As we head in to spring and summer, not only do we start to see more flavorful tomatoes, peppers and other veggies start to appear in stores and markets, but we’re a lot more likely to want to eat them than we are during the winter, when many people seek out heartier comfort foods. Stuffed peppers and tomatoes are often a particular favorite, since they’re a great way to turn some very simple veggies into a hearty meal. IF your tomatoes and peppers look anything like mine do, however, they’re not always designed to stand perfectly upright on a baking sheet after they’ve been stuffed and I often have to get a little creative to prop them up while they cook. My muffin pans are too small for most of the peppers I work with, but Chicago Metallic’s Stuff-It-Up Pan is designed with peppers in mind. This pan has six unusually shaped cavities that are designed to hold peppers perfectly. Each of the nonstick cavities has a four-loop shape that mirrors that of your average bell pepper. The wells are each about 2-inches deep, which is deep enough to keep the peppers from tipping over no matter how much filling you pile in to them.
IF you’re not stuffing vegetables, you can also use this pan like you would any other baking pan and use it to makes small cakes and brownies. The nonstick surface will release a little cake as well as it will release a pepper, and you’ll get desserts with a little more character than you’ll find in your regular pans.
Madeleines are one of those baked goods that require a specialty pan to get them right, because even though you can bake the batter in mini muffin tins, you just can’t capture the spirit of a madeleine (the cake that writers wax so poetic about) in any other form. Madeline pans can carry a wide range of price tags and can be made out of a wide range of materials. The price tag of expensive imported pans that promised the only good results kept me from biting the bullet and buying madeleine pans for a long time, but I had heard good things about the Chicago Metallic Nonstick Madeline Pan – and had had good results with their other bakeware – and bought some to give them a try.
The pans are lightweight and made of carbon steel, brushed with a nonstick coating. My madeleines baked very evenly and rose up well, developing that slight “dome” on the top that is a signature of many madeleines. The pan comes with a recipe that is easy to use and quite tasty (although they’re usually even better the day after baking) if you don’t have a favorite madeleine recipe already.
Working with the pans, I found that they allowed the tips of the madeleines to caramelize slightly and turn a lovely golden color, while still giving me a clean release. You get an even better look by brushing the cavities with a little bit of melted butter just before baking. The only downside to these pans is that they only bake a dozen madeleines at a time and most recipes bake more cakes. Fortunately (thanks to the nonstick coating), you can pop the madeleines out and the pans will cool down very quickly so that you can bake a second batch. Their price tag is also reasonable enough that if you are a big fan of madeleines you can justify adding a second one to your collection.
When I set out to make Gingerbread Men around the holidays, I have a set of cookie cutters that I use to help me get that classic gingerbread man shape into my cookie dough. Chicago Metallic is making things a little easier with their Gingerbread Man Pan. The nonstick pan bakes six large gingerbread men, streamlining the gingerbread man creation process by eliminating the need for a cookie cutter. The cavities of the pan are each 3/4-inch deep, so this pan can be used for cookie dough, brownie batter and even gingerbread cake batter to make a wide variety of gingerbread men. You’re guaranteed a uniform size for your treats and you won’t need to worry about your cookie dough spreading as it bakes and messing out the outlines of your men.
Since this pan only bakes 6 at a time, you’re going t need to work in batches to bake through a whole recipe for cookies. Be sure to allow to the pan to cool completely before refilling it, and if you do a whole lot of holiday entertaining, you might even want two. For me, the most important part (aside from the pan being nonstick, so you can get your men out) is that the gingerbread men you bake in this pan are large enough to decorate easily and add a lot of detail to,which is always the most fun part of baking a batch in the first place.
As much as I like Breville’s Personal Pie Maker, I’m not yet sure that I need another appliance in my kitchen – even if it is an appliance that specializes in pies. I can certainly make room for a new pan, however, and Chicago Metallic’s Pie Mold Pan is a good middle ground. This pan has cavities for four individual pies, and while they’re larger than the miniature pies that the Breville makes, this pan is a little more versatile and takes up a lot less space in the kitchen.
The pan is a heavy duty nonstic pan that will give you a deep brown pastry crust and will also provide a clean release for the pastries. Each of the cavities has a removable bottom to make it easy to lift out and serve your pies after baking. The pan can be used with just about any kind of pie filling, sweet or savory. You can even fill up each individual pie shell with a different filling! If you take that route, however, keep in mind that all of the pies in the pan need to bake in about the same amount of time and it very well may be easier to do batches to bake off different pies instead of trying to do them all at once. The pan comes with a dough cutter that will help you get the right size pastry for the base of your pies, and also enables you to cut a decorative patter on the top layers of pastry.
It seems that there are many more options for shaped bakeware when you look at all the silicone pans that are available. Silicone definitely has its advantages, and the same thing can be said about metal pans, so when you have the choice between a shaped silicone pan and a shaped metal pan – such as this Chicago Metallic gingerbread pan or this silicone gingerbread pan – which should you choose?
The silicone pan is nonstick and it is easy to pop out a finished cake because the pan can actually be pulled away from the sides of the cake itself to loosen it. This is great for small cakes, but larger cakes can sometimes crack because the pan doesn’t offer their weight enough support when you go to take the cake out of the pan. The sides and top of the cake will not get as dark as they can with a metal pan, and while this can help to keep the cake nice and soft, it can also lead to a loss of detail after baking.
Metal pans need to be greased and usually floured, especially when dealing with shaped bakeware that has lots of little nooks and crannies. The cake can still stick to the inside of the pan and require you to use a knife or something to loosen it enough to pop out. Greasing and flouring can add a smooth, slightly dark “crust” (albeit a soft crust) to the outside of the cake, which is a great surface for catching all the little details of a shaped pan, like the eyes and mouth of a gingerbread person.
Both types of pans will work out, and both have advantages. Shaped silicone offers you an easy way to get your cake out completely intact and without much hassle. Metal pans, so long as your cake doesn’t stick, tend to be better about capturing detail. For me, metal pans last longer and those are what I prefer, but you’re generally going to get a good result with either and I’d keep an eye out for sales and just choose the better deal, if you don’t have your own preference.