Happy Medium

By Ben Mims

Published on September 9, 2008

Of all the recipes we tested for our breakfast issue, one kept us going back to the drawing board again and again: the cream cheese cinnamon rolls (see Breakfast Breads and Pastries. One batch would exit the oven perfectly risen and golden brown on the outside but gooey and undercooked within; the next batch would look great on the inside but have a blackened bottom. In the end, we found that the problem wasn't the ingredients or the proportions or the way we mixed the dough. It was the baking pans. For our first batch, we tried a glass casserole dish because we knew that glass, like earthenware and stoneware, retains heat well. We soon realized, however, that the glass heated up too slowly, so by the time the rolls were cooked through, their exposed tops had long since risen and spilled over the sides of the pan. Next we tried a metal pan with a dark nonstick surface, knowing that dark-colored cookware absorbs and conducts heat more quickly. Now, however, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction: the dark surface absorbed too much heat too quickly, causing the edges and bottoms of the rolls to burn before the dough had cooked through. Finally, we turned to aluminum, and it provided everything we'd been seeking. Just as the interior of the rolls became set, their tops, sides, and bottoms had reached the ideal level of golden crispness.

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