Like a lot else in life, cooking is a learning process. It helps to have good teachers. You can find them in lots of places: among your family and friends, in books and schools, on-line (like this site – hint, hint) or on TV. But I’m convinced that the most important part of learning is the willingness to experiment, to fail, and to try again.
This has nothing to do with parchment paper, but now that I’ve got you smiling, you’re in the right mood to cook and bake.
Generally I learn more from difficulties, disasters or problems than from the recipes, dishes, and meals that go smoothly. Occasionally I have a “Eureka” moment. At such times, I feel as though I am practically having a religious revelation. More frequently though, the lesson slowly dawns on me, a gradual realization that a change in the way I cook improves a process or result.
Using parchment paper for baking instead of greasing or oiling the baking sheet or pan was one of those rare Eureka moments. I had been greasing baking sheets and pans for years. I’ve always enjoyed baking, but hated the cleaning part at the end. (I have tried non-stick bake-ware, but find it less than satisfactory. It changes cooking times and scratches off when you clean it – unless you are unbelievably careful – which I am not.) One day I realized that baking recipes sometimes mention parchment paper. I wish I had known this tip years ago; I would have saved myself hours of scrubbing off bake-ware and avoided the frustration of trying to pry stuck cookies/cakes off baking sheets/pans.
Parchment paper comes in rolls, like waxed paper or aluminum foil. You can buy unbleached (brown) or bleached (white) paper; I have not found a difference in how they work.
I always have parchment paper on hand now. I buy it on sale, and it is not expensive when you amortize the cost over all the cookies and cakes you can make and the baking sheets and pans you no longer have to scrub.
Cut the paper to fit the baking/cookie sheet or the bottom of the cake pan. It is OK if a small amount hangs over the edge of a baking/cookie sheet, but too much paper hanging over is a hazard.
I keep a good set of scissors in my kitchen for just such tasks.
For a cake pan, if the recipe calls for greasing the bottom and sides of the pan and you are substituting parchment paper, you will want to cut a length of paper to put around the sides.
Hint – Don’t substitute waxed paper on baking/cookie sheets. I have used waxed paper instead of parchment to line the bottom of cake pans, where no part of the paper is exposed to air and heat during baking.
You do not need to put any grease or oil on the parchment paper. Cookies will slide off the paper if you pick them up with a spatula and a cake will come out of the pan easily. Parchment paper can be used for several batches of the same recipe being baked on the same cookie/baking sheet in a few batches. However, once you are done with the recipe, parchment paper must be thrown away. It cannot be cleaned and re-used.
If you use parchment on the bottom of a cake pan with a flat bottom, it will probably come out with the cake as you turn the cake over on a cooling sheet. Then you just peel it off what is now the top of the cake.
You will still need to clean the cookie sheet or cake pan when you use parchment paper. However, you’ll find that the cleaning is a snap compared to what it would have been if you had greased the cookie sheet or pan and put the dough or batter directly on it. There’s no satisfaction like enjoying cookies right out of the oven or a fresh cake, without having to pry burnt-on dough off the baking sheet or pan. Take it from one who has done more than her fair share of scrubbing.