When I first saw these in stores, my initial reaction was, “hmm, that’s a good idea.” I mean, it would seem like a really great way to keep things from sticking; that is, using silicone had always worked pretty well on my pans, right?
So I received a silicone muffin “tin” for my birthday and the next day I tested it out on my favorite coffeecake muffin recipe. I really wanted to give the tin a run for it’s money, so I pushed it just as it was advertised to perform, ie: no spray needed. If it worked like the manufacturer would have you believe, then my muffins should come out of the oven and literally dump out of the cups onto my cooling rack. Oh well, things never do work like they do on TV, eh?
The muffins stuck. Badly. In fact, they were actually darn difficult to get out of those things. I pretty much had to turn the cups inside-out in order to peel off the stuck parts (yes, they are that flexible). I returned them later that week.
Then this Christmas, my sister gifted me with another small set of silicone bake-ware (from Flex), so I decided to give them another go. This time I lowered my expectations and used cooking spray on the silicone, but for the sake of experimentation, I used the same recipe. Since the tin was a six cup version, and my recipe makes a dozen muffins, I used the silicone tin along side my normal metal one as a test. I always use paper cups in my metal tin, so sticking isn’t really an issue, but I wanted to compare how things baked in the different mediums. Had I been thinking, I would have sprayed only half of the silicone tin, just to see how it performed. Maybe I was a little gun-shy after my last disaster (hey, it was a great way to make “muffin tops”…)
Anyway, as soon as I had my batter, I was ready to fill my nice flexible cups… wait a second. They’re flexible. How do you even put these things in the oven once they are filled and heavy? You can’t hold just one side and slide it in like you do a normal pan, it would flop like a limp fish and dump your batter all over the floor. I don’t know about you, but my oven, with the rack in the middle, is pretty tight to allow me to slide a pan in there two handed. Sure I could do it widthwise, but I had nasty visions of burning the hair off my forearms in the process if I had to reach in to get a second pan (only six cups, remember). No thanks.
Okay, plan B. Put the silicone tin on a baking sheet. This works, but now I have to worry about how a baking sheet is going to effect cooking time. Also add to that the fact that I no longer have room for my other regular tin… unless I put it too on the baking sheet,
It all fit, but the results were interesting. The silicone tin needed about 5 minutes more time than usual, while the regular tin needed almost 15 minutes more. So the baking sheet definitely made a difference there. But what I was really interested in was the sticking. I let my muffins cool in the tins for about seven minutes, then tried the dump method. Bingo! They did roll right out. I noticed that they didn’t brown quite as much in the cup part (fine on top) as my metal pan and the paper cups, but otherwise they were fine.
So how would I rate this weird new way of cooking? Well, Since I’ve never really had a problem with muffins in the past, it’s hard to say. I could certainly see the advantages of say, the loaf pan, if it worked the same way. But the fact that you have to put the tin on a baking sheet is significant. I noticed that the silicone bake-ware from Kitchenaid came with a metal armature to support it without the need of a baking sheet. That might do the trick nicely, but it makes me say, why?
If I need a tray or an armature, and I still need to spray the things, then what’s the point? My old tins seem to work about the same (with a little spray in there) and they cost about a third of the price. Less if you’re not that picky (I use paper cups, remember…). So how do I give these things a rating? I can’t yet. I will hold off my judgment until I have had a chance to use the loaf pan. But I can already see that it’s going to be problematic for anything with a thin batter. Sure I can put it on a baking sheet, but it’s like three inches tall and floppy as all get-out. It seems a little silly to drop this puppy inside my regular metal tin just to keep it upright in the oven. Hmmm… again. We’ll see.
Update: Please see my entry on the loaf pan!