Question. What is pastry bag or piping bag?
Answer. A pastry bag is a cone shaped bag that has two openings. A small opening on one end, that is where the icing comes out of, and a large opening which is used for filling the bag. Other names for a pasty bag are piping bag or decorating bag. Pastry bags are often used to pipe through buttercream, chocolate, or other appropriate soft mixtures, for the purpose of decorating a cake.
The origins of a pastry bag
These pastry bags came into picture once the cake became a symbolic recipe to celebrate many of the western festivals especially Christmas and Easter. Once the cake became an indispensable part of a birthday celebration, the pastry bag gained widespread recognition all over the world. It became the only tool by which you could decorate the items in a bakery. You can even draw pictures over a cake by using these bags. With time, when culinary art became an integral part of fine dining, bakers around the world not only had to make their products tasty, but they even had to make them look good. Pastry bags came in very handy. The utility of these bags soon expanded beyond bakery products as these bags began to be used for decorating various other products like pizzas and pancakes.
Types of pastry bags
There are various pasty bags that exist in the market. One of the most popular are listed below;
- Disposable bags
- Parchment paper bags
- Reusable bags
- Canvas type
- Polyurethane type
- Plastic coated
- Silicone bags
While disposable pastry bags have some advantages, the advantages of using reusable pastry bags outweigh the advantages of the disposable pastry bags. The only advantage of disposable bags is that they are see-through, which is perfect if you are decorating a cake with different colors. Disposable bags are inexpensive but they become expensive as production goes up. Disposable bags are hard to work with because the plastic bag is not that flexible. The reusable bags last a very long time, but careful hygiene needs to be followed after every use; need to wash the bag in soapy water and let hang to dry.
Parchment paper bags
The can only be used once, but they are excellent for delicate work.
Canvas bags are great for working with stiff doughs.
These are the most durable bags on the market. They can withstand high temperatures, which makes them perfect for chocolate and even cooked sugar. These bags do not stain.
NOTE: Our favorite bag to use is the Polyurethane type of reusable bag. It is perfectly pliable and easy to clean. It also dries quite quickly.
Why pastry bags are used
A pastry bag is a tool which is an indispensable part of any home kitchen or pastry shop when dealing with cake decorating or simply making traditional or modern desserts.
Importance of a pastry bag
A pastry bag is extensively used in bakeries for the purpose of cake decoration and designing other baked items such as fruit tarts, macarons, cookies, choux pastry, etc. If you just came out of school and tried to get a job in a pastry shop, one of the first things they will ask you is if you know how to use a pastry bag. One of the first things you must master very early in your career as a pastry chef is how to properly use a piping bag (pastry bag). All you need is a couple of months of practice, full time, just using a pastry bag, and you are done for life. This is an extremely valuable asset to have under your belt.
What does that mean? Well, this means to be able to mask and decorate a cake with a border within a few minutes. Of course there are cakes that can take an hour, a day, a week, or even a few months to complete, but here, we are talking about simple cake decoration that is used in the majority of pastry shops. Master the pastry bag and you will be in demand from any pasty shop.
Items you will need to practice your piping or pastry bag training
- A revolving cake stand
- Round plastic tray.
- You should use a pastry bag with a coupler, because it will make your life easier if you wish to use two different tips on the same cake. If your bag does not have a coupler, if you need to change the tip, you must empty the bag's contents, change the tip, and then refill the bag to continue piping. In terms of practice, you want to be able to compare tips and their results.
- Another item needed is a spatula. Use the spatula to transfer the eg; buttercream from the mixer bowl to the pasty bag.
How to hold a piping bag (pastry bag)
The way you hold the bag is extremely important. You must hold it the right way right from the beginning because bad habits are hard to change. Holding the bag the wrong way gives a hint to the pastry shop owner that you are an amateur. So the way professional hold the bag is as follows;
If you are right handed, twist the bag at the very top and hold it firmly closed using your index and thumb. This prevents the contents from spilling out from the top. With your right hand you squeeze the bag about 4-5 inches from the end of the tip (the large opening of the tip).
Why is holding a bag this way so important? Well, if you are to pipe 10 cookies holding the bag any way you wish, this will not cause a problem, but if you have to pipe thousands of cookies (with a fairly thick dough) per day, the strain to your forearm is minimized by working the bag as shown in photo below.
Filling the Bag
By the way you fill the pastry bag, it will be obvious to a pastry chef if you are a beginner or not. So pay attention to the following instructions.
Once you have the required tip in position, you just have to fill the pastry bag;
- Prepare the coupling device as explained above.
- Bend the upper portion of the bag down.This is the crucial part. If the bag is a 24-inch bag, common size used in pastry shops, fold the pastry bag about 7 inches down.
- Make use of a spatula to transfer the icing in the pastry bag.
- Make sure that you do not stuff the bag with too much icing. Fill the pastry bag but not more than half to two-thirds full. If you do, you will end up dirtying your hands and eventually the outer surface of the pastry bag, making you look very unprofessional.
- To keep the icing from pushing out from the upper portion of the pastry bag, twist and hold the upper portion of the pastry bag and hold it between your index finger and thumb.
- When all this is done, hold the top part of the pastry bag with your right hand ( index finger and thumb) and squeeze the pastry bag about 5 inches from the tip using your right hand. This is so that you will have maximum visibility of your piping.
- To apply the icing, you must hold the bag at a certain angle depending on what effect you are trying to achieve.
How to maintain a clean bag during use
The best tip we can give you is to use the largest pastry bag (24-inch) and fold over at least 6-7 inches of the bag. Also, if you are using a plastic bowl scraper to transfer the cream into the pastry bag, have 1/4 of the bowl scraper clean at all times. Rule of thumb: always have one hand clean.
How to clean pastry bags
Fill a bucket with soapy water and a cap full of chlorine. Let the bag soak in the solution for at least 10 minutes. Rinse and let pastry bag dry thoroughly overnight.
How to practice cake borders
You only need 4 items to practice your cake borders (as shown on video);
When practing shells start very slowly, focusing on the shell's appearance, and then, slowly work on your speed.
Technique working your right hand (advanced method): Squeeze, drag, lift, lower, drag and release.
Technique working your right hand (easy method): Squeeze, release and drag quickly
For better understanding watch our video demo below;
Let your imagination take over and create whatever design you wish.