Why You Don't Actually Need Any Pans to Bake Like a Pro
If you're anything like me, the urge to bake comes in waves. Winter constitutes an especially large wave; when I need to put on a few extra pounds for insulation, I go a bit carb crazy and take any opportunity to make breads, pies, and cakes.
However, home bakers are limited by the types of kitchen equipment they have. Not everyone has the space to store Bundt pans, muffin tins, or pie pans.
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Necessity is the mother of invention, though, and it is possible to bake without specialized pans using some ingenuity... and these simple hacks below.
Pies and tarts are glorious in both sweet and savory forms. But so many recipes call for pans of different dimensions, and by the time you've gone to the shop to invest in the properly sized pan, the craving is gone.
Crostatas (or galettes) are a wonderful, free form way to instantly make the pie you want. The recipe I've chosen to use for these photos is a mango chutney cream cheese crostata, topped with fresh arugula, folded in a basic shortcrust pastry.
For the filling:
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup mango chutney
- 2 cups fresh arugula, washed and drained
For the crust:
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp. white sugar
- ½ tsp. grated lemon peel
- 10 Tbsp. (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 4 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. ice water
- 1 egg, mixed
- Combine the flour, sugar, grated lemon peel, and salt in a large bowl and stir to mix.
- Add the unsalted butter to the bowl a few tablespoons at a time, using a pastry cutter to break the butter into smaller pieces and combine with the flour mixture. The final product, when all of the butter has been mixed in, should look similar to coarse cornmeal.
- Add the water one tablespoon at a time, using the pastry cutter to distribute the liquid evenly. When the dough will hold together without falling apart, it is complete—this may require more or less water, depending on the humidity of your surroundings.
- Transfer your dough to a flat surface covered with parchment paper, then roll with a rolling pin to flatten into a circle. Then, transfer the parchment paper (with rolled-out dough) to a baking sheet.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese and mango chutney together.
- Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the pastry, leaving 2-3 inches uncovered around the edges.
- Fold a small section over the center filling, then pinch to seal the filling inside.
- Continue to fold the crust over the filling around the rest of the center.
- Take your mixed egg and brush it against the pastry crust.
- Bake your crostata for 40-45 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown.
- Top with additional arugula, if desired, and serve.
There truly is nothing like freshly-baked bread. The smell of yeast is one that reminds me of making homemade pizza dough and cinnamon buns as a kid.
But if you want an individual portion, or a specialized shape for a loaf of bread, you either need to buy a special pan or you're out of luck. Thankfully, there is a much cheaper, storage-friendly solution—so put that loaf pan down!
After your bread proofs (rises), form a perimeter of parchment paper around your bread. Then, secure it with some twine.
The paper will act as a mold while the bread cooks, and you'll have gorgeous and uniform results.
So, I know we said that you don't need any pans... but Bundt pans are random. They're useful maybe once a season and very awkward to stack and store. Luckily, there's a way to make a temporary Bundt pan should you have the impulse for a ring of cake. Simply place a ramekin in the center of a cake pan, pour your batter or shape your dough around it, and bake as normal.
Obviously, your cake won't come out as neatly as it would in a specialized pan, but the primary purpose of the Bundt pan is to ensure even baking for thicker batter—and this will certainly do the trick. (You can even use this makeshift Bundt pan to roast a chicken, too.)
Instead of spending upwards of $7 on a gourmet cupcake, there's always the option to make your own. Here are three awesome hacks using mason jar lids, aluminum liners, and parchment paper that act as great substitutes for muffin tins.
The moral of this story is: if it's oven-safe and can hold its shape, it'll work. Time to go carb crazy!
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