GREASE THE WAY FOR EASY BAKING
The quickest way to prepare pans for baking is to simply smear a thin, even layer of grease —shortening, butter, oil, or pan spray—over the inside of the pan. This creates a slippery surface that encourages cookies and other batters to spread as they bake and then slide right off when done. Be careful not to overgrease: in the heat of the oven, a heavy layer of grease can begin to fry the bottom and sides of whatever you’re baking.
Most bakers prefer shortening over butter. Shortening has no taste, it’s inexpensive, it won’t brown or burn, and it’s always spreadable. Butter gives a sweet, rich flavor, but since it can brown or burn at a relatively low temperature, it makes a darker, more toastytasting crust than shortening does. Using clarified butter prevents browning, but it also removes much of butter’s desirable taste.
Spread the grease evenly. Baked goods will stick to any spot you miss, so apply a thin, even coat and pay attention to corners and edges. It’s best to paint shortening or softened butter on the pan in even strokes with a pastry brush so you don’t miss a patch. If you use crumpled waxed paper or a butter wrapper, remove excess grease with a paper towel; this also helps even out heavy and sparse spots. For a thoroughly greased pan, grease it once, pop it in the freezer for 5 or 10 minutes to set, and then add a second light coating.
Vegetable pan sprays are handy for greasing small muffin tins and loaf pans, which can be hard to reach into.
DUST WITH FLOUR FOR ADDED INSURANCE
Some batters—especially those made with chocolate, fruits, and nuts—are notoriously sticky and need more than grease to keep the sugars from caramelizing and adhering to the baking pan. A greased pan can also cause problems with delicate cakes and batters that are intended to rise. Instead of climbing, these batters will actually slip and slide on the welllubricated sides of the pan, leaving the cake dense and flat. The best insurance against both problems is to dust the greased surface with a light coating of flour. The flour creates a smooth, thin, sealed crust on baked goods that helps them slide from the pan without resistance. Flour also gives high-rising baked goods something to cling to as they rise during baking.
Some pan sprays come mixed with flour. You can also make your own pan coating from equal parts oil, shortening, and flour. Once mixed, this spread can be kept for months, tightly covered, in the refrigerator. Simply let it soften at room temperature before using it.
Prepare your pans before you mix ingredients so delicate batters don’t have to wait. If your kitchen is warm, refrigerate the pans until you’re ready to use them. If you’re reusing a baking pan, let it cool enough to wipe it clean and reapply a fresh coat of grease and flour; otherwise, the coating will begin to burn.