Cook's Tour of What's Selling in Traditional, Modern Metal Bakeware

Times Staff Writer

A few pieces of banged-up metal bakeware are not an uncommon sight in the kitchen. Occasionally, people buy new pans but won't give up scratched, warped and rusty tin pans, distorted sheets and jellyroll trays, or corroding and grease-stained loaf pans.

True, these metal baking utensils may last for years, but rarely do they look new and in perfect shape. Pans made of tinned steel, for instance, darken upon constant use but improve baking performance. But it's hard to give up old bakeware, particularly if it has served you well.

For cooks pondering the upgrading of pans for new or remodeled kitchens--or for those getting ready for holiday baking--here's a shopping list of what's currently available in the world of metal bakeware:

Shapes and function have not changed much, but modern baking utensils offer new finishes or coatings that conduct heat better and prevent sticking. Today, you'll find a greater variety of muffin pans, from maxi to mini to micro-mini sizes, as well as various types of bread and tart pans.

Sturdy and Sleek

Ever since it first came out a few years ago, the La Forme selection of bakeware from Kaiser has caught my eye for its sturdy look and sleek dark-gray finish. Produced in West Germany, the smooth bakeware is made of heavy-gauge steel with a double silicon nonstick coating (inside and out) that is lead and cadmium free.

Although it is almost three times thicker than other bakeware, La Forme has excellent conductivity and produces even heating. When using the pans, it is best to check for doneness before the suggested time in the recipe is up because the dark pan tends to cook slightly faster than light-colored pans.

Aside from the traditional shapes, such as heart, flan and springform pans, Kaiser's La Forme includes pans that produce pretty forms in cakes.

The 11-inch round baking pan called Celebration Cake Tin and the Daisy Cake Pan have embossed slices and ragged edging. The radiating fanlike effect obtained in the finished cake is so attractive that it doesn't need to be frosted or decorated.

Fancy Bread Mold

Another product, called the half-round loaf tin, is a 12-inch-long ribbed mold that can be used for making the Austrian rehrucken cake or fancy breads. The only drawback with La Forme is that its springform pan with smooth, removable base does not have an inner lip. We baked a cheesecake in it beautifully, but experienced a slight leaking of the melted butter from the crust while baking.

The newest from La Forme (available by next month) is the La Forme Duo. The line includes baking and roasting pans in two sizes--a large baking sheet and a square cake pan. What's attractive and different about these heavy-gauge pans is that they are super-glossy and smooth. With a silicate-magnum surface, the pans are protected from cutting scratches and acidic foods.

If you insist on having tinned steel because you believe in "the more you use it, the better it becomes," Chicago Metallic produces a whole line of commercial-weight tinned steel bakeware called Village Baker. The pans season with use, meaning the tin and steel fuse and turn bluish-gray. The only disadvantage with the tin pans is that they cannot be placed in the dishwasher because they rust.

Perforated Pans

Chicago Metallic offers two new perforated pans that prevent sogginess in baked goods: a double French Bread Pan ($17) that is similar to those used by commercial bakeries, and a shallow baking tray ($17) for rolls and croissants. Another new item from Chicago Metallic is the dishwasher-safe Sure-Bake Cookie Sheet ($20), a 16x14-inch baking sheet which is three layers thick. The thermal-layered feature insures even baking and prevents burned cookies.

Not new but advantageous for weight watchers is the Village Baker lean meat loaf pan set ($9.95). The set consists of two meat-loaf pans; the inner pan is lined with holes that allow meat drippings to drain into an outer pan. This is also available in SilverStone finish for nonstick baking.

Extremely well-known in Europe, Dr. Oetker products have finally hit the culinary shelves of local stores. Distributed by Leifheit of West Germany, Dr. Oetker is a bakeware manufacturer that represents three lines: Profi, Tradition and Bakita.

Traditional Shapes

The top of the line is Profi, a high-grade nonstick-coated group that is protected against fruit acids and features a six-year guarantee. Next in line is Tradition with its nonstick black coating and three-year guarantee. The third group is Bakita in rustproof tin with an electrolytic coating. Like other brands, the Dr. Oetker pans offer traditional shapes, including the gugelhupf mold.

The beauty of pewterware in bakeware is captured in Wilton Armetale's Lasagna/Open Roaster ($79.95). The 5-quart pan measures 14 1/2x10 1/4x3 1/4 and is pretty enough to serve from at the table. Wilton Armetale features excellent heat and cold retention.

The Chicago Metallic Bakeware and Kaiser La Forme Bakeware are available at better cookware shops and by telephone order through Chef's Catalog: (800) 338-3232, and Williams-Sonoma: (415) 421-4242.

The Wilton Armetale Lasagna/Open Roaster soon will be available in department stores and specialty cook stores and is presently available by telephone order through Chef's Catalog.

Dr. Oetker's bakeware are available at Montana Mercantile, Lets Get Cookin' (Westlake Village), Barbara's (Ventura) and Ingrid's Gourmet (Ventura).

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