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Enlarge / The air-fried "churros" were delicious, but they tasted nothing at all like churros.Megan Geuss

Earlier this month, Ars reviewed the June Oven, an Internet-connected, seven-in-one device that pushes the boundaries of the traditional toaster oven. Overall, I felt pretty positive about the June, especially the internal camera that allows you to watch your food cook (and share that view with others if you so desire).

But I mostly tested more traditional foods in the oven. After all, the best way to tell if a new toaster oven is any good is to see if it makes your best recipes more deliciously/reliably than your old toaster oven. I tried out some new things, of course: I hardboiled eggs (good!), baked bacon (bad!), and dehydrated kale chips (yummy but energy intensive!).

Before I send the June Oven back to its maker (in a box, with postage, not in a violent way of course) I wanted to test out five of the more unusual recipes that I found in June's app cookbook. The cookbook that's included in the June app is surprisingly well-populated with recipes specifically tailored to this IoT toaster oven, including a number of recipes that you'd never think to use a toaster oven for.

The recipes I chose were fruit leather, dog treat jerky, risotto, apple cider, and churros. Come see how these items turned out!

Fruit leather

I have never made fruit leather before, nor have I ever wanted to make fruit leather. But the June Oven's cookbook made it an option for me, so I figured it was worth a shot. The June recipe actually specifies a "Mango Raspberry Fruit Leather," but observational evidence throughout my life suggests I'm allergic to mango (I've never eaten a mango without breaking out in hives), so I opted for pears, which have relatively high levels of pectin, and I assumed they would jell the fruit leather appropriately.

  • First you want to peel and chop the pears, then add raspberries and 1 tablespoon of honey. I added a little apple sauce too in case the pectin in my pears wasn't enough. Megan Geuss
  • It looked and tasted delicious blended! Megan Geuss
  • Next step: spread the fruit really thin (reserve any excess pear raspberry honey sauce for eating by the spoonful as a midnight snack). Megan Geuss
  • This image from the June camera does not make it look terribly appealing. It looked like this for the duration of the 5 hours that it dehydrated at 130° F. Megan Geuss
  • I pulled the fruit leather out too soon and replaced it with dog jerky (photos in the next gallery), so this fruit leather did not peel off the foil in one beautiful piece. If I had had the foresight and time to do it properly, another hour in the dehydrator would have given me the big sheet of fruit leather I was looking for. Megan Geuss
  • It's nice and thin though, with a smooth sheen on one side and rougher on the opposite side, like a lot of fruit leather often is. It tasted really good. Megan Geuss
  • I wrapped the pieces up in wax paper and my husband put one in his lunchbox to take to work. He said it tasted great. Megan Geuss

Dog treat jerky

As far as taste tests go, this is a softball for the June Oven. While my older dog can sometimes be surprisingly discerning about what he eats, he's never turned down any form of beef, so if he refused one of the June's jerky treats it would be a real surprise. My little white dog could accidentally eat dirt shaped like food and she would go back for seconds, so her participation in this taste test is just so she doesn't feel left out.

Mostly, I wanted to make this recipe as a way to use the dehydrator function again.

  • First, you roll the ground beef out between two sheets of parchment paper so it's extremely thin. Megan Geuss
  • I scored the jerky and threw it in the June Oven. It takes seven hours to cook at 150°F, so I put it in before I went to sleep, and hoped it would be done the next morning. Megan Geuss
  • Did I wake up throughout the night and check on the dehydrating meat to make sure I didn't have a grease fire going downstairs, despite the fact that I've used a toaster oven reliably all my life without a fire? Yes. Yes I did. Megan Geuss
  • Still no grease fire in the toaster oven downstairs. Phew. Megan Geuss
  • This is the finished product. It was consistently tough throughout. Megan Geuss
  • The patient look of a Very Good Boy. (He inhaled the jerky before I could get a picture of him eating it.) Megan Geuss
  • This is our smaller dog. See the white smudge above her ear on the right? That's the happily wagging tail of a Very Good Girl. Megan Geuss

Risotto (in an oven?!)

I don't make risotto too often because I have it in my head that it's a very high-maintenance thing to make. You have to stir it for hours! Add all the liquids slowly! It's hard to season properly! At a certain point, Rice-a-Roni is easier to make and just as creamy and salty.

I fully expect there are purists out there clutching their pearls at the idea of cooking arborio rice in an oven and calling it risotto. But this oven-baked risotto was so simple and turned out extremely tastey in my opinion. I would certainly do this again.

  • Add boiling broth to a pan full of arborio rice. Megan Geuss
  • After you bake for 25 minutes, take the rice out and add a little more stock, some white wine, parmesean, and butter. Mix for two to three minutes (that's it!) to break down the rice Megan Geuss
  • Add some frozen peas and salt and pepper and stir a bit more, and you've got it! It's risotto. I really enjoyed this, and it seems easy to upgrade if you want to add, say, sautéed mushrooms or something fancy. Megan Geuss

Apple cider

I would never have thought to make apple cider in a toaster oven, but this is where the June's "slow cooker" function comes in. Since you pre-heat through the app, I'm not sure what the actual temperature of the oven was, but it was on "low" for about an hour and 45 minutes.

  • Optional first step: toast some spices. Megan Geuss
  • Add spices, cider, orange slices, and cover with some tin foil. Place in the June for nearly 2 hours. Megan Geuss
  • The cider was delicious, I especially liked the citrus flavor that was just as prominent as the apple flavor. Plus, it was a great day to drink hot cider in my Ars Technica-branded mug on my back porch and watch the snow come down. Megan Geuss

Churros

Finally, churros. I was extremely suspicious that the June could make real, good churros, and I was right to be suspicious. What resulted was more like… sweet pretzels? Look, the air frier function is good for a lot of things, but that crispy, rich flavor of real fried food is not going to come through without the fat. This recipe was not what I expected, and it was a lot more work than I expected, but it still turned out tasty, just tasty in a different way.

The June Oven recipe recommends that you pair these "churros" with a dulce de leche sauce that you can also make in the June, but that recipe was protected by a "Premium" subscription wall, so I just ate these sweet pretzels with some whipped cream, which is what I had on hand.

  • First you have to make the dough, and that means boiling water with butter, and mixing the flour in. Megan Geuss
  • …Two eggs? Or… wait huh? Megan Geuss
  • Without a bowl mixer, this would be a very annoying recipe to make. I'm lucky to have one on hand these days, but after years of cooking without one, I'm always annoyed when a recipe doesn't explicitly forewarn you that you'll need a bowl mixer before you start in on the recipe. Megan Geuss
  • Ok also, I know this is what churros look like, but a little heads up that you'll need a piping set would be cool too. That's a thing I could have acquired, but it slipped my mind because it wasn't at the top of the recipe. Megan Geuss
  • Instead, I just forced all the dough in a sandwich bag and cut off a small corner. Megan Geuss
  • They don't look perfect, but they came as close as they could to it. Megan Geuss
  • This was a recipe that I really would have liked to watch bake, but instead I got a glitch and couldn't watch them. Megan Geuss
  • The air-fried "churros" were delicious, but they tasted nothing at all like churros. Megan Geuss
  • I ate these with a dollop of whipped cream and some chocolate powder. It was good! But nothing like a churro. Megan Geuss

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