Refreshes stale baked goods
Tiny measuring cup; easy to lose
Toast, huh? Balmuda The Toaster was about to arrive, so we contemplated our toast expertise. We’ve made toast before. In a toaster. In a toaster oven. In an actual oven. And even in a pan on the stove. We knew what we were getting ourselves into, so we stocked up on bread, English muffins, and bagels. We let some croissants get stale. This oven is popular in Japan, but will it be the next big thing in America? Let’s see.
Performance: Great toast, better cookies
This toaster’s claim to fame is that it uses steam to give toast a soft interior along with a crisp brown exterior. To be honest, we never thought too deeply about toast, but we were very curious about Balmuda’s ability to refresh stale baked goods, so that was our first test.
We grabbed a croissant that had seen better days and popped it into the toaster, whole, using the pastry setting, and added the required water. Much to our surprise, the interior of the croissant was warm, fluffy, and buttery. The exterior of the croissant was crisp and flaky. Was it just like it emerged from the oven? Close. Very, very close. When the croissant got cold because we absent-mindedly set it aside, we popped it back in the toaster with more water to warm it again, and it was right back to its previous glory. We went from using stale croissants for bread pudding to enjoying them like they were fresh.
We toasted every bread-like thing we could find lurking about, both fresh and stale, from bread to English muffins. The result was excellent each time. Because of the toaster’s small size, we could toast a maximum of two standard bread slices or two English muffins (four split halves).
We also tried the pizza setting with a leftover slice. Pizza usually fares well in a toaster oven, so we weren’t surprised that it worked well. The pizza setting is also for “toast with toppings,” so we used it to make an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich. Great lunch.
The baking option doesn’t use water, but we decided to give it a try anyway. We baked a few small cookies on the petite little pan. They baked evenly but were not much different than any other baking methods we’ve used. Then we had our aha moment. After the cookies were completely cooled, we tossed them in the oven again using the pastry setting, half of the tiny cup of water, and two minutes time. They emerged as if they were fresh-baked, with the chocolate chips in the center nice and melty and the interior soft and pleasantly warm.
The re-warmed cookies may have been our favorite use of this toaster. Who doesn’t love cookies that are warm from the oven? Now we can have that, even if the cookies came from the store.
When the croissant got cold, we popped it back in the toaster with more water to warm it again, and it was right back to its previous glory.
Awwww, it’s so cute. From the name that sounds like a cartoon character to the itty-bitty measuring cup to the gentle ticktock of the timer, everything about this toaster is petite and cheery and mildly amusing.
Speaking of the measuring cup, it holds 5 ccs, which is a bit more than a teaspoon. Why not a spoon? Probably because a tiny cup is cuter, looking like a coffee mug for a doll. That little cup is certainly distinctive, but because of the size, it’s also likely to get lost in the gadget drawer. It’s wise to find a specific place to put it where it won’t disappear between uses.
Inside, the design is ingenious. A wire rack moves forward when the door opens, and the actual cooking rack fits on top of that, so there’s no need to grab and slide a rack to retrieve the food. A small baking tray is included, and it's coated with a nonstick material that worked very well to keep food from sticking, even when our pizza left behind some melted cheese. After a lot of use, the pan started to discolor a bit, but it remained nonstick.
When the door closes, a flap on top neatly hides the area where water is added. The water travels down a tube in the side of the oven and onto a trough that turns the water into steam. A removable cover over that trough keeps it free of cooking debris, but if water is added when it’s not needed, it’s simple to remove the cover to mop up the water.
Like most toaster ovens, this one has a crumb tray. It slides in underneath the toaster and disappears completely from view so it doesn’t mar the appearance of the toaster.
Setup Process: Two knobs, one button
Setting this up for toasting different foods is simple enough, thanks to the toasting information printed on the top of the toaster. It gives examples of the items that should be toasted using different settings—for example, bagels use the pizza setting to toast the cut side more than the outside of the bagel halves. It also offers timing suggestions, and it groups the functions that require water separately from the baking temperatures that do not use water.
From the itty-bitty measuring cup to the gentle ticktock of the timer, everything about this toaster is petite and cheery and mildly amusing.
When it’s time to toast, it’s just a matter of deciding whether to cook on the rack or on the pan, setting the function or baking temperature, and then setting the time. The one odd quirk is that the “on” button in the timer dial needs to be pressed before choosing the time, up to 15 minutes. Little amber lights around the dial light up to show the chosen time, and one at a time, they wink on and off along with the ticking as time counts down.
When we decided to bake some frozen biscuits, they required a 22-minute cooking time, which was more than the toaster’s maximum. We set the timer for 15 minutes, planning on resetting it when the time was up, but we got distracted and missed the happy little ding. The residual heat in the oven finished the cooking well enough. The next day, we popped a biscuit into the toaster using the pastry setting and had a warm biscuit, ready for buttering.
Features: It’s all about the steam
The steaming function is the most important feature in the oven. It doesn’t inject as much water as a steam oven, but with such a small interior, it’s enough to rejuvenate baked goods and make excellent toast.
Accessories: A few small things
This comes with a small nonstick-coated baking pan and a wee measuring cup for adding water to the oven.
There’s no doubt about it, this is an expensive toaster. For the price, you get cuteness, a small footprint, a small interior, even toasting, and the ability to add steam. People who are passionate about toasty foods might find it’s worth the price, but not everyone is that invested in their morning bread.
Balmuda The Toaster vs. Breville The Compact Smart Oven
While Breville's Compact Smart Oven BOV650XL is relatively expensive, it costs less than Balmuda. The Breville is larger and can even handle a 12-inch pizza. What it doesn’t have (wait for it …) is steam. We’ve liked all the Breville appliances we’ve own used, so we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. The Balmuda, though, is a category of its own. Is it for everyone? No, obviously not. But it’s going to be tempting for anyone who must have the newest thing.
Yes—if you'll use it often.
While we liked the Balmuda The Toaster's performance and liked its looks, there’s absolutely no doubt that the price is prohibitive for many buyers.
- Product Name The Toaster
- Product Brand Balmuda
- SKU K01M-GW
- Price $329.00
- Weight 10 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 14 x 8 x 12.5 in.
- Color Gray, black, or white
- Material Metal toasting rack, nonstick coated baking pan, metal exterior
- Power (Watts) 1300
- Warranty 1 year, limited
- What’s Included measuring cup, toasting rack, nonstick coated baking pan, guidebook