By Martha Stewart
Q: I know that you are a big fan of Silpat (silicone) nonstick baking mats, but some recipes call for greasing a cookie sheet or using parchment. Are these methods interchangeable?
A: If you’re planning to bake cookies or pastries, either a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper is fine. Some people say that parchment is a better choice if you want crisp-bottomed cookies because it is less insulating than a baking mat.
A mat is good for thin, delicate cookies, such as tuiles, or for sticky pastries. And, unlike parchment, it’s reusable. To clean it, simply wipe it with a dishcloth or a damp sponge. You can dry it in seconds in a warm oven, putting it directly on the rack.
As for greasing a cookie sheet, that’s more trouble than it’s worth, and you will end up with patches of burnt butter in the spaces between your baked items.
Q: What’s the best way to keep my 15-month-old twins’ bath toys clean? And how often should I wash them?
A: Although they’re probably immersed in suds daily, children’s tub toys do need weekly cleansing to keep them from becoming grimy and coated with soap scum (a stubborn film of soap and the minerals in water).
Soak toys for 10 minutes in 1 part hot water, 1 part distilled white vinegar and a few drops of dishwashing liquid: Vinegar dissolves soap scum, and detergent removes dirt; use a utility brush or an old toothbrush to scrub crevices.
Let moldy toys sit in a solution of 3/4 cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water, following the directions on the bottle’s label. (Chlorine bleach should never be mixed with any other household cleaner, including vinegar, since harmful fumes can result.)
If you discover that squeeze toys are harboring black sludge — a common occurrence if they aren’t diligently emptied after each use — discard them rather than trying to clean them. Although the sludge isn’t likely to cause any harm, it is nearly impossible to eradicate.
After washing, rinse toys well in warm water, place them on a clean towel and let them dry before putting them away.
To prevent mold, keep toys dry between uses. After each bath, shake excess water off toys, and empty squeeze toys completely.
Stow toys in a mesh bag or a perforated plastic bin — these choices allow for proper drainage.
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