Clearing Way to Successful Baking

Times Staff Writer

When making pizza from scratch at home, the most common pitfall is a soggy soft crust. A logical explanation according to Richard Barlow, president of REMA BakeWare Inc., is that "homemade dough (from scratch or a pizza dough mix) contains 12% to 15% more moisture than that of pizzerias and manufacturers so that it can be easily mixed and kneaded by the home cook." On the other hand, commercial doughs, which are drier, are processed in heavy-duty equipment, he said.

To alleviate this problem, REMA BakeWare produced the Perfect Crust Pizza Pan. The aluminum pan contains more than 900 tiny holes that allow moisture from the dough to escape while at the same time letting heat penetrate for a crisper crust. The holes are not perforated all over the surface; there is a solid rim area that protects the outer edge of the pizza from overbaking.

Barlow, who used to be in the commercial frozen pizza business for many years, suggests a two-stage or double baking for even crisper results. "After placing the dough in the greased pan, bake at 400 degrees 5 to 6 minutes then take the pizza out of the oven and allow it to cool as you build your pizza topping," he said. This is also helpful in advance preparations as you can prebaked several pizza crusts and freeze them, using only as needed.

Popular Pizza Stone

When asked how it compared to the popular pizza stone that mimics the brick ovens of old pizzerias, producing crisp crusts, Barlow explained: "Although the idea is good, the stone can be clumsy and needs to be seasoned and preheated, and most of us are usually too much in a hurry to do this."

Aside from being recommended for fresh pizza, the Perfect Crust Pizza Pan is designed for frozen prepared pizza. Even though instructions usually call for baking the pizza right on the rack, the pan will eliminate the problem of messy drippings on the oven rack and floor. Rustproof, REMA's pizza pan is dishwasher safe. Now available in the 12 3/4-inch size, the pan will soon come in a 15 3/4-inch diameter.

Another REMA product, the CushionAire baking sheet introduced about 2 1/2 years ago, has helped home cooks combat a very common baking problem: the overbrowning (if not burning) on the bottoms of cookies and pastries before the centers or tops are baked.

Working in the same manner as double panning or using two baking sheets to slow down the heat, the REMA CushionAire baking sheet is composed of two sheets of aluminum separated with air. According to REMA's national sales manager, Margaret Logan (REMA stands for the two-couple partnership: Richard Barlow, Eugene Logan, Margaret Logan and Ann Barlow), "The bottom sheet absorbs the heat while protecting the top and eliminating burning. The air in between becomes heated and that helps in even baking."

It's Been in the Family

The insulated baking sheet concept is old, according to Logan. "It has been in our family for about 38 years," she said. "My brother-in-law's family, who made flour mill equipment, made a baking pan with mineral wool insulation." Getting tired of hearing people say, "I'm so embarrassed, I hope nobody turns my cookies over,' Logan, who never had problems of overbrowned cookie bottoms with her insulated pan, finally decided to produce the special insulated cookie sheets.

A favorite pan in The Times Test Kitchen for cookies and pastries, the CushionAire works particularly well in getting even doneness in baked goods with high sugar and fat content such as coconut macaroons and buttery and sticky pastries. It is also recommended for placing underneath muffin pans, bread pans and cake pans to protect the baked goods from uneven baking or drying.

According to Logan, one woman from Tulsa discovered that her angel food cake turned up much higher than usual when she used the CushionAire sheet underneath the tube pan. The theory behind this, Logan explained, was that leavening works until it reaches a certain temperature during baking; with the use of the insulated sheet, there is a longer time for leavening to work so the cake continues to rise.

Pan for Jellyrolls

REMA has just introduced the CushionAire Insulated Sheet Cake/Jelly Roll Pan and, like its cookie sheet predecessor, it works exceptionally well. We made a moist chocolate sheet cake that was evenly baked from edge to edge. And if you have problems with jellyrolls getting crusty around the edges and top so that they are difficult to roll, this new pan will be of help. The pan is also great for brownies, pan cookies, sweet rolls and delicate pastries.

A quick spraying with a non-stick spray and wiping off is all that's needed to grease the air-insulated baking pans. When asked about coming out with a product with a non-stick finish, Logan said, "We don't feel the need for this; because our pans don't encourage sticking and overbaking, the use of a spray is sufficient." In fact, additional greasing is not even necessary when reusing the pan to bake subsequent batches at one time.

The Perfect Crust Pizza Pan has a suggested retail price of $9.95 for the 12 3/4-inch size and $11.95 for the 15 3/4 inch.

The REMA CushionAire baking sheet comes in three sizes and has a suggested retail price of $9.95 for the 9 1/2x14; $11.95 for the 12x14 and $13.95 for the 14x16 inch.

The REMA CushionAire Insulated Sheet Cake/Jelly Roll Pan (15 1/2x10 1/2x1 1/8 inches) has a suggested retail price of $15.

All of the REMA bakeware, except for the large pizza pan (to come in September), are now available at most specialty cookware shops and major department stores such as May Co . and Robinson's.

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