They're sturdy and simple and you can fold 'em up when you're done
I am by nature more of a cook than a baker. I often improvise and forget things and do other things that baking does not allow for. But my dad is a baker, through and through: He churns out scones, pies, coffee cakes, and cookies just to bring in and distribute to his colleagues, and sometimes ship to his wayward grown children. Because I am not a baker, I often forget to do things that a baker would never forget to do—like, say, buttering the inside of a pan before slapping it in the oven, a mistake that means sometimes I lose a good portion of the baked good because it clings to the pan. My muffins have a very homemade, rustic feel, a.k.a., they always fall apart. But in my defense, who has the time and energy to purchase muffin pan liners? In this economy? In this news cycle? I usually just live with my muffin crumb pile and mix it into yogurt and call it a day.
So when Silpat offered me a trial of their new baking molds, I was intrigued. Silpat, if you're not familiar, makes those ingenius silicone mats that you can slap on a baking sheet or cake pan to prevent your cookies from sticking, no non-stick spray or parchment required. They're a great solution if you want to be more conscientious of your kitchen waste. The new molds, rather than being flat liners, have indentations. There's one for standard-size muffins, one for mini muffins, one for madeleines (aren't you fancy), a mini fluted cake pan mold, and a mini loaf pan.
I tried out the mini muffin pan and the loaf pan. In the mini muffin pan, I whipped up a batch of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix. (I have made like a dozen different brownie recipes from scratch and yet they are always, at best, equivalent to this box mix, sorry I don't make the rules.) For this batch, I put them straight into the molds, not bothering with nonstick spray. The molds are pretty floppy, so rather than using them on their own, you put them on top of a standard half-sheet pan. The brownie bites I made cooked perfectly in the molds, but extraction was less than perfect—the molds did a pretty good job not sticking, but there was a little bit of residue here and there. The floppiness of the molds, though, made extracting the muffins a total breeze. Rather than having to pluck them from a metal tin, you can push the bottom of the mold up and take the mini muffin out that way, a very satisfying exercise. It also made cleaning them a lot easier than trying to dig around the crevices of a rigid metal tin with a sponge.
For the loaf pan, I did a recipe for extra corn-y cornbread muffins that I'd been meaning to try. You could easily use the loaf pan for a bunch of other things—splitting up banana bread into more single-serving portions, or making nine mini-loaves of bread rather than one big one. This time, I used nonstick spray on the molds before popping them in the oven. Taking the loaves out of the mold was a total breeze. They looked perfect, and not a crumb escaped from the bottoms of the cornbreads. Another nice thing about the molds is that you can sort of roll them up, not perfectly, but enough to save some space, which is always appreciated in a tiny Brooklyn kitchen.
Do you need these molds? Well, it depends on how much you bake. They run $49.95 a piece at Williams-Sonoma, so they're certainly more of an investment than a standard muffin pan. But if you're a serious baker, or you make a lot of muffins, or you need your baked goods to look professional-bakery-display-counter-worthy, then it's probably worth your time to pick one of these up. You won't find yourself with a pile of muffin crumbs again any time soon.