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Bain Marie: What Is It? Why Use It?
You are doing fine on your new recipe and then you come to the tern, bain-marie. What is it? Why use it? And why in the world does the author want you to put your cheesecake in it?
Simply put the bain-marie is a water bath. It can be used on top of the stove or in the oven, but for the purposes of this article only the baking technique will be discussed. While the bain-marie is an actual piece of equipment it can easily be improvised with equipment you have at home.
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 the contents to bake without scorching or curdling.
There are a number of types of recipes that might call for you to cook something in a Bain Marie. In fact, even if the original recipe doesn’t call for this baking technique many foods can be improved by using it. Anytime you want a creamy, silky texture a bain marie is the technique you are looking for.
Cheesecake should almost always be baked in a Bain Marie. It allows the filling to cook to a thick, rich consistency without the top cracking. Protect the crust by forming aluminum foil around the bottom of the springform and halfway up the sides. This will seal the water out and keep the crust crisp and dry.
Custards are cooked in a bain marie to keep them from forming a crust before the interior is cooked. It also helps prevent curdling of the egg by keeping the custard mixture at an even temperature. The resulting custard will be rich, smooth, and silky.
Terrine and Pate
Terrines and pates are cooked in a bain marie to keep the meat mixtures cooking at an even rate. This contributes to the soft, smooth texture of these dishes.
How to Use a Bain Marie
You will need a baking dish that has high sides and will hold the item you are baking. A 13x9 inch casserole will hold custard cups and smaller springform pans perfectly.
- Preheat your oven and put a kettle of water on the stove to boil.
- Line the dish with a kitchen towel folded to fit. This helps the ramekins or pan from sliding around.
- Place the filled ramekins or baking dish into the pan on top of the towel.
- Carefully put the pan into the preheated oven. Pull the oven rack out and set the pan onto it while still empty.
- Pour the boiling water into the baking dish until it comes about halfway up the sides of the custard cups or springform pan. Pour slowly so that you don't accidentally splash water into the food.
You may need to add a little hot water to the bain marie if it begins to go dry during the baking process. As soon as your food is done, remove it from the bain marie. If you leave it in the custard (or whatever) will continue to cook. Allow the water to cool before pouring it out to prevent burns.
Learning to use a bain-marie is a simple process but it can totally change the success rate of your recipes.