Gear For The Baker: the Pastry Brush

IMG_0804.JPG

So many gadgets, so few places to store them -- and worse, so little use for them when the time comes. Like my egg separator (pictured in a post I made below): the truth is that mostly I just use the old-fashioned way of cracking the shell and shunting the yolk back and forth while the white drains between the shell edges. And it's true that at one point I even took one of my pastry brushes and put it among my watercolour art supplies. But upon mature reflection -- and given the enormous amount of pastry baking I do these days -- I've decided that the brush belongs back in the kitchen. I have a few brushes, and I really do recommend them.

There are two basic types: natural bristle (hair) on the one hand, and silicone (such as the one pictured), on the other. The silicone is very good for jobs such as scraping out the ground spice or salt from a mortar. You can bung it in the dishwasher for easy cleaning, and you don't have to stand it upright to dry. But in general I prefer the bristle brush. It's useful in the first place for skimming excess flour off pastry dough (which is not essential, admittedly: my pastry always turns out lovely, whether I brush the flour off or scarcely bother). More importantly, it's helpful for getting spice or nuts out of an electric grinder, simultaneously giving you every last crumb and cleaning the grinder for next time. Brushes can be somewhat flat and broad (again, like the picture) or more rounded: I use both. The broader brush in particular can be of use in sweeping a cutting board or marble slab clean of dough bits and flour. And of course, brushes are essential not only for glazing pastry with beaten egg (just the egg, please: no additions) but also for crystallizing leaves and flower petals with egg white, and for tending the pot while caramelizing sugar. 

Go ahead and buy that pastry brush. If you bake, it's not a luxury, it's a necessity. You'll reach for it, again and again, and wonder how you managed without it.