On High-Heat Baking

Of course most home ovens don’t go above 550 or so degrees Fahrenheit. That’s because for most people even 500 is more than enough. It isn’t for me, which is why I built a brick oven in my back yard. That thing can sustain a heat of over 850 if need be. If worse comes to worst I’ll go that route, but it’s no fun for me when I’m making something that no one else out there can do. And anyway I’ve seen some very good looking pastéis de Bélelm/nata that were baked at 550.

The only real wrinkle for those of you out there wanting to do these is the forms. First there’s the size issue. Pastéis actually look like mini pies, not square-sided tarts. But even those popular little “mini pie” pans are a bit too big for a pastel. Muffins pans on the other hand are a little too small. But jumbo muffin pans, now those things are just about perfect…at least to my eyes.

The problem is that most muffin pans these days have nonstick coatings on them. Those coatings start to break down much above 450 degrees Fahrenheit, making them unsafe to use for something like pasteis de Bélem. The good news is that unlike individual tart or pie pans, muffin pans are readily available, and in lots of different configurations. The ones I have are anodized aluminum, but you can also find plain stainless versions at kitchen supply shops. Either one of those will work, though I noticed that Lodge has some cast iron jumbo muffin pans too. They might be a little heavy, but still a decent solution. Who knew Lodge was so hip?

8 thoughts on “On High-Heat Baking”

  1. I once heard a pizza-obsessive on NPR say that he disabled the safety lock on his oven so that he could cook pizzas in the super heat environment of the self-clean cycle. Interesting. It definitely made me want to go to the kitchen and start breaking things like a mad scientist.

    1. That madman is Jeff Varasano, a fellow whose Neapolitan pizza page is legendary among bakers on the internet. He went on to open a pizza place in Atlanta. I don’t know if it’s still going or not, but I seem to recall Rachel Ray called it one of the top pizza places in America. But I definitely don’t recommend sabotaging a home oven. Building a pizza oven in your back yard is not only more fun, it won’t burn your house down.

      – Joe

  2. Comparison time! one baked in the brick high heat, one baked in a “normal person” oven 😉

    I, for one, would love to see the difference.

    Chris from DownUnder

      1. well, you didn’t have to go and approve the comment :p

        keep up the good work mate!

        1. Hey, far be it from me to stifle the voice of the people!

          (And thanks, home boy)


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