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.