Friday, September 30, 2016

Shape and Bake

I usually don't review things before I've actually tried them, but I was so excited about the Shape and Bake that I was ready to write about it before I even had it washed. This kit is really cool!

The kit is like a construction set for baking pans. It's a set of straight and curved pieces of metal along with hinges with clips. The idea is that you can assemble different shaped baking pans rather than buying pans in shapes that you might not ever use a second time.

And of course you can create shapes that probably don't exist in commercial bakeware.

I had a little more fun that I should have, putting pieces together to form ... ummm ... things that were just odd shapes. I almost went with a thing that was sort of like a candy cane, but then decided that a heart made more sense. I wasn't planning on decorating it, so I wanted something that was an easily recognizable shape.

It took a little fiddling before I got the heart shape arranged so all the edges were flush against each other, but I think I'll get better at that sort of thing after I've used the kit a lot. And, hey, that's what frosting is for, right? Little flaws can be covered.

The first thing I baked was a lemon bar mix that I got from King Arthur Flour. It's a new line of mixes, and they sent me a few to sample. Since the heart was smaller than the recommended pan size, I used the leftover mix in muffin cups.

Silly me. I could have used more of the kit to make a small square to use up the rest of the mix, but at the time I was just excited about the heart.

The Shape and Bake comes with a booklet that shows how to make a bunch of different shapes, which is helpful, but it's probably more fun to just mess around with the parts and see what you come up with.

The actual instructions on how to use the kit were a little sketchy, though. The kit came with little slips of parchment paper and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do with them. The instructions say, "Connect your shapes with the Shape and Bake clip and pre cut parchment paper on the outside of the shape." Um ... okay. The photos on the website show the parchment under the clip things that hold the metal pieces. I thought that might be to help prevent scratching the metal, but most of the clips were too snug to let the parchment slip under. I gave up and didn't use them and nothing terrible happened.

I also wondered whether I was supposed to have the shiny side of the matte side of the metal pieces on the inside of the pan. After looking at some of the configurations in the booklet, I saw that the curved pieces sometimes had the curve inside and sometimes outside. So apparently it doesn't matter which side is inside.

When I made the lemon bars, the cookie crust at the bottom was just fine, but the curd mix wanted to run out at some of my not-tight-enough connections. But that curd mix was pretty thin. Cake batter is thicker. I should have made the cookie walls taller, and it all would have been fine. Or I could have cut a couple of large parchment strips and lined the inner side of the pan with the strip to keep the pan from leaking.

But I'm chalking all of that up to user error because, seriously, you can make cakes in wacky shapes, and that's certainly something worth getting excited about.

Well, if you're me, you get excited about it.

If you don't want to make a whole cake in a wacky shape, you could also use a small shape to make a hole inside a large cake you're baking. Like you could leave a small circle or square inside your cake so you could fill it with something after it's baked. Like ice cream. I vote ice cream.

But let me go back a second to that lemon bar mix, because it was freaking AWESOME.

And really easy to make. You just mix the crust with softened butter, press it into the pan and bake until golden. Then mix the filling with egg and water and pour that on top of the crust and bake again.

What I loved about the lemon bars is that they were TART. Not that sweet lemon that tastes like candy. This was lemony and fresh and tart and not sticky sweet. The crust was nice, too. I'd for sure make these again.

King Arthur sent me a couple of other mixes to try, so I'll be reporting back on those a bit later. Next up are cheesecake bars. Mmmmm. Cheeeeeesecake.

The SECOND thing I baked in the Shape and Bake was a batch of brownies. This time I decided that maybe the little slips of parchment were supposed to be at the bottom of the hinges, which seems to make more sense than having them at the top. I'd suggest doing that.

Unfortunately, I had some leakage around the bottom of the pan in one spot. Note to self: make sure I use a completely flat baking pan next time. Oopsie.

Can you guess what this shape is supposed to be?

But that bottom leakage was no problem. It made a nice snack for me. Hah!

I also made another error. I forgot to spray the pan with nonstick baking spray. But that didn't actually cause any problem. The cake came out just fine. The fact that I could unclip it and remove the side pieces individually probably helped.

Next time (see, there's some learning involved) I think I'm going to use a silicone mat under the cake instead of parchment, since that's even more nonstick than parchment. The cake released okay, but I want to try the mat, anyway.

If you're staring at that brownie and wondering what the heck shape it's supposed to be ... it's could be one of two things, I guess. It's either a really brown slice of bread (do you see it?) or it's a cupcake or muffin. Imagine it frosted with something fluffy starting above that little indented waist at the center. Right? Right?

Okay, it's just a shape that I thought looked interesting.

Who's it for:
Creative bakers will love the Bake and Shape kit.

The lemon bar mix would probably appeal best to people who don't want to bake completely from scratch, but who want something that's higher-end than the grocery store brands.

The kit is awesome. Fun. Creative.

The lemon bars were tasty. Easy.

I wish there was more instruction for assembling the kit, but after fiddling with it, it was simple enough to figure out.

The bar mix is a tad expensive compared to store-bought.

I hope they come out with add-on shapes for the kit, maybe with different curved pieces and larger and smaller straight ones. Not that they're needed, but it would just be fun to mess around with.

As far as the lemon bars, I'd love to see these in key lime. Oh yum. But there are a bunch of other mixes, so I guess I shouldn't be so greedy.

Source: I received both the Shape and Bake and the King Arthur Flour mixes from the respective manufacturers for the purpose of a review.

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