No kitchen should be without a decorating bag. Not only are they a requirement for anyone who does cake decorating but they are useful for so many other aspects of cooking. Filling pastries, piping whipped butter, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, forming cookies, filling stuffed pasta and making fun shaped pancakes can all be done with a decorating bag.
Decorating bags are also often referred to as pastry bags or piping bags. They come in a variety of materials and sizes. The stronger and longer lasting the materials, the more expensive they are. For purposes of this entry, I am going to show you how to prepare and fill plastic disposable bags and reusable polyester bags, both easily found at your local craft store. I tend to prefer the disposable bags. They are intended to be thrown out after using but I hand wash them and usually get many uses out of each one before it starts to tear. For the times that I don’t want to hassle with the hand washing I just toss them and don’t feel bad about it because they are so inexpensive.
For most of my cake decorating needs I like to use a 12 inch bag but for larger jobs, or jobs that require large tips, I usually use a 16 inch bag. The size you use is really a personal choice dependent upon what is most comfortable for you and what you are using it for.
The technique for preparing and filling a pastry bag is very similar for both the disposable and polyester bags. The polyester bags are heavier duty and not transparent, like the disposable bags, so you have to look for ridges instead of depending on seeing everything through the bag.
When preparing a decorating bag you need to have these supplies at hand.
Your decorating bag, a coupler and coupler ring, a decorating tip, a pen, and a pair of scissors.
Step 1: Preparing Bag
Take the ring off the coupler and insert it into the bag. If you are using a disposable bag, push it down in the bag as far as it will go then use the pen to mark the bag on the top thread of the coupler.
If you are using a polyester bag, insert the base of the coupler as far as it will go into the bag and then rub your fingers over the threads of the coupler to make the indentions of the threads visible through the bag. Use the pen to mark the bag on the top thread of the coupler.
With both bags, remove the coupler from the bag and use the scissors to trim the end of the bag off at the line.
Place your coupler back into the bag and check the fit by trying to screw the coupler ring on. It will usually screw on fairly easily with the disposable bags. The polyester bags are heavier so, if it will not screw together, trim back a small amount more and check again. Continue doing this until the coupler ring will screw on to its base. Be very careful not to cut too much or you will end up with the bag not getting attached between the ring and coupler and icing will eventually seep out on you.
Once you know you have the proper cut, put your coupler base back in the bag, add the decorating tip on the end of the bag and place the ring over the tip, screwing it to the base. You are now ready to fill your bag.
Step 2: Filling the Bag
Filling the bag is the same with both types of bags. You start by flipping the edges of the open end of the bag over, creating a cuff. You can use this cuff to slip your hand in and hold your bag but I like to place the bag in a tall thin glass to hold it while I fill it.
Use a spatula or spoon to fill your icing, or other filling, into your bag. Only fill your bag a little over half full. If you add more than that you may end up with icing squeezing out the top of your bag.
When you are done filling, flip the cuff back over. Hold the ends of the bag and shake it up and down to get the filling to fall towards the tip, removing as much air space as possible. Then, hold the sides of your bag together with one hand and use the other hand to slide the icing towards the tip, eliminating the remaining air pockets. If you feel air bubbles inside the bag you can squeeze the bag and move them up out of the icing. You can see many of the air pockets in disposable bags but will have to depend more on feel with the polyester bags.
Now twist the end of your bag, just above the icing, to hold the icing inside. Rest the bag in the crook of your hand between your thumb and pointer finger. You are now ready to use your decorating bag.
When you need to refill your bag, simply untwist the top, fold it back down into your cuff and refill like you originally filled it.
If you are working with children, or find that you just have a hard time keeping the icing from squeezing out the end, here is a simple trick to keep you mess free. Twist the end of your bag, just above the icing, then fold it back on itself and secure it together with a twist tie (the kind that come with trash bags.) Wilton sells reusable Icing Bag Ties for this same purpose but twist ties are just as effective.
Now you are armed with one of the most important decorating tools there are. Watch out because it can be addictive learning how to use fun tips to pipe different designs with all sorts of different foods.
If you don’t have a decorating bag you will definitely want to check out next week’s post when I will be conducting my first contest and giving away a beginning decorating kit.
Until then, God Bless and Sweet Dreams.