There are classic ones, rectangular ones, cast iron ones and even fish shaped
ones to make exquisite looking mousses! There are coloured ones, ceramic ones,
which are perfect for adding a touch of glamour to the table, and miniature ones
for desserts. There are ones for cakes, even with hinges, small aluminium or paper
cases, as well as simple ice cube trays.
They can serve sweets or gratins, they can be limited to just serving or they can be used to give a dish an original and artistic shape, but most importantly, they are things that you must have in the kitchen: moulds. Moulds are versatile instruments, made into different shapes and from different materials, which carry out an essential role in the kitchen since many dishes could not be made without something that gives it a precise shape or cooks it so perfectly. Just think about a soufflé, which is a difficult recipe to follow and which requires precise cooking conditions in order to perfect it, as well as the precise mould. Whether it is a classic meatloaf or a delicate Madeleine, no mould is made without keeping a specific shape. It is not just limited to oven dishes though; ice cube trays can be all sorts of shapes so as to give new life to a cocktail or soft drink.
Initial categorising of the different types of moulds can be carried out regarding the material they are made from. The most common use for a mould is in the oven therefore the main material is ceramic, followed by cast iron, which is a good conductor of heat and is very resistant against high temperatures. Moulds for desserts are often made out of aluminium, steel or anti-stick materials. Those made for pies and tarts are made out of metal, with fluted sides and usually with a removable base.
Shapes and sizes
Moulds are the utensils which have the most different and original shapes. They can range from the classic timbale for soufflé, which must be round, deep and with flat sides, a shell shaped cutter for Madeleines, heart shaped cake tins for romantic occasions, round for savarins and fish shaped for mousses or jellies. The list is endless. Moulds, if they do not have to simply hold the product, are used to shape the food, and everyone can have fun with their imagination, creativity and joy. There are some recipes however, that require the use of particular moulds, and desserts that should be wide and shallow will not come out well if cooked in tall and thin moulds, for example. Recipes usually indicate the dimensions of the required mould.
Sweet or savoury
Another subcategory of moulds regards the type of recipe you are following: moulds for cakes are different to moulds for gratin. In general, whilst desserts are removed from their moulds before being served, savoury dishes are often served directly from the baking dish and these dishes are therefore usually chosen for their colour and the material they are made from. Whilst gratin dishes can be either rectangular or oval, depending on personal choice, soufflé moulds are always circular and deep. The sides must be smooth and straight in order to allow the mixture to rise over the sides. The most common size is 0.9litres since, with bigger ones, you run the risk that the centre will not cook well. For small, individual soufflés, as well as for mousses, ramekins are perfect. Since, in general, the cooking method consists of placing the moulds in water that reaches halfway up their sides, it is best if the bottom of the mould is rough so no holes are created and the soufflé rises more easily. Classic terrines are also moulds for vegetable or meat mixtures and they are usually made of cast iron.
As far as desserts are concerned, there are moulds for pies, cakes, biscuits,
and so on. For small batches there are miniature moulds, ramekins and baking trays with multiple moulds of various shapes. Muffin trays are a part of this ‘family’, as well as those for single puddings. Moulds
for angel food cakes have a tube in the centre which provides the centre of the cake with heat. For
more fragile cakes, which can be broken when removing them from the tin, moulds
with hinges are indispensible: once opened, you can remove the base and then slip
the cake right off onto the serving plate.
For tarts, you need a mould with grooved edges and a removable base if you are not using a circular mould placed in an oven dish.
Oven dishes are indispensible when making desserts, but make sure you follow a few, important pieces of advice: never put two oven dishes in the oven together as the one above could interrupt the flow of heat to the one below; if placing a mould in an oven dish, always make sure there is at least 5cm between the edge of the mould and the oven dish for optimum air circulation.
A good accessory when cooking desserts in the oven is a baking tray/mould, which is sometimes made from porcelain, that has holes in the bottom that allow vapours to be released from inside the cake.
As mentioned, for everything else there are moulds of various shapes which really let your imagination run wild! From ice cube trays that create the classic cubes and ring shapes moulds for savarins or rum baba, to moulds for mousses and jellies. Every shape and size really is available.