Q: How do you care for pastry brushes? When I use one for marinades containing oil and herbs, I have a hard time getting the herbs and oily residue out of the bristles.
--Sara Abate, Golden, CO
The best way to clean pastry brushes, like most utensils, is with warm, sudsy water. Rinse thoroughly after washing, and if possible, place them in the sun to dry. Store your brushes upright in a jar or glass. Since oil can be very stubborn to remove, it's a good idea to label your brushes, designating certain ones for wet or oily mixtures and others for dry jobs such as brushing flour from pastry.
Q: Can wooden spoons be washed in the dishwasher?
--Fran McKinney, Cincinnati, OH
It isn't a good idea to wash wooden utensils in the dishwasher, because the intense heat of the rapid-drying system could cause the wood to split. Clean your wooden spoons by hand in warm, sudsy water, and dry thoroughly afterward. Never soak wooden utensils -- the wood will warp and split if it becomes waterlogged. Since wood is absorbent, it can take on the flavors and odors of strong foods such as onions and garlic, so you may want to label your spoons, keeping those you use for baking separate from those you use for sauces and the like. A bit of colored nail polish on the bottom of the handle can help you keep track of which spoon is which.
Q: I inherited my grandmother's wooden rolling pin, and I've noticed a small crack in it. What can I do to keep it in good condition?
--Judy Boyle, Myrtle Beach, SC
If your wooden rolling pin is cracked, it is most likely because it has dried out significantly over the years. You can try to help it regain some moisture by keeping it wrapped in a damp cloth; over time, the split may close up a bit. A bit of oil rubbed into the wood may also help to seal in moisture. Prevent further cracking by always drying the pin thoroughly and immediately after washing, and never allowing it to soak in water. If the cracking is severe, you may have to relegate it to a decorative role, displaying it where you can appreciate its beauty and saving it from the rigors of regular use.