Until fairly recently I had never baked with parchment paper. Now that my partner and I are hooked on baking rustic bread (more on that in a minute), we use the stuff four or five times a week.
As frugalists, the idea of using parchment just once before tossing it made us shudder. Fortunately, we found a way around throwing away paper before it’s given us all it can.
The trick is twofold.
1. Reuse the paper — until you can’t
We use a sheet of parchment up to five times, until it’s super-tan and very brittle. Hey, the box said we could!
Cooks Illustrated, which consulted with several parchment manufacturers for this short article, reports that even if the parchment paper is recommended only for use at up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit, you can still bake it at higher temperatures.
However, at those temperatures, the edges of the paper can break apart when you use them to lift a loaf of bread out of a pan. Cooks Illustrated suggests putting a wide strip of folded aluminum foil under the parchment. The foil becomes a handy handle, which means your parchment paper won’t tear.
But we consider that a waste of foil, which brings me to the second part of the tip.
2. Use a pancake turner
We bake our bread in a Lodge cast-iron Dutch oven — a marvelous piece of equipment for other cooking tasks, too — that gets very, very hot. You keep it in the oven at 450 degrees for half an hour before you put in the bread dough.
With temperatures that hot, it’s no wonder parchment paper gets brittle. After just a few uses, the parchment paper does indeed fall apart when you try to pick it up by the edges.
So, we switched to a sturdy pancake turner to retrieve the bread.
Slide the pancake turner under the loaf and lift carefully, using the tips of your fingers to keep the bread from sliding off. You could also use a folded dish towel or an oven mitt instead of your fingers, but we live dangerously up here in Alaska.
The result: One sheet of parchment paper makes up to five loaves, which essentially reduces the cost of the paper up to 80%. Not that I paid that cost to begin with: The giant box of parchment paper that we’re currently using was part of a Buy Nothing Facebook group score — and it should last us for years.
One of the easiest things to make with parchment paper is rustic bread. Four ingredients and zero kneading produce an amazing loaf. I offer tips on how to get going in “7 Health Foods You Can Make for a Fraction of the Cost.”