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Pastry bag basics


Fat Guy
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I'm really, really bad at using pastry bags and tips. I don't aspire to create beautifully decorated cakes. I'd just like to be able to do basic stuff like write "Happy Birthday Joe!" on a cake or make deviled eggs that don't look like crap.

Can the serious pastry people please walk me through the basics here. I mean, really, the basics.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Practice, practice. Writing with a small tip and using the bag as a kind of flexible funnel for foodstuffs are totally different, but easy to get used to. I'll talk you through the latter first.

Get some bags (I like the 18 inch size, but you can go smaller or bigger depending on the size of your hand) and some tips (bigger is better when you are learning, I like the large star tips such as Ateco 824) and something pipeable but non melting like commercial mayo or smooth mashed potatoes. (Okay, spackle will also work but hopefully soon you'll need the bags and tips for food!)

Don't fill too much, only about halfway. Shake so that there are no air pockets, then twist the top closed (you can also keep the top closed with a binder clip). Your writing hand is the working hand, the other guides, especially if the stuff is heavy. The working hand stays firmly on the top/side of the bag, with the rounded top of the bag in between palm and thumb, fingers on the side; guide fingers/hand go about midway but don't exert pressure.

From here on out it is just squeeze, stop and pull away for stars. Squeeze, twist in a c-motion, stop and pull away for rosettes.

Plain tips give you circles, or domes, or spirals depending on size and wrist action.

Seriously it is just practice, no magic.

For cake-top piping also the same, but with smaller tips like 2, 3 or 4, or just snip the tip so you have a small opening; or a paper cornet.

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OK, I admit it. I was asking for myself.

Get some bags (I like the 18 inch size, but you can go smaller or bigger depending on the size of your hand)[.]

What sort of bag? Those cheap plastic ones seem not to offer reasonable control. Cloth with plastic lining? Brands? Sizes?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I hate cleaning pastry bags!!! For ease of use and hygiene, disposable plastic bags are the way to go. I like Hygo, Patisse and kee-seal, all of which come on a roll with perforations to separate them. Hygo also has the individual ones. DON'T get the crunchy cheap ones because they are slippery and crack easily. Ateco has some heavy-duty disposables that are okay too, I can give you SKU's if you need them.

If you really don't want to do disposable, the best to get are flex bags -- they are light (not hard to maneuver like canvas) but not floppy like nylon and are dishwasher safe.

Wash in hot soapy water and air dry; if you do a lot of savory stuff keep a separate set. (Anchovy smell never washes out...:D)

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I actually like the plastic bags. I don't have any problem with flimsiness or lack of control. The lined cloth ones are wonderful, but I hate, hate, hate cleaning them out, so the disposable are good for me.

Also, Wilton sells a pretty nifty little practice set that you can slip either their patterns or your own (including copies of calligraphy) into and practice. This is great for writing especially. It's cheap, too.

Kim

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i am far from a pastry person. but i do address "piping bag issues" in many of my cooking classses.

take control.

one of the worst pastry bag fears is that the "stuff" will come out the tip before the bag is filled, or before you are ready to start piping. solve this issue easily: after the bag is fitted with the tip, but before you fill it with anything remotely runny, twist the bag at the tip end, just above the tip, then stuff that twisted fabric (or plastic) down into the tip. you have thus created a "cork", which will prevent the contents from running all over creation until you, with a very professional-feeling flick of the wrist, pull the cork loose, and start the flow.

next place that unfilled bag into a drinking glass or measuring cup ('cuz doing that means you have two free hands to work with, rather than holding the bag in one, and filling with the other..) fold down a cuff, and fill the bag, as suggested above, about half-way. as i explain it in class, the goal is for all the stuff to come out the tip end, and none of the stuff to come out the top end, all over your hand and sleeve. the more cuff you leave yourself, the more chance you have of achieving that goal.

once the bag is filled, unfold the cuff, and twist that part once or twice, releasing as much air as you can as you do that. take it out of the glass, and do a few practice squeezes, putting light pressure with your top hand (i'm left-handed...my left hand squeezes the top, my right guides the tip end) and no pressure at the bottom. it takes practice, but it is kinda thrilling for a non-pastry person to see that such satisfying results can be achieved with a little effort. (another tip is to use something fairly cheap to practice with, like whipped cream or even whipped Crisco, to practice with, on the back of a sheet pan. fill the surface area with squiggles, scrape it off and re-pipe it all. after a couple demo sheets, you won't be remotely tempted to eat the stuff, and will be focused on perfecting your technique.

free yourself of fear of the piping bag!

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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Oh, the cuff! I forgot to mention the cuff! Actually I completely missed out on the filling of the bag. My bad. Only I do it (and teach it) holding the bag under the cuff in one hand, scooping the stuff in with a spatula or spoon, then closing your hand (the one under the cuff) around the spoon or spatula to get all the stuff off it into the bag, then pulling the spatula out.

If your hand is large, you can sandwich the bag above the tip between your pinky and ring fingers to prevent the gush out of the working end. With disposables, i fill first, then cut the plastic to expose the tip.

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If you're working on the hot line and using a plastic pastry bag to, say, pipe mashed potatoes, beware! With some (I'm unsure of exact brands), after they've been hot for a while, they tend to loosen up around the tip with unfortunate results. They're also murderously hot on the hands. I finally gave up and went back to the tried-and-true lined cloth bags-Ateco's good, and Edward Don's heavy duty model is very long-lasting.

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actually thermohauser makes great NON-disposable bags. but i use kee seal.

and just for you fat guy, i'm going to use my brand new digital camera and take some photos...see if i can't work up a mini demonstration.

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My 2 cents:

1. Put the TIP through the BAG til it fits-in perfectly;

2. Twist the BAG(the end that's closet to the TIP)clockwise/Counter-clockwise, twist several rounds till it cannot be any tighter, literally forming a knot;(Note: This way, you don't have shallow TIP-spaces.)

3. Push this knot inward into the TIP, as if you're stuffing the hollow TIP with the knot;

4. Now, with the TIP holding in your hand like an upside-down pyramid, fold down the BAG(i.e. roll the BAG from the far-end to the TIP-end)the way you would fold down the collar of your shirt, as if covering/curtaining the TIP with the BAG. Now you got a "cone".

5. Fill whatever batter you got into the "cone", when all's filled in, twist the "cone"'s open end+release the previous TIP-twist in step 2.

Abt. how to use the thing to pipe like a PC and make nice patterns, no clue.

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Steve, if you just want to WRITE with the pastry bag, then there's one easy way out.

It takes only a piece of paper, your melted chocolate, and a spoon.

1. Fold the paper round-and-round to form an (icecream shape) cone. So one side is with a small hole, the other side is wide open. We all eat icecream and know what a cone looks like so I assume this won't be a problem~

2. With a spoon, carefully pour in(to the cone) spoonful after spoonful of melted chocolate.

3. Then, gently fold down the open end, just for easy holding and no-tilting-out-of-chocolate.

4. Write whatever you want on your cake. Just remember: don't squeeze the paper bag, let the melted chocolated slowly drifted down by itself.

Voila! (This is the least intimidating version of pastry bag so far...)

If only someone would put up a DEMO of how real(non-plastic) pastry bags are installed and used to pipe out those danish cookies. Those are real pros to me...

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I hate cleaning pastry bags. I roll what ever I am going to pipe in wax paper or saran and twist one end closed and leave the other open. Slip it into the bag and the open end sits in the tip - less mess to clean up and easy to change piping materials if needed. I also can pull the wax papered icing out and save it for the next job without a lot of mess.

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My piping deficiency is that 1) I can't seem to get the piping ingredient to stick to what I want and so it pulls off when I try to end the decoration (say writing on a cake), of 2) when I go to pull the tip away to end the decoration, the piping ingredient doesn't break or breaks too soon.

These both seem like problems with the consistency of my piping ingredient, but they also seem like maybe it has to do with technique.

This is why you'll rarely see piped decoration on my desserts.

Edited by gfron1 (log)
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My piping deficiency is that 1) I can't seem to get the piping ingredient to stick to what I want and so it pulls off when I try to end the decoration (say writing on a cake), of 2) when I go to pull the tip away to end the decoration, the piping ingredient doesn't break or breaks too soon. 

These both seem like problems with the consistency of my piping ingredient, but they also seem like maybe it has to do with technique.

This is why you'll rarely see piped decoration on my desserts.

Maybe try touching down on your item before pulling up at the end of your piping so it will 'hold' onto the item. Kind of like how you finish piping a pâte a choux eclair. Does that make sense?

Don't waste your time or time will waste you - Muse

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I did this little demo for another project once. If you do the slideshow you miss a bunch of instruction so it's better to do picture by picture and read all the captions.

But it's here. So just double click on the first frame to get to all the captions.

Steven and Chris, My preference is parchment paper bags that you make yourself. But any of the stuff you can buy is good. Wilton bags are prolific and fine. The clear plastic ones are creepy to me because if they get moist at all they are slick but some people love them.

The key is only fill it half full. Period. And umm, the pictures where I show you how to twist the bag and hold it between thumb and side of hand is the other key. 'Cause then the slightest pressure will make the piping come out. This picture. (Sorry it's kind of dark)

And gfron, if you stop squeezing and gently mush the tip down at the same time, it will easier break off so the writing or whatever stays where you want it to be. 'Mush the tip down' is like a wiping stroke--you like wipe the tip off on the surface-ish and move it away in the same stroke.

If your line of piping breaks on you when you don't want it to yes it's a dang nabbit air hole. Occupational hazard. But I mean if it's mission critical you can force the air bubbles out by smushing the product out on a counter top and literally smushing all the air pockets out, then scrape it up and put it in your bag. Or squosh/run it through a brand new nylon stocking first to remove air bubbles. If you were doing real picky string work you would do this.

The big deal with piping is holding the tip at the correct angle, moving the tip at the correct angle and having the right consistency product.

I'm sure Alana will fill in any gaps with her demo.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...

I have two silly questions to ask.

My mother bought me a piping bag (one made out of what seems to be fabric with the inside lined of plastic). I slip the lil tip in then screw it in,so it seems to be a very good quality piping bag.

My boyfriend wants to buy me tips for my pastry bag in a big store..called Ceres? Ares? I can't recall but it finishes by "res". The single tips cost "8.59" and a set of 70 tips I think they cost around 80$.

I was wondering why a single tip cost so much! I can understand for the kit,but not the single tip.Is it because it was a big big store that sold them?

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I have two silly questions to ask.

My mother bought me a piping bag (one made out of what seems to be fabric with the inside lined of plastic). I slip the lil tip in then screw it in,so it seems to be a very good quality piping bag.

My boyfriend wants to buy me tips for my pastry bag in a big store..called Ceres? Ares? I can't recall but it finishes by "res". The single tips cost "8.59" and a set of 70 tips I think they cost around 80$.

I was wondering why a single tip cost so much! I can understand for the kit,but not the single tip.Is it because it was a big big store that sold them?

make sure that they are the right sized tips to fit into your particular bag and coupler.

tips shouldn't cost more than $1-$5 each (US dollars, not Canadian), depending on what kind of tip and what size tip. some specialty tips cost more, it just depends.

i think the web site that your boyfriend is looking at might be Kerekes. taking a look, most tips are only $1.50 USD

also note that you don't need to have a bag to use a coupler, you can use disposable bags the same way.

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Thank you!!

I think that this is the store he brought me to. it could have a different name here in canada =3 but it does look the same. The tips we saw that cost 8.50 are the same size has the ones in the kit we saw. Oo me and my sweet heart were wondering why they cost so much.

though, not all tips work with one pastry bag??

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I have the "Cake Bible" book but i'm not sure I understand how she makes roses made out of icing Oo...

could anyone explain me how? I know it starts with a cone on the little flower nail. but after that,I am clueless.

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how do I know what tips will work with what bags??

That's the problem I have. I have a lined canvas bag and some tips that "inherited". But the tips don't really fit properly. They are too big for the bag.

Aren't these numbered in some way? both tips and bag??

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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