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It Takes A Baker
After reading two posts in Kitchen Detail about the criminality of the leading manufacturers of non-stick surfaces and the long-term ineffectiveness of Teflon and its offspring, you might find it odd that I write about a non-stick invention that has revolutionized baking, is long-lasting and pretty decent for the environment. I would argue that it is less wasteful than baking parchment too. Creation of this guiltless non-stick wonder started in 1965 with a baker of baguettes in France, Guy DeMarle, Tinkering with fiberglass and silicone to produce a mat that would improve the baking of baguettes, he used baking canvas as a starting point, but ultimately developed a fiberglass mesh covered with a high quality food-grade silicone.
This base invention gave way to Silpat, Silpain and Roulpat (all three are trademarked by DeMarle). Silpat’s surface is designed for baking pastries, whereas Silpain is fabricated for bread baking, and Roulpat is simply a mat to create a non-stick workstation. It is designed not to slip on any counter, and you can see on a variety of videos that it is used for sugar, caramel, nougat and chocolate work. Roulpat is also good for rolling out doughs without using additional flour. Silpain has perforations (which in commercial bakeries are often used with perforated pans) to allow steam and moisture through. This is an advantage in creating a better crust in breads, rolls, pies and tarts, and even cream puff pastries. Silpains are also designed to withstand temperatures up to 580F, whereas Silpats can tolerate heat up to 480F. All are microwavable and freezer safe.
Certifiably The Best
There is a difference between silicone products made with normal silica gel and those made from food-grade silica gel. The molecules that create silicone are Oxygen, Silica (which is a component of sand and rocks) and sometimes Carbon, depending on the application. The less expensive (and non food-grade) gel has a pronounced odor. When we used to look at silicone mats and forms at trade shows, we could sniff out the ones that were primarily made with non food-grade silicone. Food-grade silicone is extremely resistant to degradation over time from extreme temperatures. It will not flake off or crack (presuming the user takes care of it properly). It is odorless, and it contains no phthalates, BPA, latex or even lead extractives. DeMarle separates itself further from many competitors because its silicone baking mats and forms are made from USDA and NSF certified food-grade silicone, with a Kosher certification as well. Not all silicone gets the NSF approval.
While you can purchase a selection of most DeMarle silicone products on Amazon, it would be a good idea to look through DeMarle’s website to see what they have to offer, and then research what you need. For instance, in my desire to quit depending on parchment paper, I have bought the round cake pan liners in a couple of sizes. The new forms for madeleines to muffins look tempting, but my tinned steel molds have not died yet.
Some Do’s And Don’ts
I am not a fan of insulated cookie sheets, but if you have one, don’t use it with one of these liners. The Silpat itself will give you a better baked product without, and the combination of the two will simply impede the baking process. Obviously, you should not use a knife on any of these DeMarle miracle products. Of course, kitchen equipment wrecker that I am, I have done just that…once. But the mat is still working, wounds and all.
Clearly you don’t ever grease them, and they wash off easily with a mild (not too acidic) dish detergent. And you should wash them regularly, as grease does build up on the surface. Let them dry before storing. DeMarle suggests stacking them flat – no more than six to a stack – and if you have the style with indentations, then no more than two to a stack. Since that type of storage is not available to me, I roll them up together and hold them in place with a rubber band. You can certainly dry them in the oven as well. Occasionally, when I have done some really oily pastry or caramelized nuts and fruits, I have put my Silpats in the dishwasher. I have used metal cutters, but gently pressing down on the Silpat surface. If you use cutouts frequently, you may want to consider purchasing their Exoglass cutters, which were formulated for use on all their mats.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.