Kitchen Tools: Using a Pastry Blender
Several years ago Ernie and I gave away a home-cooked dinner party for eight to the highest bidder for a fundraiser for our church. Everyone was challenged to come up with creative ways to help raise money and that’s what I came up with. This was about twelve years ago. The highest bidder had to pay for the food – but we did all the cooking. As a result, I had the experience of working in someone else’s kitchen.
I don’t know why I assumed everyone pretty much has the same basic cooking equipment. In this case I assumed incorrectly. When I say “the basics” I mean a few decent knives and a way to keep them sharp, measuring cups and spoons, spatulas, wood spoons, a whisk. Mixing bowls in a few sizes. And pots and pans in a few sizes. The basics.
This kitchen was so poorly equipped it was no wonder the woman who was the highest bidder said, “I hate cooking.” I would hate cooking too if I was working with knives that have never been sharpened, no way to measure things, etc. Having the right tools makes a world of difference.
Some tools don’t fit in the category of “basics” but they’re nice to own. If you have the space in your kitchen they make certain jobs easier. I’m not talking about the silly hot dog cooker, pasta cooker or the electronic hard-boiled egg slicer or all those goofy gadgets that do something that can be done almost as easily with basic equipment if you know what you’re doing.
Seems to me a Pastry Blender falls in that category. I pulled mine out when I made my Cinnamon-Pecan Shortbread a couple days ago. As you can see from the picture above it’s definitely low tech. It doesn’t take a lot of space in my utensil drawer, and, it definitely makes pie crusts and shortbread come together more easily. Far better than the standard alternate instructions to use two dinner knives.
Yes, I have a nice Kitchen Aid food processor I bought a few years ago. But I don’t care for washing the bowl, the blades and all the other pieces just to chop an onion or bring a pie crust together. A pastry blender works just fine.
As you can see there are five blades that cut through the cold butter at once. The blades are not too sharp – after all, you’re cutting through butter. If you’re really “old school” you might even make your pie crust with lard. The butter or lard is broken up over and over and blended with the flour and other ingredients much more quickly than using two knives. And it’s far easier to clean than the food processor.
My Grandma’s pastry blender was five heavy wires, and, I remember the cylindrical handle you see me holding was made of wood. Mine is stainless steel.
I went on the website for Bed, Bath and Beyond to find one online. They carry so many kitchen gadgets. Surprisingly, I didn’t see one on their website. So, I scurried over to the website for Sur la Table and found pastry blenders available. Click here if you’re interested. It’s kind of an old-fashioned tool.
I get a certain satisfaction from using it – almost like kneading bread. It brings back memories of watching my Grandma making pie crust at the vinyl 1950s kitchen table using the same kind of pastry blender when I was a little girl.
You can always buy frozen pie crust or use a food processor. But a homemade crust – never use shortening, margarine or oil – is delicious and worth a little extra effort. As for me, I’ll keep using my pastry blender.