My first sight of this clever piece of equipment was when the prototype was being demonstrated at a trade show in early 2016. I was bowled over by its performance and decided even then that it was about to become a "must have" for every kitchen and perfect for a novice or anyone who ever fancied themselves as the next Mary Berry! So when my test sample arrived, I couldn't wait to get it out of the box to start putting it through its paces - and boy did it perform.
They say size isn't everything - but in a kitchen with limited worktop space, it really IS everything. If something ends up taking precious space, we end up shoving it in a cupboard, forget all about it and the next thing you know, you are flogging it at a car boot sale (admit it, we have all done it!).
But this will never happen with the Visicook Home Baker, as it is such a compact piece of kit, just 30cm across, 23.5cm deep and when closed just 15.5cm high. It's no bigger than a small microwave and you wouldn't dream of hiding that in a cupboard would you? Leave it on the countertop and you will find yourself using it for baking all manner of goodies day in, day out. In any case, as my wife pointed out, it looks so pretty in its fresh retro vintage sage green livery, who could possibly object to that being permanently on show?
Not only do you get the machine but the kit comes with three silicon mounds; a yellow 6 hole muffin, an orange 2lb loaf and a lavender coloured deep baking tray, tailor-made to fit perfectly into the Home Baker, and can be stored inside when not in use. Add to this a clever rectangular transparent extender which allows you to double the inner baking height of the machine for larger cakes (more on this later), plus a full colour recipe book and you are ready to start baking!
......very true, as how can you judge without trying it first? - so I set to work to really put this little machine through its paces. I made buns, scones, a fruit loaf, mini pies, quiches and chocolate brownie using all of the silicone moulds and being a natural non-stick, a quick twist of the silicone and my efforts just slid out with no residue left at all (hand wash or dishwasher-safe). As the oven interior and lid is also non-stick, any residue from cooking is easily wiped away making cleaning a breeze. No having to get down on hands and knees to clean any spillage as you do with a conventional oven either!
The Home Baker may be small but it is definitely BIG on performance. Any baker will tell you that it is so important that the heat is even and consistent to get the best results. No disappointments there as the heat is totally controllable with a quick turn of a knob, going from 60°C up to a maximum of 220°C in 10°C increments, with a green light coming on to indicate that your preferred temperature has been reached.
Amazingly and very importantly, it uses less than 2.5p's worth of energy in an hour of use, just 6% of that used in a regular fan assisted oven - that is a huge saving. Using between just 800W to 1000W of power, this machine can not only be used at home but can also be picked up and taken on holiday - for camping, caravanning or holiday homes. Baked potatoes and a meat and potato pie on the move - how good is that!
Now let's talk about that extender that I mentioned earlier. There are occasions when you may need extra height, say when you are baking a large sponge cake which rises during cooking. The last thing you want is the top to attach itself to the lid. The inner height is already 6cm so pretty much sufficient for most things but when you do need the extra centimetres, simply place the extender frame into the oven and the available height is immediately doubled to a huge 12cm. To allow for this, the lid has a clever floating hinge so still fits snug. So basically everything you bake in a normal oven can be achieved in the Home Baker- but at a fraction of the cost.
As I was using the oven on my kitchen worktop, it occurred to me that I could actually sit down to do my baking and thought what a boon this would be for anyone unable to bend down to get into the oven or indeed be able to move around the kitchen easily with a mould full of cake mix. With this thought in mind, I popped the Home Baker into my van and off I went to my Mum's, who at 84 is now struggling to bake regularly for those very reasons, so she was clearly the person to test my theory. She was a very willing guinea pig and sat at the kitchen table with the oven in front of her, made her sponge mix and easily lifted the mould into the oven without even standing up. She commented on the easy turn control knob, then put the lid down. Cooking time up, out came the cake which was promptly scoffed! What a great gift for anyone with restricted mobility.
Don't forget either that if you need extra oven space, such as at family gatherings at Easter or Christmas, the Visicook Home Baker will be invaluable in freeing up your conventional oven space.
I was impressed to see that Visicook have gone to the trouble of putting together a lay-flat ring binder style full colour recipe book, all tested by their chefs. Every page has a wipe clean surface which is an added bonus for any messy bakers out there (me for one!). The book is full of "how to" tips, recipe suggestions to show how many different way the Home Baker can be used and set in colour coded sections. I did try several of these recipes myself and found them to be easy to follow with clear instruction so it really is worth working your way through the book to really get to grips with how useful this super little machine really is.
The Visicook Home Baker is a little treasure and as you can tell, I am mightily impressed by what it can do. Compact, good looking, energy efficient, it is a real boon in the kitchen and worth every penny.
The Home Baker is available at leading online retailers at RRP £59.99 or can be ordered directly from the Visicook website. If you have any questions regarding this product or any other Visicook products featured on our Tried and Tested pages, please call their dedicated UK customer service department on 0121 693 9221.
If you are in Manchester, you can see this product being demonstrated at the Cake and Bake Show at EventCity, Manchester from 10-13th November 2016.