Silicone bakeware has been around for a few years now, but I’ve been a stubborn resister to the changing times and technology. That shifted recently when, on a whim, I snagged a floppy, red 12-cup version made by Keliwa on amazon.com for $9.99 to give it a try.
Naturally, I’ve put it to use for baking — surprise — muffins. But the device has found a couple other uses in the kitchen I’ve come to appreciate over the past couple months.
In the oven, silicone baking pans do behave differently from their metal counterparts. Silicone doesn’t let most baked goods brown the same way as metal. That’s a good thing for delicate cupcakes and muffins, but it’s a downside for something like a popover or breads where a golden crust is desired.
The biggest upside is that it’s incredibly easy to get anything you put into the molds out again. No more scraping around the edges with a knife and marring nonstick surfaces in the process. Just push from the bottom, and out the goodies pop.
That’s not to say they don’t stick at all. A little spritz of cooking spray goes a long way to an even cleaner egress of your muffins or baby cheese cakes or individual egg cups or whatever else you place in them.
Oven aside, my muffin pan has found a multitude of other uses on the countertop and in the freezer.
The pan has proven a particularly useful organizational tool in developing many of the recipes we print in the Taste section every week. Generally, I embrace the French culinary concept of “mise en place” — the term basically means “everything in its place” — when writing a recipe. In the past, that would mean measuring a teaspoon of cumin seeds or a quarter cup of diced jalapeños or 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese into a ceramic ramekin before I’d start cooking.
With the muffin pan, all those cups in nice, tidy rows keep the clutter down and leave me with significantly fewer dishes to wash. And while any muffin pan can do double-duty as an ingredient organizer, the silicone is malleable enough to transfer ingredients directly to the pan without having to scoop each thing out with a spoon.
In the freezer, the silicone muffin pan is even more versatile. They’re ideal for freezing exact portions of stock — my model will hold a quarter cup without overflowing once the liquid expands in the freezer — that can then be transferred to a sealable bag. They even make nice, chunky ice cubes perfect for dropping into a tumbler of bourbon.
Individual icebox pies pop right out while remaining frozen solid. Large cubes of minced basil and olive oil are ready to dress pasta in a flash.
And speaking of basil, I recently preserved oodles of fresh herbs by making herb-infused oil, herb and olive oil ice cubes, dried herbs and herb paste. Those aromatic efforts went into four dishes recently featured in the Taste section. If you have an abundance of herbs to use up, give any of the following a try.
Paul Stephen is a food and drink reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Paul, become a subscriber. [email protected] | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen