Both home and professional bakers have strong opinions on the subject of silicone bakeware. Its bright colors and non-stick surfaces are appealing, and they're quick and easy to clean. On the other hand, baked goods -- even small items such as cupcakes and muffins -- bake rather differently in silicone. Your tiny treats will have a slightly different appearance when baked in silicone, but even the most troublesome of recipes won't stick to their glossy surfaces.
One of the curious things about baking is how such widely different baked goods can result from the same basic handful of ingredients. In an odd way, silicone bakeware demonstrates the same principle. Like glass, its main ingredient is silicon grit -- better known to most people as sand. Like glass, the silicon is melted at very high temperatures with a handful of other chemicals, but instead of cooling to a hard and brittle state, silicone yields a rubbery, flexible material. It doesn't shatter as glass does and is very resistant to heat, making it a versatile option for cookware and bakeware.
In Your Cups
Silicone versions of most bakeware can be found at retail stores and specialized outlets online. This includes muffin cups in a variety of sizes. Some are made into pans, like conventional muffin pans, but most manufacturers also produce them as individual muffin cases. Unlike metal pans, they don't need paper liners, serving both as the wrapper and the non-stick baking pan for each individual cupcake. They're available in the same range of standard sizes used for paper cupcake cups, as well as in a number of novelty shapes for holidays and other events.
Using Silicone Cases
Use silicone cases inside your conventional muffin pans as an environmentally-friendly reusable alternative to paper cups. Just take them out of the pans and cooling them on a rack as usual. For large batches, it's easier and more space-efficient to arrange them on a sheet pan. The number you can bake at one time is determined by the size of your cupcakes, the dimensions of the sheet pan and the limitations of your oven. Leave at least 1/4 inch between the cups, so air can circulate. Cleanup will be easier if you line the sheet pan with parchment paper, to catch any drips.
Adjusting Your Methods
Some silicone cases require pan spray, while others function best without it. Consult your manufacturer's instructions, to be certain. Silicone is an insulating material, so your muffins or cupcakes might need an extra three to five minutes to be fully baked when you use silicone cases. Your cupcakes won't brown on the edges, as they would in a conventional pan, but they'll have a softer and more delicate texture. Sponge, chiffon and angel-food batters can't rise properly in a non-stick pan, so hang onto your conventional metal muffin pans for those recipes.
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