Delicate egg and dairy-based foods such as souffles, cheesecakes, custards and pate need delicate preparation. Baking them in a water bath ensures they uphold their reputation for being creamy, rich and moist. Baking with a water bath, also called a bain-marie, essentially means baking a dish of food within a larger, shallow pan filled with hot water. The water bath gently cooks the food at a lower temperature and at a slower rate, protecting it from the direct heat of the oven. It also prevents a whole slew of problems, including cracking, curdling, crust formation, uneven baking and scorching.
Things You'll Need
- Large, shallow baking dish
- Kitchen towel or paper towels
Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to the temperature your recipe indicates.
Put a large, shallow baking dish on your kitchen counter and put a kitchen towel or several layers of paper towel in the bottom. The dish should be about 2 to 3 inches wider all around than the dish you are baking your food in. Baking pans, broiler pans or cake pans all work, as long as they hold water.
Place your dish of food into the large, shallow baking dish. If you are baking your food in multiple dishes such as ramekins, make sure the dishes don't touch.
Carefully pour hot water into the large, shallow baking dish. The depth of the water should be about half the height of the baking dish you are baking your food in.
Gently place the prepared water bath into the oven and bake according to your recipe's instructions.
Tips & Warnings
- If the water in your water bath starts to boil while baking, add a few ice cubes to the water to bring the temperature back down.
- If you are baking a smooth custard, you can cover it with a layer of foil to prevent a skin from forming.
- Use a standard cake pan when baking cheesecake rather than a springform pan to prevent water leakage.
- Remove your food from the water bath as soon as it is done baking to avoid overcooking.
- Avoid adding water or tampering with the water bath while baking is in progress unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Baking 911: Waterbath, Water Bath or Bain Marie
- Baking Bites: How to Make a Water Bath
- Cooking Light Complete Cookbook: A Fresh New Way to Cook; Editors of Cooking Light
- The Joy of Cooking; Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker
- Photo Credit Nanisimova/iStock/Getty Images
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