Recently I baked a Peach and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake in my iron frying pan. It s the pan that gets little use.
In my kitchen, there s an amazing variety of baking dishes and pans. And it seems that each one bakes just a little differently based on the material it s made of: glass, metal, ceramic, pottery, nonstick, and iron.
The upside-down cake was a recipe from a Martha Stewart magazine (date unknown). It is peach season and I still had that bag of cornmeal in my refrigerator, so it seemed like a perfect time to try it. As with all upside-down cakes, I had to make a golden sugar sauce with sugar and butter for the bottom and then place the sliced peaches in an orderly pattern on the bottom. Then the cornmeal-flour batter was poured over the top and baked.
The best part was that when the cake was baked for 22 minutes and cooled for 10 minutes, I flipped the pan over onto the glass serving plate and it turned out beautifully. Nothing stuck to the bottom of the pan and the peach slices fanned out perfectly.
I need to use that iron frying pan more often. I used to use it when camping and when frying chicken or fish.
Later in the week I bought a wire mesh pan to grill Provencal Shrimp, the recipe from Georgeann Brown in the August 26 Food page story on Alfresco Dining. That too cooked beautifully and cleaned up nicely.
What a diverse cooking week: old-fashioned iron frying pan and contemporary mesh grill pan.
As you can imagine, my kitchen cupboards hold a little bit of every kind of cooking equipment. Recently, my mother-in-law bought a dripless (metal) pie plate with a very wide rim, but now she discovers that her pies bake differently. She thinks the fruit pies take longer to bake.
I told her that every baking pan and dish has its own style of baking. My apple pies bake differently in my usual glass pie dishes than they do in my heavy pottery, ceramic, or earthenware dishes, which hold the heat longer.
When I freeze a pie (unbaked), I sometimes freeze it in an aluminum pie tin or a glass pie dish. When I recently baked a frozen pie, the aluminum baked faster, but this time the juices from the pie spilled out.
I find the variations of bakeware really noticeable with cookie pans, of which I have one or two of about 4 different types, metals, and air-bake variety. The same cookie dough, whether it s chocolate chip or peanut butter, baked on three different pans can look like three different cookies.
Darker pans bake darker, agrees Sharon Dela Hamaide of Kitchen Tools & Skills in Perrysburg. If that is happening, turn the heat down by 25 degrees or reduce baking time by 5-minute increments until you get the feel of the cookware. Lighter-color pans bake lighter products.
In my experience, the price of a pan doesn t make any difference. Sometimes I like the way the cheaper pans bought at a grocery store bake. My mother had a couple of older pans that were not the quality of finish that we have today. But I avoid any pans (older pans) that rust when washed.
The exception is an iron frying pan, which will rust if it is not completely towel-dried and then air-dried before storage. But it bakes a beautiful cake.