A couple months ago, Andrea from the University of Michigan wrote me an e-mail to let me know of a product that she likes to use when baking brownies and breads. This product, the Baker's Edge, is a pan with additional interior walls to ensure there are no center pieces to a baked good - every piece has at least two edges. After getting my own pan, I set out to see how it stacked up against a traditional pan while baking brownies.
When I received my Baker's Edge, I was surprised by its solid construction. The pan is cast aluminum (about 1/8-in. or 3 mm thick) and weighs 2-1/2 pounds (1.15 kg). The interior finish has a non-stick coating while the exterior is unpolished. The rough exterior makes the pan easy to grip even with oven mitts or pot holders. On top of that, the handle positioning is excellent - they two hand holds are placed about halfway down the side of the pan, so you can easily flip the pan over without rapping your knuckles. The interior walls are placed about 2-1/2 inches (6.3 cm) apart. Due to the slight cant of the side walls, this means the minimum width of the channels are about 2 inches wide. An inflexible red spatula (exactly the right size for the channels) was provided with the Baker's Edge.
When baking, the batter that touches the edges (and the bottom) of the pan cook faster. We often take advantage of this so we'll have browned edges on our baked goods (like on a pound cake). This is because a great deal more heat can enter the food through conduction (and metal conducts heat much better than air). The idea behind the Baker's Edge is to provide more metal surface area to conduct heat. (More everyday examples of this principle in action are the Bundt cake pan and the angel food cake pan. Both utilize a center "tower" of metal to help conduct heat into parts of the cake that normally would be cooked much slower than the exterior.) Does it work? I did a series of tests to find out.
I started with the Baker's Edge and a typical non-stick baking pan (9-in. x 13-in.) and made two batches of Dark Chocolate Brownies. One batch went into the Baker's Edge and the other into the 9x13.}?>
After 35 minutes, the brownies in the 9x13 were done, but the Baker's Edge needed a few more minutes to reach the same doneness. 5 extra minutes was enough to finish those brownies.
The brownies from the 9x13 pan were thinner than the ones made in the Baker's Edge (because the pan has a slightly larger volume) and that may have contributed to its faster cooking time. In addition, the light aluminum sheet used on the 9x13 pan probably allowed it to heat up faster than the Baker's Edge. Both brownies did not pop out of the pans when inverted, so I had to go in with spatulas to dig them out. (Usually, I prepare brownies in a 9x13 by first lining it with a sheet of parchment paper, so I can easily lift them out without ruining the shiny crust that forms on the surface of the brownies and without having to dig out a piece from the pan first.) Once a piece had been removed from each pan, it was easy to cut square brownies and scoop them out. The non-stick coating on the Baker's Edge didn't release the soft brownies perfectly but did do a better job than the other non-stick pan. (Both washed out easily and cleanly with soapy water - which is a great reason for getting non-stick. The Baker's Secret shouldn't be run through the dishwasher, but clean up was so easy, it wasn't an issue.)
Each of the brownies from the Baker's Edge did indeed have chewy edges - two of them (and sometimes three) in fact. It was almost like every piece was a corner piece from the standard pan. Therein laid a problem I hadn't considered. I had tasters that liked brownies with edges and tasters that liked brownies that didn't have any chewy edges but were soft and moist throughout. With the regular pan, I had corner pieces, edge pieces, and center pieces (although there are always more than four people who want corner pieces and not enough edge pieces). For the edge lovers, the brownies from the Baker's Edge were perfect - chewy edges surrounding a moist chocolate brownie. For the center lovers, the brownies were good, but they much preferred the texture of the brownies from the 9x13 pan.
On one of the later batches, I baked the brownies with the Baker's Edge but took them out of the oven earlier. This resulted in a consistent texture throughout - the edges hadn't yet gotten chewy and the whole brownie was how the center lovers liked it. Unfortunately, I didn't really have any edge pieces.
The pan works extremely well if you like chewy edges to your brownies (and other baked goods). If you don't like chewy edges, a bit of recipe time adjustment results in even baking. The only real downside to this pan that I could see was getting that first piece out. Even after several trials, I just couldn't do it without completely destroying that first piece.
For this test, I didn't try them, but the Baker's Edge also recommends breads, rolls, potatoes, casseroles, and more. The instructions came with recipes for brownies, banana bread, lasagna, cookie bars, and a breakfast casserole to get you going.
The Baker's Edge is available through Amazon.com. You can find additional information about the Baker's Edge by visiting http://www.bakersedge.com/.}?>
Equipment & Gear
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