Pie Making Tools


Baking a pie didn't used to be so difficult. When Europeans first came to America, they made pies with crusts strong enough to act as a cooking pot.
Later, New England recipes called for "turn under" pies: sweetened fruit covered by a single crust, broken and stirred into the filling.
Nowadays, we wouldn't dream of mixing a crust into its filling. Many of us don't make pies much, either, until holiday time.
But if we remember that a pie is more than its flaky exterior, and allow ourselves a veritable disaster now and again, we can make pies from scratch. If the quality of our tools matches the sincerity of our efforts, we will succeed much more often than not.
Pie Essentials
Dry measures in stainless steel, wet measures in heat tempered glass. Discard measuring spoons with nicks or dents.
Gently sloping bowl: Those who cut butter into flour by hand will appreciate the large bottom.
Triple mesh sifters: Made of three layers of mesh, the flour need only be sifted twice: once to aerate it and remove lumps, and again to mix it with additional dry ingredients.
Sieves not only catch the seeds from fruit pulp and juice, but can be used to sift flour, confectioner's sugar, and cocoa. Keep an assortment of sizes and mesh densities. Less expensive sieves bend out of shape.
Graters: Use either a four-sided box grater or a small flat grater. Both should be of stainless steel.
Balloon whisks are wonderful for whipping egg whites or heavy cream by hand.
Pastry blenders: A practiced hand and six wires rapidly reduce flour and cubed butter into small flour-coated pieces. The wires are pliant for proper press/bounce action, and the four inch distance between handle and dough separates warm hands from cold ingredients. Look for chromed steel tines of medium thickness fastened securely to the handle.
A four-ounce pastry fork's widely spaced tines are superb for cutting butter into flour. You can also use it to pierce holes in an unfilled crust.
Mixers: The most versatile (and expensive) unit is the standing mixer. Use the beater accessory to whip cream or egg whites.
Food Processors: Know your machine and adjust accordingly. Timing depends on the model and the age of the machine. Look for a large capacity machine with a motor that sits directly on top of the housing. Check your blades and return them to the manufacturer for sharpening as necessary.
Rolling Pins: There are as many pins as there are pie bakers. A straight French pin is most popular with professional pastry chefs. It is of medium weight, barrel- shaped, well-balanced, and inexpensive. With experience, it gives the most even, controlled roll. An American ball bearing pin is a multipurpose, heavyweight pin made from hardwood. Two handles are set on ball bearings for longer, smoother rolling strokes. It is more expensive but easier to use.
Rolling surfaces: Almost any hard, flat surface will work. Marble, granite, formica, and wood can be used. Some bakers have good luck with a large wooden pastry board covered by a floured canvas cloth or linen dishtowel.
Pastry brushes made from natural boar bristles retain their softness and pliability. Look for bristles sealed in an acrylic or metal band and anchored to a wooden handle. A 1 1/2 inch brush is standard.
Pie plates: Ovenproof glass is an excellent heat conductor, browns the bottom crust, and is not easily scratched by the blade of a knife. Glass is also easy to clean and inexpensive. The best metal pans are made from Aluminite, a standard-gauge metal with a dull satin finish that resists stains and retains heat better than shinier surfaces.
Tart pans are made from tinned or black steel with removable bottoms. They conduct heat well and produce a golden brown crust.
Pie weights prevent an unfilled pie shell from blistering during baking.
Called "baking beans" in deference to their predecessor, the legume, they are made in metal or ceramic.
The New (or old) and Nifty
Flour wand: Squeeze the handle of this old-fashioned coiled wand to release as much or as little flour as you like on your work surface.
Pastry frame: This washable cotton frame hooks over the lip of a counter.
Flour it, roll out the pie crust, and then roll the frame for storage. Marked with guides for an eight inch and nine inch crust.
The pastry docker is a five inch cylinder studded with sharp spikes at 1/2 inch intervals. Use it solely to pierce puff pastry or pie pastry.
Pastry crimper: Run around the edges of a pie, this tool's crimping disks lie flush against the cutting wheel and simultaneously press, pinch and cut the dough.
Pastry wheels: called "jaggers," resemble a pizza cutter with a zigzag edge. Choose a 4 inch stainless steel wheel for cutting lattice.
Lattice cutter: Lay an unbaked crust on top of this 12 inch acrylic grid, run a rolling pin across it, and transfer the lattice to the filled pie.
Giant spatula: Forget your pride and use this 10 x 10 inch aluminum spatula to move a rolled crust from the work surface to the pie pan.
Pie shield: A ring of strong but lightweight aluminum sits atop the crust's lip to keep the edges from burning.




1.0 servings


Tuesday, December 22, 2009 - 12:12am



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