Imagine a toaster that just does what it’s supposed to and so much more.
At some point in the hazy early months of the pandemic, when the world at large was still indoors and contemplating washing their groceries, I fell under the soothing spell of Emily Mariko’s TikTok. Her salmon rice "recipe" moved me (and many others) and her vegetable storage solutions inspired me enough to keep an entire bunch of celery in a Ziploc full of water (for crispness), but it was the toaster that really caught my attention. In between videos of beef curry and farmer’s market hauls, Mariko would occasionally unbox some pastries, put them in a toaster oven, and after a few minutes, put a freshly-warmed croissant on a plate, to be consumed in silence.
Everything she put into this thing, whether it was a baked good or some bread pulled out of the freezer, came out looking much better than when it went in. What was this machine, I wondered, and would it be the thing I needed to reawaken my love of warm bread?
Mariko’s toaster is the Balmuda—a boxy little guy that toasts its bread via steam, and also works as a very effective toaster oven as well. After throwing away my shameful dollar store toaster, which produced bread that was generally burnt on one side and still cold on the other, I called in a Balmuda for testing and have been using it for months. I love toast now, and I have Balmuda to thank.
A breeze to use
The Balmuda is not small by any stretch; I have a lot of counter space in my kitchen, and it takes up a good chunk. But, because it’s a toaster oven and not just a toaster, I assume that a large footprint is par for the course. There’s very little setup involved: take the thing out of the box, familiarize yourself with its various settings, and then plug it in and let ‘er rip. Unlike a regular toaster, the Balmuda is a steam toaster, which means every time, it requires a teensy bit of water to do its thing. The brand helpfully provides the cutest little measuring cup for said water, which is so small that I mistakenly threw mine away with the packaging. (If you happen to do this as well, a teaspoon works just as well.)
There are a few settings on the Balmuda when it’s acting as a toaster, for everything from regular bread to pastries to artisan loaves, all of which have different requirements for perfection. If you’d like to use it as a toaster oven, it comes with one of those tiny little trays that is the correct size for making one to three cookies, or heating up a tuna melt on an English muffin.
Does it toast?
Admittedly, the Balmuda came into my life during the summer months, a time of year where toast is not really top of mind. Still, I tested it diligently, throwing in anything from mediocre store bread to a hunk of ciabatta, and watching in amazement as the bread emerged from my new toy in its ideal state. Steam toasting retains bread’s crisp exterior without drying out the inside, and while I’ve never even considered how my bread was being toasted and what could be done to improve that situation, I certainly am now. But it was the pastry setting that intrigued me the most. I’m a sucker for a fancy baked good, but love them so much that I’ll even settle for a mediocre one; in my book, a puffy croissant from a Costco 12-pack scratches the itch, but the overall taste and texture could still use some improvement. My Balmuda rose to the challenge of making the almond croissants I love and cherish taste better than I thought possible. I will never live in a house where I have access to freshly-baked laminated dough pastries, because I abhor baking, but the Balmuda elevated my coffee shop’s offerings to something of an event. How nice!
Get this toaster!
The one factor about the Balmuda that gives me pause is its price. At $299, the toaster is a bit of a splurge, but if you really think about it, you’re getting two appliances in one. The oven portion of these proceedings is not to be ignored; a good toaster oven that does what it says on the tin (toasts things and then also heats them up) is a worthy investment, especially if you are a particularly picky individual who won’t turn on their actual oven during the summer months, but still wants to eat stuff that’s roasted, toasted, or otherwise cooked hot. As I am that person, this toaster is the perfect appliance for me—and also, probably, for you.
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