This weekend, I did something I haven’t done in a long, long time—I baked. Specifically, I baked the Real Simple Raspberry-Walnut Crumble Bars, which I’ve been dying to make ever since our cookie shoot way back in October.
The bars came out well—more on that later—but I did get slightly tripped up on one thing: lining the 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. I’ve run into this issue with recipes before and never knew quite what to do.
I know how to handle a recipe that simply asks you to line the bottom of a pan: Just place your pan on top of the parchment, trace the bottom, then cut it out inside the lines and put the paper inside your pan (make sure to grease the pan before you put down the parchment, and grease the parchment once it’s placed inside for extra insurance, too). Easy. (There’s also a more professional way to cut out parchment to fit your circular baking pan that involves folding and then trimming your paper, but I think the tracing method is much easier.)
What confuses me, though, is when recipes ask you to line the pan—including the sides—with parchment. Recipes have various instructions for this step; I’ve seen “line the bottom and sides with foil or parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides;” or “line an 8×8-inch glass baking dish with parchment;” or “line pan with parchment paper, leaving a 5-inch overhang on all sides.” How do you do this and achieve sharp, clean corners? If you try to place a large piece of parchment in your pan with enough left over to line the sides and leave some overhang (to help you lift out your brownies or bars or whatever), you’ll end up with rounded corners and crinkled edges. As much as you try to squish the batter into every last crevice as smoothly as possible, there’s no way to get a perfectly clean edge. Was there a special way of folding the paper I wasn’t aware of? Some neat little origami magic only known to professional pastry chefs and food stylists?
Luckily, I knew where to turn. I asked Lygeia in our Food Department for advice, and she provided the rather obvious answer: Use two sheets of parchment paper. Cut the widths to match each side of your pan; place one sheet in the pan, then lay the other on top of it going in the opposite direction. Simple!
In the case of the Raspberry-Walnut Crumble Bars, however, this isn’t necessary. The directions clearly state, “Line the pan with a piece of parchment, leaving an over-hang on two sides.” You don’t need to line the entire pan; you just need that extra paper on two sides so you can easily lift the bars out. I, of course, in my mad rush to make the bars, misread this and used one piece big enough to leave an over-hang on all four sides. And while they may not have turned out with perfectly sharp edges, they were still delicious.