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Every Tuesday at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m., Tom Harte shares a few thoughts on food and shares recipes. A founder of “My Daddy’s Cheesecake,” a bakery/café in Cape Girardeau, a food columnist for The Southeast Missourian, and a cookbook author, he also blends his passion for food with his passion for classical music in his daily program, The Caffe Concerto.

A Harte Appetite: The Easy Bake Oven Has Launched Many Chefs

easy bake oven

What do award-winning cookbook author Rick Bayless, Food Network Iron Chef Bobby Flay, nationally acclaimed pastry chef Gale Gand, and Chloe, my  granddaughter, have in common?  They all began their culinary education by slaving over a hot light bulb.

Chloe, just like those three celebrity chefs when they were youngsters, has been the recipient of an Easy-Bake oven, which, famously, can produce cakes, cookies, pies, and other goodies using only the heat generated by an ordinary 100-watt incandescent bulb.

Over the last four decades literally tens of millions of kids have been turned on to cooking by an Easy-Bake oven.  Its manufacturer says it is the best-selling girl’s toy since dolls, though, judging by the number of male chefs who once owned one, the Easy-Bake also appeals to boys.

It all started in 1963 when Norman Shapiro, the New York sales manager for Kenner Products (now a division of Hasbro), intrigued by the city’s pretzel vendors, suggested the company create a miniature pretzel maker for kids.  Ultimately the idea morphed into a full-fledged mini-oven designed to look just like the real thing.  Of course, there had been toy ovens before, but what made Kenner’s model unique was the fact that it actually worked.  You could really bake with the thing.

The secret to the Easy-Bake oven’s operation is the light bulb.  Like any light bulb, after being on for about ten minutes it will reach a temperature in excess of 350 degrees, plenty hot enough to cook a wide variety of baked goods.  In fact, 350 degrees is more or less the average baking temperature for most dishes cooked in a full-sized oven.

Thus, with an EZ bake oven, legions of budding homemakers, chefs, and serious cooks have learned at an early age the joy of baking and the allure of raw cookie dough.


Deep Dish Truffle Lobster Pie

You don’t have to rely on packaged mixes that come with an Easy-Bake oven.  In fact, as with most dishes, Easy-Bake treats taste better when made from scratch, as in this recipe adapted from celebrated master chef Erik Blauberg.  It shows that it’s actually possible to cook epicurean fare with a light bulb.

2 slices dense white bread
1 teaspoon softened butter
1 ounce tomato puree
1 teaspoon diced red onion
1 teaspoon diced tomato
1 teaspoon chopped mushroom
1 ounce cooked lobster meat, diced
1 tablespoon grated mozzarella
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sliced black truffle
1 teaspoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

Spray Easy-Bake pan with cooking spray and line bottom and sides with parchment paper.  Spray parchment with cooking spray.  Trim crusts from bread and roll flat with a rolling pin.  Cut bread to fit pan and line bottom and sides with bread.  Brush with butter and bake in preheated Easy-Bake oven for 30 minutes.  Spoon tomato puree into baked crust.  Top evenly with onion, tomato, and mushroom.  Top with a layer of lobster and a layer of mozzarella.  Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake 30 minutes until bubbly.  Garnish with truffle, basil, and Parmesan.

Tom Harte is a retired faculty member from Southeast Missouri State University where he was an award-winning teacher, a nationally recognized debate coach, and chair of the department of Speech Communication and Theatre.
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