Sometimes inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places, like the neighborhood hardware store. I like to shop for kitchen “tools” like a DIYer hungry to tackle their project of the month. Strolling the aisles, I’m like a kid in a candy store with ideas for repurposing the contents of a handyman’s tool chest. Here are some tools that can pull double duty in the kitchen.
Blow-torch: This impressive-looking tool can be used for much more than soldering metal. It’s super-cool to use to toast meringue and usually cheaper than torches sold at expensive kitchenware stores. Think of me the next time you whip up a baked Alaska — it will be stunning.
PVC pipe: Just ask your friendly (and hopefully cute) hardware specialist to trim down one of those 700-foot white tubes you see lining the aisle. Let’s say you want to form individual ice cream cakes that are 3 ½ inches wide by 2 ½ inches tall. Go for it. Once you decide the size of the dessert you want to make, it’s easy to select the right pipe for the job. Ask your buddy to trim some into the exact number of servings you’re planning.
PVC pipes range in size, so have fun creating cool-looking desserts. There are no rules except no baking in PVC.
Paint-brushes: These inexpensive brushes give you permission to throw them away when you notice you didn’t completely wash off all the butter from last year’s Thanksgiving dishes. I use paint brushes for a variety of jobs: applying egg wash and melted butter and brushing off excess flour on tart dough. Go ahead and buy a bunch, they’re cheaper by the dozen.
Metal scrapers: You know the tool that’s usually found in the bottom of your tool-box, usually rusted, whose primary purpose is to remove chipping paint from wooden surfaces? Well, that’s just fine if you’re a painter, but me, I’m a resourceful pastry chef. I take melted and tempered chocolate on a marble slab, let it set and attack it with a paint scraper, making beautiful chocolate decorations. Just remember to wash and dry it immediately or it will resemble the old forgotten one left in Uncle Bob’s toolbox.
Hedy Goldsmith, a 2012 James Beard Award finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, is the executive pastry chef for the Genuine Hospitality Group of restaurants including Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami and Grand Cayman, and Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami. Now in her second season of Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets, Hedy has appeared on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate and lauded in The New York Times, People, Wine Spectator, Bon Appétit, The Huffington Post and Food & Wine magazine. Hedy’s first cookbook, Baking Out Loud: Fun Desserts with Big Flavors (Clarkson Potter / Publishers), will be released October 2.