Martha loves using parchment paper in the kitchen. Parchment paper is grease- and moisture-resistant paper specially treated for oven use. It is very versatile -- use it to line cake molds and baking sheets, to wrap fish and other dishes that are cooked en papillote, and to cover countertops during messy tasks to make cleanup easy. If you're sifting or grating a small amount of an ingredient, you can simply let it fall onto the paper, then pick up the paper and pour it into a dish. Parchment paper can be purchased in rolls, sheets, or precut rounds to fit cake pans; look for it at gourmet kitchenware stores or many supermarkets.
Wax paper has a thin coating of wax on each side, making it nonstick and moisture-resistant; it is a good, less-expensive substitute for parchment paper for tasks such as covering countertops, and is available at any supermarket. Unlike parchment paper, however, it is not heat-resistant and therefore should not be used in the oven, as the wax could melt, or even ignite.
Another good option for lining baking sheets is a Silpat baking mat. Made of flexible, heat-resistant silicon, they are much more expensive than either parchment paper or wax paper, but last for years.
Besides lining baking sheets and cake pans, this inexpensive paper can be used for a range of tasks, from pouring ingredients to steaming fish.
Parchment paper is treated with silicone, so it is nonstick; it is also heatproof and grease-resistant. It's available bleached (white) or unbleached (brown).
It protects pans, aids cleanup, and prevents food from sticking. It also makes a handy funnel for transferring dry ingredients. You can bake fish or chicken in it for a low-fat cooking method.
Rolls of parchment paper are available in the baking section of most supermarkets. Precut sheets and rounds can be found in baking-supply stores.
How To Work with Parchment
Lining a Cake Pan
Using the bottom of the pan as a guide, trace a circle on the paper, then cut out the round and fit it in the pan. This will keep cakes from sticking.
Sifting Then Pouring
When sifting dry ingredients, sift them onto the parchment, then fold the paper to form a funnel for easy pouring.
Lining Baking Sheets
Rub softened butter on the corners of baking sheets to help the paper adhere. This will also prevent rolled paper from curling up at the edges during baking.
Foods baked on parchment paper release easily from the pan. This is especially helpful when baking thin cookies and other delicate pastries.
A Smart Use for Wax Paper
Here's a better way to work with flour and sugar, with no mess to clean up, and no waste.
Cover Your Counter
Measure dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar, or cocoa, over a clean sheet of waxed paper. Spoon into a measuring cup, and level the top with a straightedge (or a butter knife), sweeping excess onto the paper.
Put the Extra Back
Once you've measured, pick up the paper, and funnel the excess back into the canister. Save the paper for the next time, if you like, or use it to line a cake pan.