Tag Archives: oxo

Tools of the Trade: Pastry Blender

10 Feb

Even if you’re lazy like me and don’t make your own pie pastry, a pastry blender can be a very helpful kitchen gadget to have around. Pastry blenders are designed to act like a bunch of coordinated knives to ‘cut’ fat (butter, shortening, lard, etc.) into a flour mixture.

Given that I’m about to post two recipes that require the use of a pastry blender, I thought I’d talk about how to pick a good quality tool.

You might remember your mom or grandma having something like this… ┬áThe problem with this style is that the tines can easily get bent out of shape and the handle isn’t stable enough to provide enough force to be efficient.

You want to look for something that has an oval grip (vs. round) and rigid metal tines. You want to make sure that the grip is solid and doesn’t roll (like grandma’s was prone to doing). Ergonomics is key! You’ll also want to make sure it’s dishwasher safe because cleaning between the tines is a pain in the ass.

Mine is similar to this Cuisipro from Amazon.com. As usual, Oxo makes a pretty good version as well.

Even though it’s not something you’ll use every day, I guarantee getting an updated pastry blender (or having one period) will exponentially decrease the amount of swearing you’ll do the next time you attempt a pastry or crumb topping.

Tools of the Trade: Bench scraper

9 Aug

If you don’t have a bench scraper, you really should pick one up.

How do I love thee…? Let me count the ways:

  • Cuts bread doughs like a champ
  • Scrapes leftover flour and crud from your counters after shaping loaves, cutting biscuits or cookies
  • Makes scooping up and moving small things like chopped veggies (or aforementioned leftover flour) easy
  • Cuts squares, brownies, lasagnas and other dishes in straight even rows

Look for a scraper that has a rigid metal blade. There are plastic ones, but they aren’t quite as sturdy/versatile. A nice handle (like the one on the Oxo Good Grips one pictured) is also a must since you’re likely to have goopy, floury hands while using one.

Tools of the Trade: Cookie Scoops

10 Jul

I love my cookie scoops. If you don’t have at least one in your arsenal you should go buy one.

Courtesy of The Coastal Cupboard

Perhaps I should explain why.

Before the advent of cookie scoops in my world, dishing out a batch of cookies would take a while and would involve a lot of scraping and squishing of dough with two spoons. The cookies would never have a pretty ‘oh those must be from a bakery’ shape and some of them would cook faster than others because they were bigger or smaller.

Now my cookies are perfection and I can scoop out two whole trays in a couple minutes flat.

That being said, ‘cookie scoop’ is a bit of a misnomer. I also use mine to:

– Scoop muffin and cupcake batter – Not only do they come out more uniform due to portioning, but you wind up with more of the batter in the muffin liners instead of ON the muffin tray
– Scoop ice cream – You get perfect scoops every time!
– Making meatballs – Again, perfect size and way faster.

I will never go back to the two spoon method ever again.

Now when you go out to buy yourself one, do not make the mistake of cheaping out. Go whole hog and get the Oxo Good Grips versions. They come in three sizes – small (good for tiny applications like chocolate truffles), medium (good for most cookies, mini cupcakes and small meatballs) and large (good for regular sized cupcakes and muffins and large sized meatballs). I’ve never been disappointed with any Oxo product. They usually have superior design and mechanisms and are dishwasher safe. In Canada they’re available at Bed Bath and Beyond, Home Outfitters, Home Sense and at some local stores like @Home in Kanata Centrum.

I’ve tried other scoops from Norpro and Wilton. The Wilton one had terrible action on it – with stiff cookie batters the scraper would stick, negating the whole point of the scoop. I found it was too small as well. The Norpro was OK but the action was much stiffer and was really uncomfortable to use. It also had issues binding with stiff dough and I eventually stripped the gears on it trying to pry it apart in frustration.