Hues in the kitchen
May 21, 2015 08:49 PM , By Shanthini Rajkumar
Brands are tripping over each other in trying to add a fun quotient to mundane baking paraphernalia. Photo: Special Arrangement
Shanthini Rajkumar finds the eye-popping colours of the silicone baking-ware range irresistible
The most fun way of introducing young people to the kitchen is through baking. What’s not to love in it? Rising cakes, delicious smells and the sight of nicely browning goodies can make anyone happy. The feeling of being oh-so-grown-up in handling an electric mixer and having a go at that cake batter is indescribable. Baking has come a long way since I was a kid. The dull metal pans aren’t the only baking ware options anymore. Rainbow coloured silicone rubber baking products are dominating the cookware scene. They are a far cry from the functional and severe looking vessels we had those days. Today they range from a fire-engine red to candy pink and are just irresistible. Not just colourful muffin cups, there are silicone pastry brushes, cake pans, chocolate moulds, measuring cups, spatulas, colanders, ice trays, pot holders and so on.
Silicone cookware made its appearance in the west in the late 1980s. It has gained momentum world over during the past decade and now accounts for seven per cent of bakeware sales . Creative heads of companies are having a field day innovating designs in appealing hues. The ease in moulding this product has made it an exciting medium to play with on the design front. Brands are tripping over each other in trying to add a fun quotient to mundane baking paraphernalia. It’s no wonder that children are the most obvious target audience. From baby animals and pretty flowers to tiny glass moulds and alphabets, they come in all shapes and sizes.
What about health implications? Silicone is made up of silicon and oxygen. Silicon is a material naturally occurring in the earth’s crust, in sand and rock. Silicone rubber is a polymer which consists of silicon, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The ease of manufacturing and shaping this material is another reason for its growing popularity. It is supposed to be non-toxic but is non-biodegradable. But, unlike plastics, it can be completely and safely recycled.
The key to being completely safe is to use products that are 100 per cent silicone. There are many companies that manufacture these with the addition of raw materials such as paper, plastic, paints, rubber, coatings, etc. in order to bring down manufacturing cost. The easiest way to test this is to stretch or twist your silicone product. If it does not change in appearance or colour, there is no need to worry. However, if you do see a change in surface pattern or white fibres then you know it is not all silicone. Such products will smell when baked at high temperatures or while being washed in hot water.
I have some colourful silicone rubber moulds and cake pans in my baking cupboard. The two that I use most often are the silicone mat and the silicone and steel dish. This red dish of mine is the perfect example of creativity that saves precious storage space. The top and base of the dish are stainless steel. The silicone forms the middle portion. The ingenuity of the design ensures that it can be made smaller or bigger depending on the requirement. It can be a platter to serve cookies or converted into a deep bowl to serve crisps. I love it. Saving storage space is a huge advantage. It’s also very easy to handle with no fear of kids hurting themselves. No breakages, sharp corners or wrong angles here. They take to varying temperatures from -55 degrees C to 300 degrees C.
There are a few downsides to silicone products. When using them they have to be placed on a solid base in the oven or refrigerator. This makes it easier to remove from the oven as the baked goods will fall apart as the container gets floppy. While the labels may proclaim that no greasing is required, it needs to be greased just like a metal tin to prevent the batter from sticking. Also, the baking time differs. It doesn’t brown as easily. It is only by trial and error can you tell what works best for your silicone bakeware. I’m too traditional in my baking methods to completely convert to silicone utensils, but the eye popping hues are utterly irresistible and I’m happy to provide a home to some of them in my kitchen shelves. I now have my eye on a fuschia silicone baking brush which I plan to plonk in my cart on my next shopping expedition.