Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Rectangles and squares
I don't know what's wrong with me.
Despite all the wonderful things that are baked in rectangular pans, there's always this feeling embedded in my being, somewhere between the vertebrae in my neck (I know, because I feel that area tense up) when I think about baked goods in 9x13 form. I have a deep affection for bread puddings, cobblers, and coffee cakes whose recipes frequently call for 9x13 pans, but in my mind, they are all improved exponentially by simply being baked in other pans. Ramekin, Bundt pan, deep dish pie plate -- all are better!
It's really an awful prejudice. I mean, why would one ever discriminate against a baking pan?? The size usually feeds more people, and it all boils down to ratios anyway -- with a little math, you could just adjust the proportions, use a different dish, and it would taste just the same. What more could you want?! It really doesn't make any sense! And I don't even have a problem with using 9x13s to bake drumsticks!
I have to make a conscious effort not to throw out recipes when the first line reads something along the lines of "Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 9x13 pan." I obviously realize it's completely unreasonable to shudder at the thought of the confines of four walls, two parallel sides of the same length perpendicular to two other sides of the same length, but I honestly cannot help it. Perhaps it was being exposed to too many ugly sheet cakes in my youth, with cloyingly sweet frosting and sprinkles applied with too heavy a hand. And, comparatively, isn't there something so majestic about layer cakes? When I think "sheet cake", I am attacked by images of linoleum and formica, whereas "layer cake" brings to mind fluffy clouds and sunshine - seriously.
Unfortunately, the "a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square" rule applies to baked goods too, and I often find myself not quite sneering, but wrinkling my nose at square pans. That was the case this weekend when I previewed this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe for Cinnamon Squares, selected by Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures.
Do I have to??
It turns out, this was the perfect recipe for this weekend as I had already been working on a few baking projects and the last thing I wanted to do was wash more dishes and turn on the mixer. The recipe comes together so quickly and you get all the pleasure of a buttery cake without any beating of the butter!! It reminded me a lot of coffee cake -- with a shiny coating of chocolate frosting that I wasn't really so excited by (I'm just not one of those chocolate frosting people) -- and as coffee cake, I gave myself to go ahead to have some for breakfast! The edges were a little, shall we say...firm?, but it was perfect as you made your way towards the center. I think I'd add some excitement in the form of nutmeg and nuts next time, but it was a nice informal, yet dependable cake.
As usual, I brought it in to work for more people to help with it, and though it started off slow with only 1/4 of the cake gone by 1pm, it finished strong by being mostly devoured by 4:30. Thank goodness I momentarily got over my mild disdain for sheet cakes -- without me, those skinny, fashion types would never reach a respectable daily caloric intake! Turn your back and they'll polish off an entire cake!