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3 New Tools for Better Pies and Pastry

Fine Cooking Issue 73
Photo: Scott Phillips
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For novice bakers, and even for some seasoned ones, making and rolling out pie crust can be a nerve-wracking experience. How much to cut in the butter? Is the dough getting too warm? Will it roll out nicely? Fear not. Three new pastry-making tools are here to ease your pie anxiety.

A novel pastry blender

Before testing it, I wouldn’t have believed that a gadget that looks and acts like a potato masher could double as a great pastry blender. But after making countless batches of scones and pie dough with the Gourmet Blender, I’m a believer.

Like traditional pastry blenders, this one employs metal tines to cut the butter into small pieces while incorporating them into the flour. But the similarity ends there. The Gourmet Blender’s tines are rigid blades, and they’re much more efficient than the flimsy wires in conventional pastry blenders. I love the blender’s comfy, vertical handle because it requires a stomping motion rather than a rocking one to blend ingredients. That takes less effort and is much easier on my increasingly arthritic hands.

The Gourmet Blender is available at Surlatable. com for $16.95, as well as at many independent kitchen stores (call Best Manufacturers at 800-500-1528 to find a retailer near you). The same company also makes the Pastry Pro, a similar tool with a horizontal handle that’s more in line with a traditional pastry blender. It works fine, but I prefer the Gourmet Blender’s upright handle

An ergonomic rolling pin

I was surprised when I tried the new Vic Firth Comfort Pin and fell in love (well, at least in serious like!). It’s a traditional pin with a solid maple barrel and stainless-steel ball bearings, which some bakers like but isn’t my style (a no-nonsense wooden cylinder is my go-to pin). But the handles on this pin won me over. They may look awkward, but they’re remarkably comfortable. My hands slid naturally into position. This pin has one drawback, however: The barrel is only 11-1/2 inches long, a bit on the short side. I found that it was easier to roll out dough in smaller batches to avoid having dough clog up on the ends.

The Comfort Pin is $46 at Vicfirthgourmet.com.

A stay-cold pastry board

Rolling out pie crust in the middle of summer can be tricky because as the dough warms up, it gets sticky. Kuhn Rikon’s Big Chill pastry board tackles the problem with ice packs that fit beneath the 16-inch-square plastic board. The cool surface keeps sticking to a minimum and also helps ensure flaky baked crusts (the butter in the dough must stay cool and solid to produce flakes).

My one caveat: The board sometimes slid around my counter during rolling. Sliding a damp paper towel or two under each of the board’s footings solved this small glitch and kept the board skidproof.

The Big Chill pastry board is $25 at Cutleryandmore.com.

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