Gear

Gear: Parchment paper

Some fresh Montreal-style bagels, hot out of the oven on a parchment-paper-lined baking pan.

 

I only started using parchment paper a couple of years ago, when a recipe for macarons requested it be put down on a baking sheet before piping on mounds of sticky almond egg goop.

How clueless was I? I’d never even heard of parchment paper, and I doubt we ever had any in our home growing up. I had to turn to Google to learn how it was different than wax paper. Now that I know about it, I love it.

Think of parchment paper as a non-stick surface on a roll. It can be easily cut to size, then thrown out once the baking is over. It’s almost miraculous, especially since it doesn’t require a non-stick pan below it. I know a lot of people have grown wary of non-stick cookware surfaces, so it’s a great alternative to be able to use parchment paper to achieve a non-stick effect while steering clear of non-stick pans.

But if it’s paper, why doesn’t it burn in the oven when you bake with it? Wikipedia explains some of this, so I won’t repeat the nitty gritty here. All most home bakers/cooks need to know is that it’s paper that’s been chemically altered to add non-stick properties and some heat-tolerance.

Note: As Wikipedia warns, DO NOT EVER mistake parchment paper for wax paper, or you’ll end up with a kitchen full of smoke and possibly a visit from your friends at the fire department. This interesting thread on Chowhound seconds that emotion.

As for me, I use it for things like cookies, bagels and anything delicate that could potentially burn and stick to a baking pan, or where it would reduce cleanup time in a big way. I’ve used it during a chocolate-making class, and I know there are other cooking uses for it besides baking. If you’re making delicate pastries, it’s a godsend. I’m not sure how you could make macarons without it.

It looks like a box of wax paper, yes -- but don't confuse parchment paper with its waxy brother.

 

RATINGS AND DETAILS

Cost: Usually about $3 to $5 for a box, depending on size, store and brand.

Value for cash money: Good.

Availability: Most large grocery stores, kitchen supply shops, etc. I even recently spotted a mega-roll at Costco.

The verdict: A kitchen essential for anyone who does much baking. Where have you been all my life?

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