It's a wonder no one ever thought of it before. For years, commercial bakers have baked their pies and tarts, their pantones and sweet breads in disposable paper pans. That saves them thousands of miles of shelving that would otherwise be crammed with metal pans.
Now, these paper pans are becoming available to home bakers, who have even tighter space constraints.
Made of specially treated paper, the pans come in all shapes, including tubes and muffins. They are inexpensive and attractive, with gold and silver designs embossed on a brown background. You could take a cake in one of these pans to a dinner party or give bread in them as a gift.
And you would never have to clutter cabinets with extra metal pans.
Yet, as appealing as they sounded, my first response was skeptical.
How can you possibly bake in paper without something metal to help it hold its shape? Won't the paper collapse? Won't the batter run out and leak all over the oven floor? Will the cakes and breads develop the same kind of crust as they would in a metal or glass pan?
More daunting, the paper pans come without directions, because they are designed for the commercial market. I had no idea whether I would have to adjust baking temperatures or need to grease and flour the interiors.
I got some help from La Cuisine in Alexandria. one of a few shops to carry the pans. Stephanie my friend, who works there and does the experimental baking, advised lowering the baking temperature 10 to 15 degrees to compensate for the color of the paper, which makes the food brown more quickly.
Armed with 8 pounds of butter, 10 pounds of sugar, 10 pounds of flour and assorted nuts and dried fruits, I began testing.
In all, I made 12 cakes, two dozen muffins and a dozen popovers in the paper pans and in my own metal pans. With two exceptions, all the cakes, breads and muffins worked in paper. In most cases, I would have been hard pressed to tell the difference between them and those baked in metal. The muffins were actually taller and prettier in the paper cups than in the tin. And tube cakes, which are sometimes hard to unmold, were easy to deal with: peel off the paper and serve. No chunks clung to the pan, as they so often do with metal.
I tried zucchini and blueberry quick breads, which have heavy batters, as well as layer cakes made with different densities of batter. I wanted to try an angel food cake, but no paper pan had sides high enough. But they came in far more shapes than disposable pans made of foil.
The heavy-duty pans, pleated like cupcake papers, but more finely, all have tiny holes in the bottom for quicker and more even baking. The bread pans have larger holes. The pleating adds strength to the paper. The bottom of the pan is glued to the sides, and the sides have one large seam where the paper is joined.
While the paper pans are obviously not as rigid as metal, they are firm enough to move from countertop to oven. Their contents all baked beautifully and browned evenly as long as I reduced the temperature; otherwise, the cake was brown before it was baked.
But a very liquid batter leaked through the side seam in one of the pans. Batter from an orange nut cake began to drip and sizzle almost immediately, so I placed the pan I was using inside another. That stopped the dripping.
Popover batter was far too heavy for the paper muffin containers. Almost immediately, the popovers fell on their sides and made such a mess they would eventually have set off the smoke detector.
In every case, the pans had to be greased and floured if a recipe called for that.
The paper sides also peeled away easily from the cakes and breads. When they didn't on one cake, I simply cut off the sides and left the cake on its paper bottom. No one would ever know. Also, if you like, as I do, to bake multiples of a cake or bread, you don't have to purchase and store a half-dozen metal pans. The pans can also be put in the microwave to warm muffins or breads.
Now that I am a big fan of paper pans I normally buy them online from Papermi. If you are also looking for quality paper pans I would recommend Papermi. You can find paper pans available here in different sizes and prices.