The Top Five Stupidest Baking Gifts

by moderndomestic on December 5, 2010

It’s the holiday season – and you know what that means. It’s time for stores to roll out crazy gadgets! Gadgets that only do one thing – a thing that, with basic common sense, you could do yourself with far less expensive tools. Gadgets that will take up counter space and eventually end up in your basement. Gadgets that claim to solve problems that don’t actually exist.

Here is a list of my top five baking gadget offenders, and a free or cheap solution to the problems they claim to solve.

Pie Funnel, Sur La Table, $9.95
So, apparently if you stick this in your double-crusted pie it allows steam to escape from the filling – otherwise “the crust begins to harden before the inside of the batter is fully cooked.” But I’ve never had a problem with undercooked pie filling. I have the opposite problem – the pie filling cooks too quickly, before the crust browns at all. It’s also supposed prevent “unattractive splitting” of your top crust. Because shoving a gaudy ceramic figurine into the center of you pie is so much more attractive than a split crust.

The free solution: cut some steam vents in your top crust, to let steam escape. If your pie filling is cooking too slowly, experiment with pre-baking your filling (like par-roasting apples in the oven before putting them in the pie crust) before placing in the crust to fully bake.

Breville Pie Maker, $79.95, Williams Sonoma
This contraption is like a waffle maker, except it makes individual pies. The pies come out looking very standardized – with the exact same top and bottom crusts and decorative patterning. But that’s the only advantage I see to this unit. Why not just make pies in small pie tins? Why do you need to buy a whole waffle-iron type thing to ensure that your crust is “perfectly crimped?” Why not just use a fork like the rest of us?

The cheap solution: make individual pies in small pie tins like these Norpro Ones – you can a set of four for about $8 on Amazon. If you’re having problems sealing your pie crust, make sure you’re only egg washing the rim of the bottom crust (the egg wash acts like a “glue”), and then crimp your sides tightly with a fork.

Bûche de Noël Mold, $41, Sur La Table
Use this mold to “create the classic, log-shaped holiday cake.” Except that the way the Bûche de Noël gets it’s round shape isn’t from a mold – it’s because it’s a rolled cake. You make a large, thin cake in a jelly roll pan, top it with a thick layer of filling, and then roll the whole thing up. You don’t need a mold to shape it – you just need to follow a Bûche de Noël recipe.

The free solution: follow an actual Bûche de Noël recipe for a rolled cake. This frozen chocolate mint recipe from the new Bon Appetite looks particularly appealing.

Pastry Bag Holder, $21, Sur La Table
Ahem. No, you do not need this item.

Why? Because you can just stick your pastry bag in a water glass, or tall quart-sized Tupperware container.

Free solution: use a water glass or quart container to hold your upside-down pastry bags.

Bella Cuchina Cupcake Maker, $20.00, Macy’s
This cupcake maker promises “delicious homemade cupcakes — baked to perfection without an oven or tin.” Um . . . yes, but with the help of this appliance that no doubt takes up far more counter or shelf space than a cupcake tin. The only reason I can see for getting something like this is if you don’t have an oven – but in that case I’d suggest getting a countertop convection oven, which you can bake anything in (not just cupcakes).

Cheap solution: Buy a cupcake tin. This aluminum unit from Wilton is $9.49 and will probably last you far longer than an electric cupcake maker.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

{ 3 trackbacks }

Holiday Gift Guide For Bakers | ModernDomestic
December 9, 2010 at 12:31 am
Gadget Love – The Escali Primo Digital Scale | ModernDomestic
January 4, 2011 at 10:48 pm
Gadget Love – Ateco’s Small Offset Spatula | ModernDomestic
March 14, 2011 at 9:41 pm

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

probonogeek December 6, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I will take up the defense of the Bûche de Noël Mold. If you want to keep the log perfectly round all the way until presentation and cutting, you’re going to need something to put it on with a rounded bottom. With a traditional serving plate, you end up with a semi-circle log. I’m not running out to buy one, but I can see the advantage if presentation is a priority.

Reply

moderndomestic December 6, 2010 at 5:17 pm

So, if you shape your roll cake using a piece of parchment paper and a bench scraper and then thoroughly chill it before you ice it, you should get a pretty sturdy round shape. I mean, no, it won’t be perfect, but it’s good enough. Besides, a Bûche de Noël isn’t supposed to be a picture-perfect representation of a log – it’s is a cake, after all.

And if you serve it in the mold you can’t put cute little side branches sticking out of it – which I always think make a nice presentation.

Reply

probonogeek December 6, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Further making a questionable dessert look MORE like a tree… this is why I don’t understand the obsession with Bûche de Noël. Who wants to eat wood?!

Reply

moderndomestic December 6, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Because it’s cute! And you can make little mushrooms out of meringue to put next to the tree!

I mean, why does anyone want to eat a cake that’s shaped like something else? Why do people get all excited about Ace of Cakes – cakes shaped like something else that are usually made from fondant-covered rice crispy treats? It’s the artistry of it that makes it fun and adds to the eating experience.

Reply

Hilary December 6, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Lol! I have been wracking my brain as to the purpose of the cupcaker maker since I saw it in the BB&B ad. I think pie vents might be a cool vintage item to collect but, yeah, I don’t need a pig in my pie :)

Reply

moderndomestic December 6, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Like, it has to be for people who don’t have ovens, right? That is the only possibly reason you would buy one. And in that case, get a microwave with a convection oven function. If you get one of those you can bake anything in it, as opposed to having to buy a new appliance every time you want to bake a cupcake, or a doughnut, or a pop tart, etc.

Reply

Phil December 6, 2010 at 8:49 pm

The Bûche de Noël is probably the worst, although I’ve never understood the point of pie, cupcake, and other ‘makers.’ Do people really buy and use those things? Who has the room for all these specific appliances? I assume they just become dust collectors and I’m sure they make inferior cupcakes and pies when compared to traditional methods.

I’ll admit I like pie birds (or pie funnels) if for nothing else but the idea of them. Plus Alton Brown used one on an apple pie episode (he also made the pie in a tart pan) and I’ve been meaning to try it out.

Reply

Rebecca December 6, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I have a college friend whose dad every year for Christmas gives his wife a ridiculous kitchen contraption/ gadget and it’s her job to figure out what it does. But other than the fun of guessing I am at a loss for this stuff. These people must have huge storage spaces to hold all this stuff.

Reply

Nona Mills December 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I will take up the defense of the Bûche de Noël Mold. If you want to keep the log perfectly round all the way until presentation and cutting, you’re going to need something to put it on with a rounded bottom. With a traditional serving plate, you end up with a semi-circle log. I’m not running out to buy one, but I can see the advantage if presentation is a priority.

Reply

Tracie Wells December 24, 2010 at 2:44 am

The Bûche de Noël is probably the worst, although I’ve never understood the point of pie, cupcake, and other ‘makers.’ Do people really buy and use those things? Who has the room for all these specific appliances? I assume they just become dust collectors and I’m sure they make inferior cupcakes and pies when compared to traditional methods. I’ll admit I like pie birds (or pie funnels) if for nothing else but the idea of them. Plus Alton Brown used one on an apple pie episode (he also made the pie in a tart pan) and I’ve been meaning to try it out.

Reply

Jessica Kelley December 25, 2010 at 4:48 pm

The Bûche de Noël is probably the worst, although I’ve never understood the point of pie, cupcake, and other ‘makers.’ Do people really buy and use those things? Who has the room for all these specific appliances? I assume they just become dust collectors and I’m sure they make inferior cupcakes and pies when compared to traditional methods. I’ll admit I like pie birds (or pie funnels) if for nothing else but the idea of them. Plus Alton Brown used one on an apple pie episode (he also made the pie in a tart pan) and I’ve been meaning to try it out.

Reply

Roseann Smith December 29, 2010 at 1:09 am

I will take up the defense of the Bûche de Noël Mold. If you want to keep the log perfectly round all the way until presentation and cutting, you’re going to need something to put it on with a rounded bottom. With a traditional serving plate, you end up with a semi-circle log. I’m not running out to buy one, but I can see the advantage if presentation is a priority.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: