Sometimes when cookbook writers assume that every cook
knows what a term means, it’s frustrating. However,
it’s equally tiresome when authors go into too
much detail that one grows tired of reading before the
actual cooking begins! Sometimes it’s a tough
call for those who write cookbooks.
A "bain-marie" is the French term for a dish
that’s surrounded by a water bath and baked in
the oven. There’s no special equipment to buy:
A cake pan filled with enough hot water to come halfway
up the sides of the baking dish does the trick nicely.
this may sound as if it’s a fussy way of cooking
something, there are sound reasons for using a bain-marie.
As your recipes indicate, a bain-marie is often used
with egg-based dishes, because egg proteins are very
sensitive to heat. The proteins in egg yolks begin to
coagulate at 149ºF (65ºC). Egg-white proteins are even
touchier, with the proteins beginning to unfold and
set at just 140ºF (60ºC). When eggs are cooked too long
or at too high a temperature, they become tough and
Surrounding egg-based dishes with hot water insulates
them from the direct heat of the oven. It’s a
useful way of keeping crustless quiches tender and getting
custards to set but still remain silky.