SILIKOMART A thrilling project in the Italian Silicone Valley, or, when I was chosen to be the brand ambassador of a mold
France, 2015, SIRHA, the Biennial Food Trade Fair in Lyon -I remember myself strolling among thousands of stands. Obviously, I am mostly attracted to the bakery and pastry sections – a huge variety of stands exposing a wide range of ingredients, equipment, molds, packing materials, and vitrines. It is the cutting-edge of every sub-sector in this huge and continuously evolving field. This is where I find myself in the Silicone Valley or rather, in an amusement park of silicon molds in a variety of shapes I’ve never seen before. I usually don’t use silicone molds for baking, I prefer hard aluminum baking pans or those made of other materials, but something in this specific SILIKOMART stand captivated me. “Pleased to meet you, I’m Chiara”, Chiara Matteazzi pops up and smiles at me. Chiara is the representative of SILIKOMART. She tells me with great enthusiasm about the company and kindly offers me a special mold for making cookies with a chocolate top imprint. At the time, SILIKOMART was making its first steps in the Israeli market, and already, then, the amount of responses I received from Israel after posting the cookies recipe, surprised me as well as the Israeli importers’ fierce interest in the mold. Since then, there has been a lot of silicone running under the bridge and today the company’s molds can be found in almost every lab of baking professionals or enthusiastic amateurs.
The silicone molds burst into our lives in the early 2000s; most of them were in one color – dark orange – and they came in a limited number of models. At the time, they were promoted as the next “must” of the patisserie world: molds that can be used for baking as well as freezing, very flexible, no need for greasing and enabling an easy release of the cake out of the mold. But, like in every other field, low-quality imitations appeared on the market causing the silicone mold bad reputation. Bakers complained about the bad smell emanating from the molds, over-heating, and much more. Recently, with French patisseries spreading beyond the borders of France, the use of silicone molds became more popular as they enable modern working techniques which are becoming more and more complex.
In 2018, I got an email from Chiara Matteazzi proposing me to be the brand ambassador for one of their new SILIKOMART molds. I was very thrilled; I immediately recalled our first meeting when I presented myself as a blogger with thousands of followers on Instagram, investigating the world of French patisserie. We kept in touch, and in the last few years, almost every time we met, she informed me that soon we will be collaborating on a joint project. I couldn’t imagine that few years later, I would be offered such an exciting proposal. I had to keep this collaboration secret for a while and the new mold was delivered to me by a special courier. This mold, which is actually being launched, is one of the coolest molds lastly released by the company. It can be used for baked cakes, cold desserts and, of course, ice cream and popsicles. As part of the project, I was asked to customize two recipes for the mold, one for baking and one for freezing. I was invited by the company to visit their factory and their school in order to shoot a special video before the launching of the mold, which is called in Italian “Soffice Incanto” (which means as addiction or soft magic).
The SILIKOMART factory was founded in Italy in 2002 by Dario Martellato. It is located in the suburbs of Padua, half an hour drive from Venice.Tommaso Cogo, nicknamed Tommy by his friends, welcomes us at the airport and with a typical Italian charming smile, mentioning that he has arrived just on time. During the drive, he tells us with great joy about his work in the company, we discuss Italian food and the use of local materials, imitations (as he calls it) of supposed Italian food around the world, and to tells us with pride about his grandma the cook. That’s how Italians are! Open, warm, gourmets and ready to bet that their ragoût is the best in the world. When you come from Paris, the lively Italian spirit is even more noticeable, and the change from grumbling Parisians to smiling people is very delightful.
Matteazzi welcomes us warmfully, together with Silvia Rubin. “In Italy, before we start me must have coffee” she announces, and we join the workers on their coffee break. Later we will learn that there’s a coffee break every few hours: in the morning, before lunch, after lunch, in the afternoon, and after that, it’s already time for Aperol Spritz. We begin the tour in the “Hangar 78”, a lovely compound next to the company’s building and warehouses. “The idea behind this place is creating an environment of laboratories where we can have workshops, courses and demonstrations. It is also a place where we can film baking shows, videos and more. Tomorrow we will shoot here the video clips that will accompany the launching of the SofficeIncanto mold”, Chiara Matteazzi explains with passion. We also visit the company’s offices and see where the magic is born; molds that we cannot even imagine are already there, in their final stages of creation and further manufacturing. Chiara invites the quality control manager, Alberto Pazzetto, known as Berto, to join us and together we continue to the factory itself.
“One of our company’s advantages lies in the fact that the entire manufacturing process is done in Italy, and moreover, it is right next to us. That way we can have optimal control over the quality of the product – from the design stage and all the way to packaging and delivery,” explains Pazzetto. The factory, which is right across the road, is the most fascinating place in the compound. It’s amazing to see how, through technological processes, barrels of liquid silicone turn into the molds we use daily.” “The high-quality silicone is brought from Germany in these barrels,” says Pazzetto while he opens one of them to show us the first stage that will lead to the mold. The silicone is then transferred to one of 20 machines which almost magically, thanks to smart technology, turn it into a silicone mold in white, orange (the famous color you see in shops) or in other colors that has joined the collection over the years. The factory also contains machines that manufacture special plastic molds, which are part of the company’s array of products.
Each type of mold has its own template, which is installed on the machine in order to create the mold. The templates are arranged in long rows and each has a serial number to locate it before manufacturing. It’s remarkable to see how the liquid silicone comes out of the machine in the shape of molds that are stacked together and transferred to the next stage of the process, which is far from being over after the production. “We want every mold to be perfect before it leaves the factory, so each mold is being examined manually by a staff of workers and silicone leftovers are being removed from it,” explains Pazzetto, while leading us to the molds cleaning room. Each mold is examined manually by one of the workers and they make sure it’s refined and smooth. “After this stage of the process, comes the most important part,” he adds. “All the molds, with no exclusion, are inserted into ovens and baked for about 6-7 hours. This stage is very important within the quality control of the molds; this is how we make sure there is no risk of any toxin remaining in the mold, it’s a form of sterilization”. It’s impressive to see that each and every mold goes through this process before it reaches the packaging place.
After being packed, the molds are taken to the warehouses and from there, they are shipped to many countries around the world; almost every person who has something to do with baking uses the company’s molds. In the spirit of innovation, SILIKOMART understands that in addition to patisserie chefs who work with them all over the world, there’s a large audience of passionate amateurs or semi-professionals who want to create at home and upgrade their baking skills. Alongside Pierre Hermé, Christophe Michalak, Amaury Guichon Jordi Roca from the Spanish restaurant “El Celler de Can Roca”, rated second on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2018 – Silikomart also collaborates with bloggers, Instagrammers and social media influencers. “Hangar 78” is the place where these audiences meet, and where we film the videos for the launch of the new mold.
The filming day began with a personal interview: I was invited to talk about my practice, my deep connection to the field of patisserie and my strong links with SILIKOMART. Later we moved on to the equipped filming kitchen and for several hours, we filmed videos of the preparation stages of both recipes. All the hours of tape would add up to become one short video clip intended to lead the marketing campaign of the mold. The fun thing about this mold is that it can be used for various kinds of desserts, both baked and cold. Its shape is similar to chocolate coated marshmallow treat or to soft-serve ice cream (hence its name). My favorite recipe for the mold is a white-brown stirred cake with dark chocolate coating, and the second is white chocolate mousse filled with fresh cherries. During the filming, we played with a variety of coatings and decorations for the cold dessert. One of the loveliest things about this mold is the possibility to easily turn it into a Popsicle mold, by placing Popsicle sticks in the mass before freezing. There’s nothing like dipping the frozen dessert in warm chocolate coating and take a bite.
Always remember that dreams come true!