Many people will use baking sheets with rust in the corners this holiday season. Those same people may try to use wine bottles as rolling pins. Some will use empty bottles, and forget to clean out the residual wine first.
I called up a few baking friends to find out what they think you should be using instead to make treats. For answers, I got one standard tool, one new invention, and a couple of crazy ideas for when you’re ready to step outside your comfort zone. Put the wine bottle in the recycling bin and get out the flour.
Nylon Rolling Pin
Dorie Greenspan has baked with the best, from Julia Child to Parisian superstar pastry chef Pierre Hermé. Greenspan demystified baking with her best-selling Baking with Julia (Morrow Cookbooks, 1996). Her reassuring voice talks you through home-style to patisserie-quality baked goods. Her latest book, Baking: From My Home to Yours (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), includes foolproof recipes for the roll-phobic, like espresso-chocolate shortbread cookies and tarte tatin.
Greenspan recommends the Nylon Rolling Pin by Matfer. It’s a French handle-less style that lets you feel the dough more closely while you’re working it. It’s almost 20 inches long and three pounds heavy, so you don’t have to push down on the dough very hard to roll it out, and its sleekness and heft are a tactile pleasure. The nylon surface grips your dough and then releases it silky smooth. The pin withstands scrubbing and is dishwasher safe.
Notoriously expensive (usually it’s $80), the Nylon Rolling Pin can sometimes be found on sale through Cutlery and More for only $29.95.
This pan is for those who like the chewier edge pieces of brownies bakes all edges all the time. Invented by Indianapolis-based urban planner Matt Griffin, the pan looks like a mini-labyrinth. Three interior walls ensure that every serving has at least two edges. The seamless cast-aluminum nonstick surface and rounded corners make cleaning easy—so there are no more undryable seams that become rusty corners. The pan has the capacity of pans used in most standard recipes: one 9-by-13-inch rectangular pan or two 9-inch round pans. But the interior edges that create the extra edges in brownies and other baked goods reduce cooking time, so check for doneness starting about seven minutes early.
The Baker’s Edge isn’t just for sweets—lasagna noodles fit perfectly in the grooves, too. You get the benefits of extra-golden cheesy edges, and the partitions hold your servings in place, preventing the layers from sliding apart.
At the postmodern restaurant Moto in Chicago, pastry chef Ben Roche goes through a 1,000-liter tank of liquid nitrogen a week. He uses it for things like “goat cheese snow and balsamic,” liquefied goat cheese sprayed out of a power paint gun into a bath of liquid nitrogen, where it instantly freezes into pungently cheesy snowflakes that are then finished with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. Outfitted with your own protective gear, you could make your own snow—out of cocoa, for instance.
If you want to experiment with liquid nitrogen, Roche recommends buying a pair of Legionnaire goggles, by Elvex. They’re the newest and least expensive safety goggles by the company known for its protective gear, including tactical military and chainsawing wear. The goggles fit over prescription glasses for geek-on-geek layering chic. A microfiber storage bag sells separately for $4.
Tempshield; midarm ($120.05), elbow ($148.17), and shoulder ($189.26) lengths
Roche also uses Cryo-Gloves, by Tempshield. Liquid nitrogen is liquid. If it spills on your gloves, it can soak through to your hand, making a bad day seriously worse by freezing fabric to your skin and causing severe cold burns. Cryo-Gloves have a thin heat-sealed waterproof layer that still allows for their trademark combo of dexterity and protection. But do not—DO NOT—dip your hands directly into liquid nitrogen even while wearing Cryo-Gloves. (Tempshield advises wearing at least midarm-length gloves when working with liquid nitrogen.)
Tempshield normally does not sell direct to the public, but they will if you tell them we sent you. They’ll also help you with sizing and other technical questions.
Some so-called cool kids in pro kitchens don’t always wear gloves and goggles, and yes, peer pressure’s a bitch, but so is frostbite to your eyes and hands.