The Easy-Bake Oven, Gourmet Style

Grown-Up Chefs Offer Recipes Designed for the Classic Toy

Chef Art Smith prepares pecan ice box cookies.

hide captionChef Art Smith prepares pecan ice box cookies.

From 'The Easy-Bake Oven Gourmet' by David Hoffman (Running Press)
Chef Caprial Pence and her wild mushroom flan.

hide captionChef Caprial Pence and her wild mushroom flan.

From 'The Easy-Bake Oven Gourmet' by David Hoffman (Running Press)
'The Easy-Bake Oven Gourmet'

hide captionThe Easy-Bake Oven Gourmet by David Hoffman.

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Mention Easy-Bake Ovens and people of a certain age will salivate with nostalgic delight. This year, the toy that allows children to bake their cake and eat it too turns 40.

After 11 model changes, the Easy-Bake has morphed into a design that looks like a microwave. But it works the same way it always has: open a package of mix, add water, pour batter into a scaled-down cake pan, and slide it into an oven pre-heated by a lightbulb.

To celebrate Easy-Bake's 40th anniversary, Morning Edition turned to the The Easy-Bake Oven Gourmet, a combination cookbook and retrospective written by David Hoffman. In addition to an amusing history of the toy, the book features recipes developed for the oven by well-known chefs.

Among them are Caprial Pence, host (with her husband) of the PBS show Cooking with Caprial and John, and Art Smith, personal chef to Oprah Winfrey and a contributing editor for O magazine. Pence and Smith inspired some Morning Edition production staffers to give the recipes a try. You can, too:

Caprial Pence's Wild Mushroom Flan

Makes 6 servings, baked one at a time

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch fresh chives, coarsely chopped (approximately 2 tablespoons)

1/2 ounce (approximately 1/2 cup) dried porcini mushrooms, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dry sherry

1 small shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch watercress, washed and spun dry, for garnish

1. Preheat the Easy-Bake oven for 15 minutes.

2. Place the chives and 1/2 cup of the oil in a blender, and blend until smooth. Set aside.

3. Place the dried porcini in a large bowl; cover with the sherry, and let stir for about 20 minutes. When the mushrooms are soft and have absorbed most of the sherry, drain off any extra liquid (reserving the liquid).

4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until hot. Add the shallot and garlic, and saute for about 1 minute. Add the chopped mushroom and toss well. Add the reserved soaking liquid, and reduce until the mixture is almost dry, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool until tepid.

5. Place the mushroom mixture in a large mixing bowl; add the cream, egg yolks, and herbs, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Ladle the mixture into Easy-Bake oven pans, filling them to 1/8 inch from the top. Bake the custard until just set, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve drizzled with the chive oil and garnished with fresh watercress.

Art Smith's Pecan Ice Box Cookies

Makes 2 dozen cookies, baked two at a time

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

Powdered sugar for dusting

1. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, and salt and set aside.

2. With a hand-held electric mixer at high speed, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour, then the toasted pecans, to make a stiff dough.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, form the dough into a 9-inch log. Wrap tightly in parchment paper. Refrigerate or freeze in the freezer until ready to use. If using right away, chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least two hours or overnight.

4. Preheat the Easy-Bake Oven for 30 minutes. Butter and flour the baking pans.

5. Unwrap and slice the dough into 3/8-inch thick rounds. Place two rounds in each prepared pan, slide into the oven, and bake until beginning to brown around the edges, about 20 minutes.

6. Cool the pans on a wire rack, and when cooled completely, dust with the powdered sugar. The cookies can be prepared up to 5 days ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Recipes courtesy The Easy-Bake Oven Gourmet by David Hoffman (Running Press)

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