Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cautionary Tales of Waxed Paper

My usual protocol when preparing cake pans is to grease, flour and apply waxed paper to the bottom of the pan. This always seems like belt, suspenders and helium balloon, but it's commonly recommended and cheap insurance at the price. After all, you want a cut-up cake, not a break-up cake.

There are many theories on the order of application. It's good to start with grease, anyway, because it helps keep your paper stuck down. I used to think there was no need to grease the paper because, hey, it's already waxed. Mostly, that's true. With an ordinary butter cake, the crumb is loose enough that if a little sticks to the waxed paper, it doesn't mess up the rest of the cake.

However, if you have a particularly sticky or thick batter, greasing the waxed paper is a good idea. We recently made a flourless chocolate genoise that turned out fairly dense and sticky (much nicer than the usual flourless cake, but that's another story for another day). Pulling the waxed paper off that cake pulled off a substantial layer of crumbs. A tasty bonus for the cooks, but we would have preferred the crumbs to stay on the cake.

And then there were the sesame oatmeal bars we made for our wedding. (See the recipe at the end of this post.) I thought I'd get fancy and add waxed paper to the pan, even though I knew the recipe worked fine without the paper. With true motherly patience, my mom scraped the baked-on sticky mess off the waxed paper, and we served artisanal hand-formed sesame oatmeal balls at the reception. I'm not sure that even greasing the waxed paper would have helped with this recipe. Since the bars are removed individually, rather than turned out, just greasing the pan works fine.

But wait, there's more. Resist the temptation to use waxed paper between the pizza stone and the pizza. In the first place, you're not supposed to put exposed waxed paper in the oven - it should always be completely covered with batter, or it is apt to smoke and burn. Not only that, since pizza crust is not crumbly by nature, it turns out that waxed paper forms an unholy bond with pizza dough. As we learned to our sorrow, the amount of actual food that can be salvaged depends on how long you're willing to spend picking waxed paper off your dinner and how much paper you're willing to eat. Yes, parchment paper is more expensive than waxed paper, and the name sounds hoity-toity, but I'm willing put on airs if it means not having to eat waxed paper.

Sesame Oatmeal Bars
(from The Buffet Book by Carole Peck)
I generally don't reproduce recipes from books that are in print, but this book does not seem to be easily available, so here goes.

Melt together:
4 ounces (1/2 cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup light brown sugar

Remove from heat.

Stir into butter mixture:
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup sesame seeds

Bake in greased 9" square pan (do NOT use waxed paper) at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-18 minutes, or until golden.

Cool 10 minutes and score into bars. Let cool completely and cut along score lines.

Dip or drizzle with chocolate if desired.
for dipping - 4 ounces melted semisweet chocolate and 1 teaspoon oil
for drizzling - 2 ounces melted unsweetened chocolate and 1 teaspoon oil

The bars are very sweet and somewhat crumbly. They keep up to two weeks in a tightly covered container.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...and we served artisanal hand-formed sesame oatmeal balls at the reception."

Those balls were supposed to be bars? I never would have guessed. Perhaps because Gretchen's wedding featured an entire cake composed of balls, I was primed to believe that the balls were supposed to be, well, balls.


July 3, 2008 at 2:56 PM  

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