If you like to bake, it's almost inevitable that your kitchen shelves and drawers are loaded with more baking paraphernalia than you'll ever find in the average cook's kitchen.
The collection can range from miniature pastry molds to stacks of cake pans in all sizes, not to mention baking aids such as rulers, rolling pins, brushes, spatulas and the like. In fact, most of the time you seem never to have enough storage space for these odds and ends. Are you ready to read about a few more?
Pie enthusiasts who have discovered Mother Sara's Pie Engravers aren't buying them just to create pretty designs on their fruit and meat pie crusts. They're also delighted to give them away as presents. The decorative function of the engraving tool is second only to its main usage, which is to cut steam vents on pastry doughs rolled out for top crusts.
Designed by Marsha A. Goetting of Bozeman, Mont., the button-like pastry cutters are made of hand-glazed ceramic material and come in several attractive colors. A baking fan herself, Goetting created four designs using windmill, sunflower, sparkler and snowflake patterns; these are available in mauve, yellow, blue, peacock, white, brown and terra cotta.
Goetting suggests twisting the engraver in both directions after pressing down on the dough. "This spreads the hole, opening it up to let out more steam," she says.
Michael Roth of Missouri was happy to purchase Mother Sara's ceramic engravers after reading about them in a gourmet magazine. He says: "I have been looking for these pie engravers for almost 15 years. My mother has an aluminum one that she purchased some time in the 1940s and neither she nor any of her five children have been able to find another."
Mother Sara's Pie Engravers can be ordered by sending check or money order to Pie Engravers, 422 Cutting, Bozeman, Mont. 59715. Cost (includes shipping) is $9.95 for one; $16.90 for two; $24.35 for three, and $28.50 for four. For an free color brochure write to the same address, or call (406)-586-5259.
In these times of non-stick pans, non-stick parchment--non-stick anything, some serious bakers are still searching for the non-stick-forever solution that will smoothly release that cookie, that meringue, that pie, bread, muffin or cake from its baking container. Syndicated food columnists Kit Snedaker and Marilou Vaughn bumped into the answer to this sticky problem while traveling in New Zealand. They found Ceelon Baking Sheets--actually made here but cut in New Zealand--and brought them back.
"We brought them back as presents," Snedaker says. She and Vaughan were so pleased with the sheets that they "decided to import them, knowing about as much about imports as we do the high trapeze," Snedaker says. "The sheets are meringue's best friend; I've also found great use for them when baking nachos, fish and lasagna. For sticky buns, I cut the sheet to fit the bottom of muffin cups."
Brownish in color, the sleek Ceelon Baking Sheets are made of Teflon-coated fiberglass. A 17 1/4x14 1/2-inch sheet fits the bottom (the sides don't have to be lined) of most cookie sheets and can be trimmed to fit baking and microwave pans. The best thing about the sheets is that they are indeed reusable.
"They'll last for years, up to 500 or 600 times," Snedaker says; "but don't cut on (the sheets); it'll score the finish and cause the food to stick." In addition, the sheets cannot be used for grilling or at temperatures exceeding 500 degrees.
After using, the baking sheets wipe clean with a damp paper towel. Dishwasher proof, the sheets won't be damaged by boiling water or detergents.
Newly named Von Snedaker's Magic Baking Sheet, the product can be mail-ordered by sending a check or money order for $10.95 plus tax and $1.50 postage and handling to Von Snedaker, 12021 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 231, Los Angeles, Calif. 90025. Each sheet comes in its own mailing and storage tube. For more information call: (213) 395-6365.
Another tool to help you in pie making is the Perfect-A-Crust from Mexitalia Enterprises in Brooklyn, New York. One of the worst frustrations encountered in attempting to roll and cut out a sheet of dough for pies is not getting a perfect measure or thickness. "Pastry boards and cloths have rings drawn on them indicating the proper diameter for a pie crust shell but they do not give you the proper thickness," says Michael D'Orlando, owner of Mexitalia. "There are guide rings that fit on the barrel of a rolling pin that provide you with the proper thickness but they do not give you the right diameter."
Perfect-A-Crust ($10.95) consists of a set of three flat plastic molds or rings that regulate and measure pie crust shells so you can roll them out into uniform thickness and diameter, measuring eight, nine or 10 inches.
The product works this way: Place the ring over wax paper or pastry cloth. Place dough in center of mold and spread lightly with hands. Using rolling pin (to prevent sticking, rub with flour or cover with pastry cloth or place wax paper over dough) press and roll out dough to edges of mold. Using excess dough around edges, fill in the gaps to fully cover inner ring so there are no holes. Continue rolling out dough until there is no more excess dough being pressed out of mold. Wipe excess dough off mold, smoothing off edges. Remove mold and transfer pie crust to pan.
The Perfect-A-Crust is available at Cookin' Stuff (Torrance and La Habra), Kitchen Emporium (Del Amo), Village Kitchen Shop (Glendora), Kitchen Aware (Montclair) and Kitchen, Kitchen (Rancho Mirage).