleon.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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1963 Easy-Bake Oven

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2013 Easy-Bake Oven

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1971 Easy-Bake Oven

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