Cake and Muffin bakeware...
- ACM Feb 21, 2005 05:35 PM
I don't like buying a piece of kitchen equipment only to find that, for some odd reason, it fails to make the cut. I typically pour over the internet and published reviews and recs from the likes of Cook's Illustrated and renowned authors of baking books. I have found a disparity between the professional pastry chefs, and the kitchen realists (Alton and Cook's Illustrated).
Cook's recommends, nearly unanimously, the darker non-stick pans in their testing. Recently, they chose cake pans and muffin tins of that material (e.g. Chicago Metallic).
Conversely, in cookbooks like In the Sweet Kitchen, Baking By Flavor, and the Secrets of Baking, shiny, heavy gauge aluminum is recommended over the darker versions.
So who do I trust? From your experiences, do the darker versions end up burning your cakes and muffins, or do they leave them with a pleasing brown appearance (as Cook's says). And do you tend to lower the temperature when using these darker pans?
I suspect some of the authors choosing the shiny aluminum pans to be guilty of stubborn tendencies, as in all pro-kitchens have used shiny heavy gauge for years to great success, so why change now?
Well, I don't bake in a pro-kitchen, so who should I believe?
Target has some great muffin tins at their stores.
In three sized, four even, if you count the "tops only", shallow tins.
They're a non-stick, dark metal... they've always worked well for me.
Usually my muffins go for 375 at 15-18 minutes in these tins.
(Target is about as non "pro-kitchen" as you can find. Either way... it's usually not the tools, it's the person using them!)
For cake pans and bread pans I prefer shiny aluminum. It is true that the outside of the product baked in a non-stick pan has a shiny brown surface. This surface looks entirely unnatural to me. Not only that, quick breads do not rise as much in the non-stick pans as they do in regular pans. I assume the same is true of cake pans. I don't have any of those that are non-stick, nor would I buy any. My muffin pans have the non-stick interior (much easier to clean), but I have to fill them with batter almost all the way to the top, instead of the two-thirds full usually called for, or they just don't rise adequately.
A professional kitchen only uses equipment and tools that will produce professional results on a consistent basis and have maximum durability. Since cost controls are always an issue, professional staff will usually only incorporate new equipment that is reliable, cost effective, and contribute to production efficiencies within each unique environment. For example, flexipans are a great expense, but have made life a lot easier for staff in some kitchens. I don't think pastry chefs have resistance to new stuff, but when the mandate is to produce great pastry on a consistent basis for presentation to the public with little or no margin for error, a professional will always choose equipment with proven results. Also, coated pans tend to scratch easily and would never withstand the kind of dishwashing wear and tear required in a professional kitchen. The care of special items must be weighed against cost and reliability.
Unless you're baking all day, every day, I say use the kind of equipment that will suit your personal needs, that is comfortable for you, and within your budget. Do whatever it takes to make baking pastry something you won't dread, but will love as the truly beautiful thing it is!
I don't agree with the poster who said "it is not the tools etc". It is the tools but also the user. If you have cheap light weight metal bakeware you are not going to get as good resuts. They get hot spots and bake unevenly. For breads (my husband is the bread baker) we have mainly Chicago Metalic pans. For pastry I have a combination of pans. Heavy aluminium for cakes they were purchased in a shop that specialized in cake and baking equipment. I have a number of Kaiserform La Forme silicone coated pans in different shapes and sizes. They are very heavy and do a great job and are a snap to clean up. If and when I make muffins and that is not very often I have for regular sized muffins some heavy stainless pans that Revereware produced many years ago. I always use paper liners with muffins so sticking is not a problem. For pies I prefer Pyrex, it gives a crisper crust. But anyay, cheap thin bakeware that warps and heats unevenly is not the way to go if you want to turn out quality baked goods.