As Seen on TV: The Perfect Brownie Pan

The product: Perfect Brownie Pan Set
The price: Internet offer: $19.95 plus $8.95 shipping and handling; $19.95 in many retail stores.
The claims: Bake, slice and serve perfect brownie
Buy-o-meter Rating: 4 out of 5

The Perfect Brownie Pan Set is a non-stick pan that bakes and slices brownies into perfect little rectangles.

I call them Stepford brownies.

The "set" consists of an 11x7 inch pan -- much smaller than it looks on TV and in ads -- bottom insert, divider with handles, and a rack. Prepare your favorite brownie recipe (I love Ghirardelli's Triple Chocolate brownie mix), spray the dividers with nonstick cooking spray, pour mix into pan with insert, lower dividers and bake.

Cool for a few minutes then place the pan on the rack. Lift the dividers, push down the sides of the pan and voila, you have a display of perfectly cut little brownies.

These are the Platonic Ideal of brownies -- shiny tops, chewy insides, ruler-straight edges -- nothing like the cracked and crumbly brownies I usually pry out of a glass baking dish.

I was so impressed with results, I tried the pan on Rice Krispies Treats, those marshmallow-and-cereal confections that have rotted kids teeth for generations. If the Perfect Brownie Pan could divide and conquer that gooey slab, it could slice anything.

And it did. I had to use a little muscle to press the grid into the Krispies spread, but when I pulled it up, perfect Krispies bricks appeared.

However, I've got some problems with the Perfect Brownie Set.

The product's website fails to reveal the $8.95 shipping and handling fee until after you place the order: Shame!

And although the pan delivers 18 brownies, they're small -- 1-3/ 4 x 2-1/4 inches -- more like brownie bites. It would take forever, or several perfect pans, to bake enough of those shrimpy brownies to satisfy a fourth-grade class. The company says it plans to introduce a larger pan in the fall.

The final issue is philosophical: When it comes to home baking, should the perfect be the enemy of the real? Is flawless better than fallible? Will anyone believe Stepford brownies come from the heart, not the market?

It's something to chew on.
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