I cook just about every day of the year, but when it comes to cakes, pies and breads, it's more of a few-times-a-month thing. So my bakeware doesn't get the workout that my cookware does. Nevertheless, cake pans do wear out eventually.
Every year, just before the Christmas holiday, I make at least one Fruit Cake.
Now before you go wrinkling your nose at the thought of the Dreaded Brick of Inedible Goo, be sure to read my Bear Den entry on Fruit Cake. We're not talking about what you might be thinking of.
In any case, when I make this holiday treat, I use my Bundt Cake pan. The original recipe for the Fruit Cake calls for a loaf pan, but I use the Bundt pan because, not only does the resulting cake look more "festive", it's an excuse to use a Bundt Cake pan at least once a year.
Well, my Bundt pan is over 20 years old and is beginning to show its age.
While shopping for gifts at the local Bed, Bath and Beyond, I spotted one of those new-fangled silicone pans in the Bundt cake form factor (see figure 1). As I'd been intrigued by these, and knowing that my current Bundt pan was wheezing along on its last breaths, I made an impulse decision to purchase it.
Figure 1: New-fangled Silicone Bundt Pan
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
OK, given the O. Henry-esque fore-shadowing that I just dropped in your laps, you're probably guessing at this point that I've found the results less than stellar.
In brief, the pan sucks. Hard.
There were three major problems I encountered with this pan. I know the problem is in the pan as I've made this same cake recipe dozens of times over the years.
The problems: *Uneven baking. *Little to no browning. *Stickage.
Let's start with the stickage. You'd think that silicone would be a relatively good non-stick surface, but it isn't. Unmolding the cake was actually rather easy — just a matter of gently peeling the sides away from the cake — but the surface layer of the cake peeled away, sticking to the pan.
This resulted in a cake that looked rather less than festive. And let's face it, the only reason to use a Bundt Pan is to wow your guests with looks!
OK, even though the pan instructions said that greasing was not necessary, I could give the pan a "bye" on this one — the Fruit Cake probably has less fat in it than most other cakes, and perhaps greasing the pan for this particular recipe would be necessary.
However, after cooking the cake the usual amount of time, and even applying the "toothpick test", I found that the cake was unevenly cooked. The outside and center of the cake (where one usually applies the "toothpick test") were solid, but the inside surface of the ring was inexplicably uncooked.
And this in a convection oven where I know that the heat distribution is top-notch.
Hmmm. So I put the cake back in the pan (rather easy with silicone) and cooked it another 15 minutes or so to solidify the uncooked portion.
The final problem was browning — or rather, the lack thereof. A metal or glass pan retains heat that it imparts to its contents. Apparently, silicone does not. The exterior of the cake (most of which stuck to the pan) was pallid and soft. No browned crust, no roasty flavors, no wondrous Maillard reaction.
The resulting cake was certainly edible — it's a wonderful recipe with enough flavor to spare — but that roasty crust is an important part of the flavor component of a cake and you don't realize just how important it is until it's missing.
Oh, and becasue of the above problems, rather than "festive", the cake looked like ass.
So much for the Great Silicone Expirement.
For anyone who's so inclined, a metal Bundt Cake pan is on my Christmas List. [ December 15, 2006: Message edited by: Bear Bibeault ]
OTOH, I have some silicone cookie-sheet liners, and those things rock. Cookies absolutely won't stick, and you can have them off onto a rack and be reusing the cookie sheet within a minute or two. Cookies brown just fine, and I'd guess that this is because the metal cookie sheet is still there.
Wow ! I didnt know you guys could bake so well. I can cook good but I have never tried my hand at a cake or a cookie. <drool> I wanna make a chocolate chip cookie with lotsa shavings of chocolate sometime. </drool>
Here's my recipe formulated for someone who likes them on the crispy side. If you like your cookies chewier or cakier or whatever, I urge you to check out Alton Brown's chocolate chip recipes which are linked to from this page.
Bear's Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
4 c flour 2 t baking soda 1 t salt 1 c butter, softened 1 c shortening 2 c light brown sugar 1 c cane sugar 4 eggs 1 T vanilla 1 c semisweet chocolat chips 1 c chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Sift flour, soda and salt together into a large bowl.
In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter, shortening and sugars.
Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla.
Slowly add dry ingredients. Then chocolate chips and nuts.
Scoop onto parchment papered cookie sheets, or silpat liners using a #24 disher.
Bake 16 minutes.
P.S. You can subtitute another cup of chips for the pecans, if desired. [ December 15, 2006: Message edited by: Bear Bibeault ]
so, here's what i don't like about silpats, and i don't know if silicone mats would be the same for cookies.
the first batch off the mat works great. They come off easily enough, but they leave a little bit of debris on the mat. the next batch then leaves a little more, and so on. eventually there's enough on there that the cookies really stick.
I don't want to have to wash the mats between each batch, because that would slow me down.
Now, as i'm typing this, i'm thinking that maybe a simple dry towel might clean the mats enough to prevent this, but i don't know.
any advice on that? or do you find this not to be the case?
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hmmm... i may have to try again. I'm used to using parchment paper, to which nothing sticks (at least that i've ever tried baking). so i guess my mindset is always "it's clean, or it needs to be thoroughly washed".
sometimes it's VERY hard to get you mind around new techniques and technologies. I still get worried when i use a silicone oven mitt, thinking "there's NO WAY this is gonna keep me from getting burned", and am surprised every time when it does.
Have you tried the 'butter-flavored' shortening in these cookies?
if so, what did you think?
I have not.
The shortening is there in order to keep the cookies from flattening out too much while cooking (which is what could happen if all butter were used). Using butter-flavored shortening might be too much of a good thing and make the cookies taste too buttery. But it should work ok as far as cookie structure is concerned.
Try it and let us know! [ December 15, 2006: Message edited by: Bear Bibeault ]
Originally posted by Bear Bibeault: ...What are you interested in making?
Well, that's my problem. I'm interesting in eating, but the "making" part is an obstacle. Frozen pizzas, microwavable entrees, and Subway have kept my stovetop remarkably clean. I think an omelet would be good -- maybe I'll try a simple cheese and mushroom one this weekend.
OK, made another run at the fruitcake using the old, trusty metal pan.
Now that's how it's supposed to look!
Just look at all that fruity goodness, and such a nicely browned crust. I wish now that I'd taken pictures of the pallid silicone-induced failure for comparison. [ December 16, 2006: Message edited by: Bear Bibeault ]