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Pastry Brushes

Tuesday, 2 March 2010 | Tags: ,

Pastry brushes are helpful for applying glaze and decoration to pastry. There are several different varieties of bristles, handle materials, and designs to choose from. We see which products pass our brush-off test.

The Basics

  • Softer bristles won’t leave marks on pastry. Firmer bristles work well for bread dough and meats.

  • There are a variety of bristle types to choose from:

    • Boar bristle is a traditional material used for its high absorbency. However it doesn’t last as long and the bristles often break. Boar bristles can also take on the flavour of the food it comes in contact with.

    • Nylon bristles don’t take on flavours and odors, but they have low heat resistance and tend to clump together.

    • Silicone bristles are very popular. It’s highly heat resistant and typically stays cool and won’t get damaged up to 500F/260C. It’s also naturally odour- and flavour-resistant. However, they aren’t as absorbent as boar bristles, but designers are constantly coming up with innovations to improve on this.

  • The way the bristles are attached to the handle is important so that the bristles don’t fall out. Look for plastic or rubber collars, or look for bristles that are fused directly to the handle. Metal collars tend to trap fluids and become uncleanly over time.

  • Always give the bristles a little tug to see how well attached they are. If bristles come off easily, don’t buy it.

  • Handle material and construction is also an important consideration:

    • Silicone or stainless steel handles are dishwasher-safe. However, they can be heavy and more cumbersome to maneuver.

    • Wooden handle brushes are lighter, so allow you to apply a lighter touch.

Other Considerations

  • It’s best to have two different pastry brushes: one for sweets and one for savoury.

  • Pastry brushes need careful cleaning after every use with water and detergent.

  • Cleaning your brush in a bleach solution periodically eliminates bacteria. Use half a cap of bleach to a pint of water, and wash for at least one minute.

TEST CRITERIA

We invited some pastry chefs to help us conduct a chocolate brush-off to find out which of these products could stand up to the rigours of the pastry cuisine:

  • OXO Good Grips (silicone): $8.98
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • J.A. Henckels Twin Cuisine (silicone): $16.00
. . The Bay Amazon.com
  • Cuisipro (silicone): $10.00
. . Amazon.com
  • Williams-Sonoma (boar bristle, wooden handle): $19.95
. . Cookworks Williams-Sonoma.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Brush-off Test

  • The OXO pastry brush gave an uneven and streaky finish

  • The J.A. Henkels brush was heavy and gave an uneven finish. The chocolate also got stuck between the bristles.

  • A chamber inside the Cuisipro handle can be filled with liquid, but it was quite a messy procedure. Plus, when brushing, it squirted the liquid in bursts, rather than distributing it evenly.

  • The Williams-Sonoma (boar bristles) excelled at holding the liquid and provided even distribution. The wood handle made it the lightest too, which made it easier to use.

OUR TOP PICK

The traditional style and material of the Williams-Sonoma boar bristle made it a favourite with all of our testers. It was light, easy to use, and effective, and provided the best overall finish.

 

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