You are doing fine on your new recipe and then you come to the term, bain-marie. What is it? Why use it? And why in the world does the author want you to put your cheesecake in it?
It's just a water bath
A Bain Marie (pronounced bahn mah-REE) is just a fancy-pants French term for water bath. It can be used on top of the stove or the oven. If you've ever used a double boiler to melt chocolate you've already used one type - nothing scary about it!
It is an actual piece of equipment that you can buy BUT it can easily be created with pans you already have in your kitchen.
Anytime you put a small pan into a bigger pan filled with hot water you have created a bain-marie. The water circulates around the smaller pan, keeping the contents at an even temperature and allowing it to bake without scorching or curdling.
When to use
You'll want to use it when you make creamy desserts and other dishes. My cheesecake recipes ALWAYS call for a water bath! It keeps the tops from cracking.
There are a number of other types of recipes that might call for you to cook something using this method. In fact, even if the original recipe doesn’t call for this baking technique many foods can be improved by using it - especially anything with custard.
Anytime you want a creamy, silky texture this is the technique you are looking for.
Cheesecake should almost always be baked in a water bath. It allows the filling to cook to a thick, rich consistency without the top cracking. Protect the crust from getting soggy by forming aluminum foil around the bottom of the springform and pulling it halfway up the sides.
This will seal the water out and keep the crust crisp and dry. You may find you need more than one layer.
Custards are cooked using this technique to keep them from forming a crust before the inside is cooked. It also helps keep the egg from curdling by keeping the custard mixture at an even temperature.
Once it's baked your creme brulee will be smooth and silky!
Terrine and pate
Terrines and pates are cooked this way to keep the meat mixtures cooking at an even rate. This contributes to the soft, smooth texture when they're done.
You might need...
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This is the roasting pan that I have. It holds my springform cheesecake pans perfectly!
When you use a bain marie the pan sits right down in the water. When you are using a double boiler the pan sits above the water and the contents are heated with the steam.
How to Use a Bain Marie
- 1 roasting pan bigger than than pan you're using to hold your recipe.
- 1 smaller pan whatever is called for in the recipe
- Water boiling, as needed
- Preheat the oven as directed in your recipe.
- Bring water to a boil.
- Place a folded kitchen towel in the larger pan. This keeps the pan or custard cups from sliding around when you take the pan out of the oven or move it.
- Place the filled pan or custard cups (or whatever) in the pan on top of the towel.
- Put the pan in the oven before adding water. This keeps you from burning yourself with a splash from the water when you move the pan to the oven.
- Pour the boiling water in the pan, over the towel, so that it comes halfway up the sides of the smaller pan or custard cups. Pour slowly so it doesn't splash in the food.
- If the pan goes dry before your recipe is finished add some more boiling water.
- Remove the whole thing when done. Be very careful! The water is scalding hot.
- Remove the smaller pan from the larger pan as soon as you've taken it from the oven. If you leave it in the hot water the contents of the smaller pan will continue to cook.
- Set the pan of water aside and allow to cool before pouring it out to prevent burns.