I'm not exactly sure what to call the Lekue Silicone Bread Maker ($35). I mean, they call it a bread maker, but it's really more of a bread pan that can be used as a bowl. It doesn't actually do any making of bread.
The idea is that you can mix your bread ingredients in the bowl, do the kneading in the bowl, close it up and cover the open ends to let it rise, then shape, rise, and bake, all in the same container. It all makes perfect sense for me, except when it comes to kneading in the bowl—if I'm hand-kneading, I prefer to do that on a clean counter top. But I suppose there might be reasons why someone would prefer to do their kneading in a container.
The best thing about using this as a bread pan is that the resulting bread is a unique shape—a cross between a football and a submarine, with slices being nearly round. I've bought plenty of baking equipment just because I like the shape, so I'm more than happy to add this to my arsenal.
A bonus is that because the bread bakes in an enclosed space that holds in the steam, you get a crisp crust—one that browns nicely, to boot. And, since the bread maker is made from silicone, it's microwave (and dishwasher) safe. Not that you'd bake bread in the microwave, but it's perfect for cooking, say, zapping some corn on the cob if you're so inclined. If you leave it closed after cooking, it will also help keep the corn nice and warm.
And, of course, you can cook, bake, or roast other foods in it as well. I'd like this even if it was just a bread pan, because it turns out beautifully-shaped loaves; the fact that it can be used for a variety of items is just icing on the cake.
About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.
Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.