Ice Cream Bars Not Included

I’m surrounded by metal—a lot of it!

Metal is present wherever the word, ‘dessert’ hovers over my life.

Aluminum foil, flatware, mixing utensils, bowls, cookie cutters, kitchen appliances…and baking pans—lots of them! Square, round, rectangular, cookie sheets, Bundt, circular with a center tube, circular without a center tube, some with a springform latch, accordion-form-edge tart pans, some with removable bottoms–some without, muffin tins—mini, regular, and jumbo. And the list goes on and on! As you might suppose, Miss NiNi’s investment in baking pans is magnanimous!

Housed within the protected environment of cabinet walls or reposing on metal shelving, each and every pan represents creative possibilities to this dessert baker.

When reminiscing about how this love affair with baking pans began in my life, I can note the exact month, year, and location. Believe it or not!

It was April 1970 when as a sophomore studying Home Economics Education at North Dakota State University, the wording HMFE 460 had a notable effect in this coed’s life. The class had been listed as senior level in the area of Home Management and Family Economics. But, as a sophomore student, I previously had sketched that particular class into my schedule in order to be listed on the roll. There I sat in the lecture room with Dr. Virginia Hassoun and upper classmen who were ready to grasp the whys and wherefores of kitchen equipment.

Now I realize, this class was not rocket science by any means and certainly might not have been of any interest at all to you, Dear Readers.

However, as a duck takes to water, I was hooked on the class when Dr. Hassoun began lecturing about the value of knowing what type of kitchen appliances and equipment had received highest acclaim in order to produce the best results of cooked and baked products.

Plus, think of this—family economics is all about distributing spendable personal income wisely in the market place. Why waste hard-earned dollars on faulty equipment? I sat in that class to soak in every word. And I did!

Even though Dr. Hassoun didn’t know it, I was drawn to her class because of a childhood memory. My professor was the daughter of Mr. Enoch Schultz of Schultz Creamery in Capital City, ND. As a little girl, I had what I thought was a’ long-standing’ relationship with Mr. Schultz. Friday was my farm family’s ‘trading’ day in the city. Dad’s weekly fresh egg route and milk and cream delivery to Mr. Enoch’s business provided cash in order to buy groceries at the local Red Owl supermarket.

Ahh, but the day’s-end reward for this little 5-year-old was accompanying Dad and Sweet Sister into Shultz Creamy to retrieve our empty metal cream cans! Also awaiting us were chocolate covered ice cream bars reposing in Mr. Schultz’s old-fashioned chest freezer. Dad always managed to shell out a few dimes from his egg money located in the pocket of his clean striped overalls so that his girls could enjoy a tasty finale to a busy day in the city.

With the knowledge gained in HMFE 460, I soon learned that just because a baking pan is sold in a hardware or department store or endorsed by a cooking/baking guru (and in this day in age—even sold online) does not give it 5-star approval rating in the baking and cooking departments. Honestly, Dear Readers, there are some baking pans that are just plain awful and can do more harm than good in helping your baking turn out with glowing accolades.

As for Miss NiNi, I’m a shiny-aluminum-baking-pan kind of gal. I do not like baking pans made out of dark metal. I do not use baking pans with dark non-stick linings. As a matter of fact, if I cannot find new shiny aluminum pans in the buy-new market place, I go directly to EBay or to thrift stores to make my well-loved purchases.

Why am I so persnickety about my baking pans, Dear Readers? After all, won’t any old pan work? No Siree! I like the outside edges of my non-chocolate-lighter-batter baked products to have a lovely golden color. If I bake with darker metals or even shiny aluminum pans that have been used so much that the outside has turned dark, my products get darker outside edges that tend to make them taste overbaked and look uninviting. Has that happened to you? Has it made you give up on baking for your family?

What about chocolate enhanced and darker batters? Is it okay to bake them in pans that are dark metal or have a darker inner pan surface? Miss NiNi does not. I’m pretty much a “shiny is finey” baking pan user!

Really, Dear Readers, check out Miss NiNi’s handcrafted dessert breads, coffee cakes, three-layer cakes, cookies, and cheesecakes at Miss NiNi’s Desserterie or online at missnini.com and see what you think.

Then check out your own baking pans. Are they shiny aluminum or another metal or material?

Are you satisfied with how your baked desserts taste and look? Maybe the pan has more to do with the outcome of your hard-earned baking efforts than what you thought.

After all, baking is about making not only an investment into ingredients but also into the time given in the kitchen prep arena. How do you place a family economic value on that, Dear Readers?

HMFE 460—I still daily reap the rewards of knowledge learned in that class while baking at the desserterie and in the food lab.

Miss NiNi certainly isn’t a heralded college professor as was Dr. Hassoun. But then, my family never sold ice cream bars either!