Surprisingly, bain maries were originally intended to be used for the practice of alchemy when alchemists needed to slowly heat materials or chemicals. Mary the Jewess was the original attributed inventor and practitioner of the bain marie, but the earliest model developed from its humble beginnings over time, and eventually became the piece of equipment we see in our commercial kitchens today. Our bain marie food warmers and cabinets are constructed as wide, cylindrical containers made of three to four basic parts, and sometimes a base. They cook with a very intricate process, surrounding the food or ingredients with gentle heat (usually used for pastries and desserts) and utilising either wet or dry heat (wet uses hot water, dry uses electric/heating elements). This gentle heat rises very gradually in both containers with the insulation of the water preventing the contents from boiling. The dry heat versions use less energy, are easier to clean, but rises the bain marie temperature much more rapidly for a faster cook. These units, however, are usually designed to withstand and cook contents at higher temperatures.
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