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These Pans Have the Midas Touch

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I recently added to and completed (for now) my collection of some excellent bakeware. It is good enough, I thought I would devote a blog entry to it. I am referring to the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch line of non-stick bakeware. Normally I wouldn’t get too excited about a line of pans, but these particular pans are demonstratively better in several categories. I will make my case and you can decide, but these pans have certainly made a difference in my baking. So much so that I have pretty much replaced all of my conventional baking pans with the Goldtouch.

BACKGROUND:
Hamburger & Hotdog Rolls Only: When I first got started baking it was an indoor activity for me and very narrowly focussed. I enjoy outdoor cooking and don’t make to much in the Kitchen. One exception to this was Baking. I ended up taking some classes at the King Arthur Flour Company to lean how to bake. More specifically my goal was to learn enough so I could bake my own Hamburger and later Hot Dog rolls. I had been exposed to the joys of freshly baked hamburger rolls at the Fuddruckers restaurant chain. The resulting hamburger rolls were so good I started dipping my toes into the water of baking breads. I used a hand-me-down non-stick bread pans. Then I was given a hand-me-down KitchenAid stand mixer and I decided to start baking more types of breads as well as desserts. All but 1 or 2 of these items were done inside using my Kitchen oven and some more hand-me-down pans. When I got to this point I was needing to bake multiple pans of bread dough or cake batter, so I needed to grab some added pans. I began to see that like the Hamburger & Hotdog Rolls, any baked goods I took the time to make myself were often better than anything I could buy.

Enter Goldtouch: The first new (non hand-me-down) baking pan I bought was the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch bread pan. To be honest I didn’t do a whole lot of research. I was in a Williams-Sonoma store buying something else, I knew they carried decent quality cookware so I grabbed a bread pan while I was there. I liked the heavy duty construction of the Goldtouch Bread Pan and the “special” non-stick finish described in the product advertising appealed to me. This was essentially a non-stick version of the heavy duty Chicago Metallic bread pan I already owned. In fact at first I thought it was essentially the same pan with the Goldtouch finish. The construction details appeared to be similar, but the Goldtouch weighed 20oz. (368g) vs 13oz. (567g) for the Chicago Metallic pan. There were 3 other differences that I could see: The Goldtouch version of the pan was exclusive to Williams-Sonoma, the pan was non-stick and the pan had the gold colored finish vs. light silver finish for the Chicago Metallic pan. The medium color finish is said to promote the best color vs a very light or dark colored pan.

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The Goldtouch pan in the rear produced a loaf with a better rise, a more even rise, more even color on top and slightly more even color on the bottom than the standard silver finished Chicago Metallic loaf pan in the front.

Side by Side Comparison: Having two similar but different versions of the same type of pan proved to be a real eye opener. There were many cases where I used both pans to bake two loaves of breads and there was a difference. The results were consistent and repeatable. The breads baked in the Goldtouch non-stick pan released from the pan effortlessly. This was to be expected to some extent. The surprise came with just how easily the breads released. This was the easiest release of any non-stick finish I had ever used. The other difference was the color and cooking time. The items in the Goldtouch pans browned up faster and rose faster than the silver bread pan. I could often duplicate the color by keeping the bread in the silver pan in the oven longer, but the same rise was not always possible. This is thoroughly non-scientific since I didn’t measure anything, but the rise I got out of the Goldtouch pans often seemed to be slightly more.

More Pans: When I got my hand-me-down KitchenAid stand mixer I began moving into desserts and I needed some round and square metal baking pans. This time around, I did some research prior to purchasing these pans. It turns out that I had lucked out with my first Goldtouch purchase. It seems the Goldtouch pans were best of breed, according to tests run by several high end cooking magazines including America;s Test Kitchen. I resolved that from that point on, any metal bakeware I bought would be from the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch line. Besides the initial loaf pan, which I bought about 4 years ago now, I have added the following pans to my collection: a second Loaf pan, three 9” (23cm) round cake pans, two 9”x9” (23cm x 23cm) square cake pans, one 9”x13” (23cm x 33cm) rectangular cake pan, two 10”x15”x1” (25cm x 38cm x 25mm) Jelly Roll Pans, two 9”x13” (23cm x 33cm) Quarter Sheet Pans and two 6 well Muffin Pans. All have served me well so far and I am getting consistently great results using them.

Other Pans: In addition to the pans I mentioned above the Goldtouch line includes many other pan types. There is the full line of sheet pans, including a new to me 3/4 sheet pan size. There is a cookie sheet and a cookie pan. The round and square cake pans come in the 8” (20cm) size in addition to the 9” (23cm) sizes I own. They make a springform cake pan, pizza pan, as well as a pie dish. There are many types of welled pans for various sized muffins, tarts, brownies etc. There is also a meatloaf pan and mini loaf pan.

FEATURES:
Next I will describe some of the features that make these pans such good performers. Some are found in other baking pans and a few are unique to the W-S Goldtouch line. The Goldtouch pans combine all of these features to make a really great pan.

Shape: These pans have square folded corners vs. the rounded corners found in some metal bakeware. Pans with rounded corners are cheaper to manufacture. At first blush you might think the rounded corners would make for an easier release, and while you would be right, that is not the entire story. Most professionally baked square cakes, brownies, corn breads etc. have square corners and for a reason. In cutting the baked goods you are able to get uniformly sized scared edged pieces right out to the corners. The rounded bottom corners mean the batter is thinner at the outer edges all around the perimeter of the pan. You may get less rise at the edges since the lesser amount of batter will set faster and not rise as long. This will result in brownies with a dome or crown shape vs the even rise you are looking for. Also the edges will be dry and overcooked relative to the middle.

Construction: These pans, like many other bakeware pans, are constructed from aluminized steel. It is a steel which has been hot-dip coated with an aluminum alloy. The resulting metal possesses properties not found in the two metals when used independently. The aluminum brings with it a high resistance to corrosion and, at temperatures used for baking, the strength of steel.

Heavy Gauge Metal: A pan with a thicker gauge of metal is going to cook more evenly and resist warping at high heat. USA Pans says they use the heaviest commercial grade metal available for these pans. This was one of several factors that contributed to the even browning I get with these pans. I did note that some people have noted their pans had still warped at high heat. All I can say is I have baked with these pans for up to four years now at temperatures up to 450 degree (233 C) maximum temperature rating and the pans have retained their original shape. You can tell just picking up one of these pans that it is better built than much of the residential grade bakeware. USA Pan, who makes these pans for Williams-Sonoma is a manufacturer of professional bakeware.

Color: I never gave the color of bakeware much though before I started reading about these pans. Some pans were light silver, some were dark almost black colored. The gold color of these pans allows for a nice even baking and browning. Pans with really dark finishes will sometimes overcook the product and you may get burned or cracked edges. If you remove the dark colored pan from the oven when the edges are done, the middle will be undercooked.The pans with the lightest silver edges are said to bake without undercooking the baked goods, but the browning often isn’t as good.

Non-Stick Finish: This is what really helps set these pans apart for me. This is the finest non-stick finish I have ever used. Usually all I have to do is turn the pan upside down and the baked goods simply fall out of the pan. At worst I sometime take a plastic knife or plastic spatula and run it around the outside edges to help get the item to fall out of the pan when I turn it out. I have never had some of the surface tear off and remain behind stuck to the pan. Before I started using these pans, I always used to worry when it came time to turn out the pan. Would all my efforts be wasted because the item wouldn’t release from the pan? Would some remain behind glued to the surface of the pan? Let me repeat, this is the best non-stick finish I have used to date.

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Diamond Texture Finish Bottoms (Sheet Pans Only): There is a raised diamond pattern finish on the bottom of the 1/4 sheet pan. It is also present on the It is said to increase airflow on the bottom of your baked goods to help achieve an even browning. I would also guess it helps with issues of sticking. This surface finish is a bit of a mixed blessing and oddly enough is not present on the slightly larger Jelly Roll Pan. It is also used on the 1/2 & 3/4 sheet pans which I don’t own. The reason I say it is a mixed blessing is because you often end up with traces of this pattern on the bottom of your baked goods. It is not a big deal as long as you don’t mind this.


Dishwasher Safe: These pans are said to be dishwasher safe. I do remember seeing a qualification to that saying hand washing is better, because over time the appearance of the non-stick finish will be affected by dishwashing. For me I hand wash them because so little food sticks to the Goldtouch non-stick surface that hand washing is a breeze. I treat them like any other non-stick pan and only use cleaning pads and soaps that are suitable for non-stick finishes.

Other Use and Care Factors: W-S recommends using wood, plastic or silicon utensils with these pans. The instructions that come with these pans say the non-stick finish was: “… developed to resist cutting. It is not recommended”. When America’s Test Kitchen tested 9”x13” metal baking pans, they used metal knives on all of the pans. Of the non-stick pans, they said the W-S pan was the most resistant to marks from using a knife in the pan. Me, I either use a plastic knife to help lose the baked goods from the pan, or to cut the items I turn the baked goods out onto a cutting board so I can use a regular knife or even my electric knife with the bread blade. The Use & Care Instructions also mention you should not use cooking sprays. Without saying it directly, I believe they are referring to PAM which does not play nicely with most non-stick finishes. W-S and other stores carry a baking spray product called Bak-Klene ZT which is a baking spray which is safe for use with these pans.

Durability: I have several of these pans that are over 4 years old now and they look as good as the day I bought them. Proof of this are the three 9” round cakes pans I own. One is my second oldest pan at around 4 years old, one is about 3 years old and I just grabbed another one several months ago. I cannot tell the three pans apart from one another.

PERFORMANCE:
I have already described much of what I will include in this section here and there through the list of features. This will serve to consolidate the information into one place.

Baking: Before I use the pans, I spray it with the Bak-Kleene ZT baking spray or sometimes use olive oil if the recipe calls for it. I add the dough and place the pan(s) or tray(s) on the Egg. At the mid-point of the cook, I typically remove the Dual Function Metal Cap and carefully shine a flashlight down the chimney of the Egg so I can look at my progress. If the pan(s) are high in the dome, up above the felt (gasket) line, the pans typically do not need to be rotated to even out the cooing. This step is not related to the Goldtouch pans, but is a characteristic of the cooker/oven used. The dome shape of the Egg evens out the temps if the pans are up in the dome. At or below the felt line, i do need to rotate the pans 180 degrees. The directions for the Goldtouch pans mention that because of the heat efficiency of the pans, you may have to adjust the baking temperature and time used. I have found this is not necessary. Typically when I am cooking up in the dome of the Egg, I find the recipe times for the given temperature are pretty close to the mark. For baking times of 20-30 minutes or so, I will check on the progress about 5 minutes early. For baking times of 60 minutes, I check 10 minutes early. I look for a combination of the right color of the top surface plus doneness. My check for this is either the proper internal temperature as measured with my Thermapen, or the proper doneness of the batter using a bamboo skewer or cake tester. You can also look for signs such as the batter pulling away from the edge of the pan.

Turnout: The pan(s) are removed from the Egg and brought back to the Kitchen to cool on a wire cooling rack. There is often a 5 or 10 minute cooling time called for by the recipe before turning the baked goods out of the pan. Before turning out the finished goods, I will look at the edges of the item to see if they have pulled back from the pan. If the edges haven’t pulled back, I will run a thin plastic knife around the perimeter. Holding the knife straight up and down puts the tip and not the sharp part of the knife in contact with the bottom of the pan. Unless I have used a glaze which has oozed down the top of the items and then down into the sides where it will act like a glue, this step is usually not necessary. I use several methods to removed the baked goods from the pan. They all start with putting on some heat resistant gloves because these pans retain the heat for a long time. For small compact items like a loaf of bread, I simply invert the pan an inch or so above a wire cooling rack and the bread just drops out with ease. For larger items where you want the piece to stay intact while being turned out I use a different method. I take a second cooling rack and put it on top of the pan or tray, In this way I have made a sandwich where the cooling racks are the “bread” and the pan is the “meat”. Holding the two cooling racks in place I carefully invert them and then remove the cooling rack that is now on top. I carefully begin lifting the pan and my baked goods simply drop out. If I am making something like cornbread, focaccia or hermits, I turn out the finished goods as described and then slide them off the cooling rack onto a cutting board. The only time I have had any difficulty at all is when the baked product was baked with a glaze on top. You must turn these out immediately because as the glaze cools and sets, it becomes more and more like a super-glue. This is not an issue with this bakeware in particular, it would happen with any pan or tray.


Cleaning: These pans are typically very simple to clean. I often make my baked goods a day ahead or very early in my my day of cooking. So I will often turn out the baked goods, let the pans cool for a few minutes and then I clean them out using dish soap and hot water. I typically use a regular sponge. For times when some food is stuck on the pan, such as glaze on the top of a muffin pan, I will use a sponge wrapped with a plastic mesh. These plastic mesh wrapped sponges are sold for use with non-stick cookware. If there is not enough time to clean the pans or there is some glaze burned onto the pans, I will soak them in hot water with a little dish detergent. When I come back to them the baked on items typically come right off. The ease of cleaning is one of my favorite features of these pans.

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Results: I have been getting wonderful results with these pans. I am always amazed how evenly the bottoms of my baked goods look when I turn them out. I mentioned I own two versions of the same bread pan. One is Goldtouch non-stick and the other is a silver version of the pan without the Goldtouch finish. When I have baked using both my old silver bread pan and a Goldtouch bread pan, there is no contest. The bread from the Goldtouch pan has a better total rise with a more even crown, more even color on top, and a slightly better evenness on the bottom. Obviously the bread releases much easier from the Goldtouch non-stick bread pan. I have NEVER been disappointed in the results from these pans.

PRICE:
I am saving what some folks would consider the big negative of these pans for last: the price. These pans cost considerably more than other lesser quality pans. For those of you for whom price is the main factor, let me mention if you keep an eye on the Williams-Sonoma web page they regularly put these pans on sale. The sale price is typically 30% off the regular price. There is a 30 % off sale going on as we speak for Mother’s Day 2015. This 30% off price starts to get the Goldtouch pans in the same price range as the lesser quality pans. I have used these sales as opportunities to build my collection of these pans. Do I personally consider these pans too expensive? No. Not even at full price. These are well made pans. You can tell when you pick them out and handle them. The build quality is very apparent. I get consistently great results. These pans are the easiest to clean of any piece of cookware or pans I have ever used. Lastly: I am not a hard core baker, I bake several times a week. and with the quality of the Goldtoch non-stick finish and the build quality of these pans, I think they will outlast me. For me the price is totally reasonable, particularly at the 30% off price. These pans works consistently well, are easy to maintain and will outlast me-it is a no brainer for me. Your mileage may vary.

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