I Invented Something!
Do you know I could have invented the braid? That's not what this post is about, but I thought it'd be a good intro that would reveal the extent of my ingenuity. Oh sure, I might not have been the first person to ever braid hair, but when I was really young and had never seen a braid before in my life, I was futzing with my doll's hair and I did something to it that looked really nice. I was so excited, I showed my mom, who of course was totally unimpressed, "Great, honey, you braided your doll's hair."
Okay, so I'm almost 100% certain I did not invent this thing that I came up with yesterday. Maybe every home baker already knows about this the way a freediver knows holding one's breath underwater is a good idea. But considering how many times I've read the instructions "Butter and flour a pan," I just KNOW there are others out there who could benefit from this gem of a non-discovery that I made yesterday, while baking fruitcake (anyone feeling I might be a bit late in my fruitcake making, there's an explanation here).
First, an announcement...ahem: You don't have to bloody butter and flour your loaf pan anymore! Or use Pam, if that's your poison of choice.
I own only one pan for cakes and breads--a loaf pan--and sometimes I think I hate it. I definitely hate buttering and flouring it. The block of butter gets all shmoozy, your fingers get greasy, the flour explodes everywhere, and for me, after all that work, this still occurs more often than not:
(the bottom of my pan and remnants of a loaf of bread)
But yesterday, I honestly don't know where this inspiration came from (probably some cooking show I saw ages ago and had stored in my subconscious until a much later date, when I could then claim credit for somebody else's idea--okay, to be fair, it's not like I'm trying to get a patent or anything. And I'm sharing this freely with all of you, aren't I?), I was fiddling with the parchment paper, trying to think of a neat way to line my loaf pan. Recently, I'd been folding the paper to fit just the bottom, so if I baked something sticky, I'd only have to saw away at the sides. But this technique still left something to be desired.
So I started cutting away with my scissors, and after a few botched attempts, I swear I heard trumpeting angels when I pushed the parchment paper into the loaf pan and it fitted...almost perfectly! No, it isn't perfect. But I was totally satisfied with the results of my cake, which slid sleekly out of the pan and had gloriously unmarred sides and bottom. I don't know if it was because of the parchment lining, but I also noticed my cake rose much more evenly, without the usual huge dome on top.
Here are the instructions:
1. You need a pair of scissors and parchment paper (pencil optional).
2. Set your loaf pan facedown. Tear yourself a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover all sides of the pan.
3. If you want to be precise, you can mark the four corners of the pan with a pencil, but I don't find it necessary.
4. Turn the pan so that one of the short ends is pointed toward you.
5. Making sure the paper is properly covering the pan, cut two parallel lines, one toward each corner of the pan.
6. You have to make two more cuts, but this part is a bit tricky to explain, so I'll just show you a picture:
7. Don't worry about being precise. You can see my cutting was pretty sloppy, and yet when you fit the parchment inside the pan...
...it quite neatly folds into place:
8. Just tuck the triangular flaps around the center square flap, with the square flap on the inside.
9. That's it. It's really easy.
10. When the cake (or whatever) is cooled a bit, I just grasp the paper ends and pull the cake out of the pan.