Welcome to our new(ish) column, "Ask the Pastry Chef," by Amy Morris, a pastry sous chef at J&G Steakhouse. Have a question for Amy? Leave it in the comments section.
What are 3 indispensable tools for pastry?
There are many directions to go with this question. Tools for making a cake, bread, chocolates...etc, you can see that depending on the specialization there are numerous tools to choose from. Instead of concentrating on one area I think it will be more beneficial for me to suggest basic hand tools that are used in pastry every day, no matter what the project may be. You will see that these tools can be used for a multitude of things.
3. Bench Scraper--
This tool has a large flat stainless steel blade with a plastic or wood grip to hold onto it with. Essentially this tool is used how it sounds and you can use if for many purposes. If you don't have a canvas pastry cloth this tool will help you clean your counter effortlessly. Scrape the bench scraper across the counter and easily discard bits of flour into a bowl or garbage can.
Other uses include cutting dough and/or lifting food from one surface to another. The fun doesn't end there! This is an essential tool to smooth out frosting on a cake while you
are spinning it on a cake turner. The end result is a smooth even finish. Like everything else, there are sizes to choose from, but a 6'' by 3'' is the perfect mid-size for any project. These are also available online or through a bakery supply store.
2. Offset Spatula-- This tool usually has a stainless steel blade with a blunt end and it is bent near where the handle and metal meet. Hence, the reason it's called "offset." The bend allows you to get close to the project at hand without literally getting your hands into it. This tool is perfect for finishing touches on a cake. You can get close to the frosting and not make a smudge with your hand.
I also use it to pick up things from anything that is delicate to serving a piece of cake onto a plate or smoothing out cake batter in the pan before I put it in the oven. The options are endless--if I need a tool to do something this is the one I will more than likely grab to do the job.
I would recommend getting the 4 ½'' and the 8''. After that let your pastry projects help you decide what you need. Unfortunately, these tools are not readily available everywhere, but they are available online or at bakery supply stores.
1. Rubber Spatula-- I can't imagine doing my job without this tool--it's probably the most used and worn out tool found in my personal and professional kitchens. A good spatula is essential in any baking or pastry endeavor. You'll need it to scrape the bottom of the bowl with cake batter to make a smooth and even cake and scrape your bowl well to get the most quantity out of what you're baking.
I can go through spatulas pretty quick and I imagine that I'm not the only one. Hard long use makes them looked cracked and chipped. When they get to this point pieces of the spatula can get in your food, so I encourage you to throw them away and buy a new one. They are relatively inexpensive and there really is no need to buy an expensive one, unless you want it to last longer. I have a kitchen aid brand and the thing I like most about it is that it is heat-resistant. You can work over the stove with it and not have to worry about it melting into your food. Buy more than one! In pastry it's used constantly and having to wash the same spatula before starting the next project is a pain. Also, they come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. The regular sized one is all you need, but I'm not going to lie, the larger ones are nice too.
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No matter what the project, I guarantee that if you are dipping your hands into pastry these tools will not go unused in your kitchen. As you read my blogs you'll probably see me referring to these tools over and over. The sole purpose is to make your baking experience easier and assist in a great looking creation!
You should be able to find all of these items at ABC Baking in Phoenix.