Another subject I like to read about in food blogs is equipment. What people use, what they like about it, what they recommend. So here's my contribution on silicone bakeware.
Why do you buy so many silicone molds?
I love baking in pretty shapes (you should see my cookie-cutter collection), and every time I see a new mold in the store I'm tempted to buy it, whether I have a use for it or not. It's the kid in me making sand castles...
What do you use them for?
I use them for baking as well as for freezing. Ice cream can be served in pretty shapes. I'm still working on shaping mousses: I tried with a gelatin-based recipe but I didn't like its texture. I'll keep trying.
But as for freezing, the best use I've found is for storing unbaked dough. I pour the batter into the desired shape, flash-freeze it, and when the shapes are hard, just pop them out and into a plastic bag and back into the freezer. Then on the spur of the moment I can put the frozen muffins into the appropriate mold and into the oven. It works very well, I've tried it so far with both madeleines and chocolate cake muffins. You can have fresh-baked goodies in the time it takes to bake them, which is usually less than 10 minutes with these muffin shapes.
I even use these silicone molds for freezing things like soup in small portions. See the end of this post. In this case it's not the shape that counts, but the silicone's flexibility which makes it easy to produce giant ice cubes of stock. The different shapes do help me to tell different batches of stock apart. ("Oh, gotta finish the stars before I start with the hearts...")
Do they work with all recipes?
At first I had trouble finding a good recipe to use with the star and heart-shaped molds. A regular cake batter puffs up too much, and the resulting pot belly on the muffin distracts from the intended shape. Example: these popovers. They didn't pop as much as they should have, but still too much to make attractive stars.
And then I made tried this brownies recipe. These brownies are the real thing, a bit fudgy and very sweet. I find the little baby belly rising in the center of the star doesn't ruin the muffin's outline, it just makes it more sensuous! My slightly modified version of the recipe is posted below.
Update April 2007: Another good recipe for silicone molds is Financiers.
Are there any drawbacks?
These molds are easy to store, easy to unmold, and easy to wash. Still, for more intricate shapes, like the teddy bear's face, or the tips of the stars, I prefer to brush the mold with melted butter, as I've occasionally lost some bits to the mold. Also washing up can be tricky as the molds are wobbly to handle in the sink or in the dishwasher. The dishwasher doesn't always get all the baked-on crumbs off, and the molds can feel a little oily even after having been washed. However, these little drawbacks are not enough to make me kick my silicone habit.
Recipe: Dark Chocolate Brownies
Source: Cooking for Engineers.
- 170g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
- 150g butter
- 275g sugar
I decreased the butter and sugar a little but the recipe is still rich and very sweet. I don't dare reduce these too much or the brownies may lose their fudgy chewiness...
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 pack vanilla sugar
- 125g flour
- 1/2 cup or more of chopped pecans or other nuts
1. Preheat oven to 160°C
2. Melt chocolate with butter.
3. Whip eggs with sugar and vanilla until frothy. This wasn't part of the original recipe but if you skip this step you don't get the characteristic shiny crust on the brownie.
4. Add chocolate & butter to eggs
5. Mix in flour
6. Mix in nuts
7. Pour into buttered 9x13 inch baking pan and bake for anywhere between 25 to 35 minutes. The original recipe said 35 but 25 worked for me.
For muffin shapes like the stars here I think 15 min. is ample, but I don't quite remember. Try sticking a toothpick in the dough. If it comes out dripping, then clearly the brownies aren't ready. If there are moist crumbs clinging to the toothpick then I would say they are done.
PS. Apparently I am not the only one with a thing for silicone...