January 31, 2010

Cooking School: Pan Addiction

I cannot believe it, but Wilton has managed to pioneer yet another cupcake size.  As if mini, regular, and Texas were not enough, we now have the option of King-Size! These are not new; evidently, they've been around for a couple of years. But they are a new discovery here in Spoonfoolery land. The possibilities are endless! My favorite so far is this "soft-serve cupcake" from Wilton's site.

With these tulip paper liners (all the rage right now; just visit your local Starbucks, and you'll see more than things than you can imagine made with them), this tall cupcake pan certainly makes some cute food!

I must say, I'm addicted to collectible cake pans,, and I just can't seem to have enough varieties to do all the things I'd like to do. Another recent addition is this fun wonder--the Fanci-Fill cake pan--also from Wilton.
It comes in 8-inch and 4-inch sizes, so you could actually tier this for a super-special occasion. I made one big giant Hostess cupcake with this for a dinner party last night, filled with a standard Devil's food cake recipe, chai whipped cream, and melted fudge frosting poured over the top. Sorry, but I totally forgot to get a cross-section for you, but see the accompanying booklet photo above. It does slice very neatly with a complete cross-section of filling.

And you can also do savory with this; the recipe booklet has a "rice cake" of sorts, where you put whatever you planned to serve with the rice you just made inside the "fill" part of the cake pan. A new way to serve Indian food? I think so!

But all humor aside, baking pans, which ones to get (nonstick or commercial metal), and many other construction details befuddle home bakers nationwide. A friend from my Boston days recently asked me what was my preferred cookie sheet--the flat, insulated kind with the two upturned lips or jelly-roll style?

I prefer the jelly roll style, nonstick. They are much easier to remove from the oven with their surrounding lip, and they serve multiple purposes: cookie sheet, bar cookie pan, and cake pan. Chicago Metallic makes an excellent version, in a commercial-grade uncoated metal. With parchment paper, it's just as nonstick as nonstick, without the horrible burn factor that nonstick often unwittingly includes. I am rather against nonstick coating in cooking and baking in general (What is that stuff, and I just know it is getting in your food!!!), and I do think it instigates extra browning on the bottoms of your cookies more than it should. And I'm a big fan of parchment paper, as I really believe it's the only thing that's truly nonstick in this baking life.

However, sometimes you can't get away from nonstick coating. The Fanci-Fill pan I just bought and fell in love with has nonstick coating, as do many of my layer cake pans. But I always apply cake release to the pan and line it with parchment (also applied with cake release) to ensure things really don't stick (and to hopefully avoid little Teflon bits getting into any precious crumb).

Here is an excellent recipe for cake release that I picked up at a cake decorating convention last summer. You can make this in small batches and store in your dry-goods cabinet for up to 3 months.

Cake Release

4 tbsp shortening
4 tbsp neutral oil such as vegetable or canola
4 tbsp all-purpose flour

Mix thoroughly until no lumps. Apply to cake pans and/or muffin tins with pastry brush. Store in an airtight container in dry area at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Happy panning!

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