What Color is Your Baking Pan?

round cake tin stack

Image courtesy of Cooks & Kitchens on flickr.com

When baking, you may find that your results seem quite different than those of the recipe developer. They describe a light, evenly-colored cookie but yours is light on top and dark on the bottom. Or your cake may look the right color but it is undercooked on the inside. Don’t despair. One possible fix is the type of pan you use. The color and material of the pan may not seem important, but they can have an impact on your baked goods.

In the Sweet Kitchen explains that “some materials conduct heat, others reflect it – each of the properties will affect your product differently. In general, shiny or pale materials reflect heat and will produce … lighter-colored pastries… (Using dark or non-stick pans) means your products will bake faster on the bottom and sides, perhaps burning until the middle is done.”

Non-stick cookie sheets are nice for clean-up but can be unreliable for the actual baking. Unless you have a pan with a light-colored non-stick coating, they aren’t the best choice because they bake unevenly. But King Arthur Flour’s website says you don’t need to get rid of your non-stick cookie sheets. “If you already have a dark-colored, non-stick cookie sheet, and it tends to burn the bottoms of your cookies, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F.”

I have used the Williams-Sonoma Nonstick Goldtouch Pans as recommended by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. The surface is light-colored and, unlike most non-stick bakeware, fairly scratch resistant. Regan Daley of In the Sweet Kitchen says that, “lighter-coloured non-stick pans are much more durable, as the finish is part of the material of the pan, not simply a coating.” They are nice to bake with when you need a cake to release easily for a picture-perfect treat.

Because dark pans retain heat, they can help a pie baker. “Dark-colored metal pie pans … transfer heat better … (and) brown crust more quickly … However, most pie pans will brown a crust thoroughly, given enough time; (just) cover the pie’s exposed edges with a crust shield to prevent burning.” Good advice from King Arthur Flour.

You don’t have to rush out and buy all new pans, but reread this article next time you are looking to purchase a bake pan.

Picking the Right Baking Pan

More pans

Image courtesy of Abbey Hendrickson on flickr.com

When I first moved to high altitude I noticed that baked goods seemed to sink at the center – not just vegan, but all types. I also realized that the larger the baked item (i.e. a cake versus a cupcake) the larger the crater. That made me think that if you removed the center then you could, potentially, remove the crater. The conclusion was that I would have to start baking in different pans to make better looking and more evenly baked goodies.

I started working with bundt pans for a centerless cake. Using a chart for Baking Pan substitutions I took a cake recipe for an 8 x 8” pan and baked it in my bundt pan. I started with a shorter baking time and checked every 5 minutes until it was done. Success! I had a perfectly baked cake with a great look.

Next was applying the same logic to quick breads. If I used mini loaf pans instead of a regular sized loaf pan then I should get a good result. I divided up the batter and greatly reduced the baking time to account for smaller loaves. Checking every so often I found the perfect length of time to bake the breads, and I ended up with tops that didn’t resemble lunar landscapes. For a chart to help calculate changing loaf sizes and corresponding bake times, see Crafty Baking again.

Now I apply this concept to all my high altitude baking except drop cookies; they don’t rise much so they don’t fall and cause craters. After a bit of shopping, I have specially divided pans for bar cookies and smaller pans to bake cakes in. The only problem I have now is that my pans tend to cater to bite-sized eating and my husband misses layer cakes. I guess that’s a project for the future.

Now you know my secret to making beautiful baked goods at high altitude.