Do you find yourself flummoxed every time you come across a recipe that calls for a piping bag? Stranded with an empty piping bag in one hand and a half-dozen piping tips scattered around the counter, and don't know where to start? Do you wish you could pipe delicate ruffles or intricate details on your cakes and pastries, or pipe a batch of luscious pastry cream inside an eclair?
It's time to befriend your trusty piping bag. I'm here to share some of my best tips and tricks for making filling and using a piping bag a bit easier. Read on and you'll be swirling buttercream on cupcakes and piping roses onto cakes in no time!
Before filling the piping bag, be sure to place the piping tip down in the bottom of the piping bag first. If you're using a new piping bag, snip off the tip of the piping bag and wiggle the tip into place. Be careful not to cut so much that the tip slips through!
To fill the bag, hold the bag in the middle and fold the top half down over your hand to open it up. With a spoon or spatula, scoop the filling and place it the bottom of the piping bag. Scrape any excess filling off the spoon or spatula against the side of the bag before withdrawing it. Only fill the bag about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up.
Twist the top of the bag once and gently "burp" the bag by adding a bit of pressure to eliminate any air bubbles that may have gotten trapped before piping.
If working one-handed feels awkward to you, you can also place the unfilled bag into a tall drinking glass. Fold the top down around the drinking glass, and then use both hands to fill the bag.
Piping tips come in dozens of different shapes and sizes. As you can imagine, the tip used to write messages atop a cake is probably not the same tip you would want to use to swirl a rose of frosting on a cupcake.
Small piping tips are typically used for doing detailed work when decorating cakes, cookies, and other desserts. The most common tips are round, star, petal, and leaf tips. From those, you can pipe dots, lines, messages, stars, ruffles, and much more! Small tips may be used to "inject" filling into pastries, like eclairs.
Large piping tips are used primarily for filling things like pastries, layer cakes, and tarts shells, or for frosting things like cupcakes. Plain (aka round) and star tips can typically get most tasks done. Large piping tips are also used to pipe out cookies, like meringue and macarons, as well as shapes for pâte à choux.
A coupler is a two-part plastic device that lets you swap out the piping tip for another one without changing the piping bag. One plastic piece gets inserted into the bag and then the outside ring — holding the pastry tip itself — gets screwed in from the outside. If you will be piping different designs and shapes with the same filling, try using a coupler set.
The easiest way to fill pastries, like cream puffs and eclairs, is usually by way of a piping bag. Not only can you "inject" a pastry with cream, but a piping bag also keeps things all nice and tidy.
Larger cream puffs and eclairs may simply be sliced in half horizontally (or just the top 1/3 off the top of a baked puff), then filled by piping pastry cream into the bottom portion. For eclairs, try piping coils or spirals of pastry cream before topping with the other half. For cream puffs, pipe the pastry cream straight into the hollow shell before replacing the top cap.
To fill by way of injection, first use a toothpick or the pastry tip itself to poke a hole in the side or bottom of the pastry. Then, holding the pastry loosely with one hand, slowly squeeze the pastry cream-filled piping bag with your dominant hand and squeeze the cream into the pastry. You should be able to feel the cream expand inside the pastry; take care not to overfill and break the shell. Pivot around the piping tip making sure to fill all the nooks and crannies.
Filling of choice (buttercream, pastry cream, cream cheese frosting, etc.)
Piping bag (disposable or canvas)
Plastic coupler and ring (optional)
Rubber spatula or serving spoon