Baking is an art. Getting the proper texture for various pastries requires know-how, experience, and the right tools. One such tool is a pastry blender. Though when some hear the name they instantly think of an electric appliance, it’s not that. What is a pastry blender? This type of blender is a handheld tool and it’s always manual because it’s best that way.
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This type of blender usually looks like a large, horseshoe-shaped handle with several small rods going across the opposite end. And it’s most often made of stainless steel or plastic, though the traditional material is wood. It serves the very specific purpose of cutting cold fats such as butter, lard, drippings, and shortening into flour mixtures for dough making. It can be used for making many types of dough. It helps pie crusts turn out better and is one of the secrets to great scones and biscuits. The advantage is that it mixes the fat into the flour without melting the fat. Though there are other ways to achieve such a feat, using a real pastry blender is always best.
How to Use a Pastry Blender
In today’s world of electronic devices, doing things what seems like the old-fashioned way can be a bit intimidating. Indeed, it can take some a bit of practice to get used to using a pastry blender, but the effort is worthwhile. There’s a good reason why this invention hasn’t been subject to much improvement over the years – it works.
To use your pastry blender, grab it by the handle and press the end with the tines into your fat and flour mixture. As you do this repeatedly, moving around the bowl to get a thorough mix, the clumps of cold fat will break up and be distributed through the dough. Be sure to start with only cold fat, as the very purpose of a pastry blender is to prevent melting. When you bake the dough the fat will melt, creating a delicious flaky texture thanks to the air pockets it leaves behind.
Why Not Use a Food Processor?
It may seem silly to invest the extra few dollars it takes to buy a pastry blender when your kitchen is already stocked with advanced appliances. If your blender or food processor can blend the fat into the dough fast enough, can’t it handle the job? Many blenders create a lot of heat when they work. The fat would just melt. And as for a food processor, it’s actually possible to get the job done with this but you have to time it just right. If you mix your mixture for even a few moments too long, the fat will melt. Melted fat means a loss of texture in your end product. Only a true pastry blender provides the accuracy required to get a good mix that won’t bake up flat.
Some chefs get by with rubbing the fat into the dough using their fingers. In fact, it’s the oldest way. There are two main issues with this approach, assuming you have sparkling clean hands. First, it’s a lot of work. Second, there’s still a big risk of melting the fat, especially if your hands tend to be warm. Using a pastry blender remains the quickest, easiest, most effective way.
Choosing the Best Pastry Blender
The better the pastry blender, the better the outcome. There are a few things to look for when buying one of these tools. For starters, you want to make sure the handle gives you a comfortable grip. This is very important not only for your own comfort but also to prevent you from having to keep stopping, which would give the fat a chance to melt. You also want to make sure your pastry blender’s tines are sturdy and strong. The tines of cheap pastry blenders tend to pop out during use, and weak tines are less effective and breaking up the fat.
An example of a great pastry blender is the Spring Chef Dough Blender. It’s a professional-grade tool that’s made of heavy duty stainless steel. It’s blades are thick and sturdy, allowing you to get through the dough fast. It also provides users the best comfort, preventing sore wrists and hands. This pastry blender is so powerful that it can even be used to chop fruit and make salsa.
If you’ve been making pie crusts, scones, and other pastries that are best flaky and you haven’t been using a pastry blender, then you’ve been missing out. Once you get one and see what a big difference it makes in your baked goods, you may never want to be without one again.