Pastry may be used to produce a wide variety of delicious delicacies, both sweet and savory; thus, every home baker ought to have a few recipes for pastries in their recipe collection.
However, it is necessary to choose the appropriate sort of pastry for the appropriate product and filling. However, since there are so many distinct varieties of pastry that originate from cuisines all over the globe, it may be difficult to determine which one to use.
In this article, I will provide an overview of some of the many varieties of pastries and their applications, as well as some helpful hints, so that you may ensure that all of the baked products you make at home have the attributes you want in them!
Pastry or Pastries?
To begin, a point of clarity. In this article and in general, the term “pastry” refers to a specific kind of dough that is used in baking and is mostly composed of flour, water, and lard. It is used in the production of baked foods such as pies and tarts, and may either be sweet or savory depending on the addition of additional components.
Pastries, on the other hand, may also refer to the baked items itself that are composed of pastry, such as croissants, tarts, or a Danish. These baked delicacies are often sweet.
Baking with Pastry
You may add butter, shortening, ghee, full-fat margarine, lard, or any other oils or animal fats to enrich a pastry. Other options include ghee and full-fat margarine. In certain varieties of baked goods, these components are interchangeable, while in others they confer essential qualities onto the end result, such as influencing its texture, taste, or the ease with which it may be worked.
In most cases, using butter will result in a more flavorful end product, while using lard will result in a more satisfying mouthfeel. If you want the best of both worlds, you should try a mixture of half and half. In addition to preferring to be stored in the refrigerator, pastry also has a need that its fat remain solid at room temperature.
You will learn that there are always exceptions to the rule by the time you get to the conclusion of the article.
Categories of Pastry
Shortcrust pastry, flaky or puff pastry, and puff pastry are the two primary types of pastry that are often used. There is a large amount of variety within each of these categories, in addition to a lot of regional variants and outliers; thus, let’s begin with the many forms of shortcrust.
The most frequent kind of pastry, as well as the one that is the simplest and most straightforward to prepare at home, is called shortcrust pastry.
It does not puff up like flaky pastries and has a texture that is perfect for bases for both sweet and savory pies, tarts, flans, and quiches because of its crumbly nature. Sugar, eggs, or specialized fats might be used in order to provide either a sweet or savory flavor onto the actual pasty.
When making a shortcrust pastry, the ratio of fat to flour that is often used is 1:2, which stands for “half the quantity of fat to flour by weight.”
Before adding the cold water to produce a dough, the fat is rubbed into the flour, covering the flour to prevent the production of gluten strands when the water is added. The dough is then formed by adding the cold water. This contributes to the crumbly quality that is distinctive of the pastry.
The pastry is first placed in the refrigerator to cool, and then it is rolled or pressed into the desired form before being cooked blind (as I discuss in detail in this article about blind baking).
The dough is first pricked with a fork, then it is weighed down with some type of weight such as baking beans to prevent the dough from rising in the oven, and lastly the filling is added after the pastry has been baked and has set.
Specialist Shortcrust Pastries
Pâte à foncer – In order to improve the flavor of the dough used for this French shortcrust, one egg and a little quantity of sugar are first mixed together and then added to the flour.
Pâte brisée – Although this dough is very similar to pate à foncer, it does not include any sugar and instead uses a greater proportion of butter to create a shortcrust pastry that is airy, delicate, and perfect for savory pies.
Pâte sucrée (sweet shortcrust pastry) – Sugar and egg yolks are used to make this shortcrust, which results in a taste that is very sweet. In addition, the sugar prevents the creation of gluten, which results in a pastry that is delicate and melts in the mouth.
Pâté Sablé – a shortcrust that is both crispier and less prone to crumbling thanks to the addition of creamed sugar and butter to the flour before incorporating it completely into the dough. The end product is a less crumbly pastry that is perfect for using as a basis for sweet tarts or tea biscuits.
Suet crust pastry – This classic British pastry has a lighter and more spongy consistency than conventional shortcrust, in addition to being more resilient and elastic than the latter. Self-rising flour, shredded suet, and a touch of baking powder are the three ingredients that go into its creation. These components work together to promote the product’s airiness.
It is used in both savory foods like steamed dumplings and steak and kidney puddings, as well as sweet delicacies like jam roly-poly and spotted dick. Some examples of these recipes include:
Flaky and Puff Pastry
The second main category of pastries is far more difficult to master than the first. The names of these baked goods give away their characteristic flaky or puffy texture, which, when baked, results in the creation of pies, packages, and sweets that are airy and crisp.
The layers of dough and fat are rolled and folded before being baked, at which point the layers are filled with the steam that has been formed and given their airy texture.
In contrast to shortcrust pastry, these forms of pastry need for a larger ratio of fat to flour, and both the fat and the dough need to be maintained at the same temperature throughout the process.
Despite the fact that this may make them more difficult to work with, there are flaky pastries to suit all skill levels, so you will definitely find something below that you can prepare in your own kitchen.
Because there is sometimes some misunderstanding between various kinds of pastry, I will begin by discussing the distinctions between puff, flaky, and rough puff pastries. After that, I will describe a few of forms of pastry that are connected to each other.
The most challenging of these three types of dough to prepare is puff pastry, which is a laminated dough. Even if it is possible to make this multi-layered professional pastry at home, it is doubtful that the results will be as nice as when it is produced with the equipment found in a professional kitchen.
To make puff pastry, alternating layers of dough and butter are used in the baking process. The butter is pounded or shaped into a rectangular shape, and then the dough, which is comprised of flour, sugar, salt, and water, is stretched out thinner and made to wrap around the butter in a process referred to as a lamination.
After that, the lamination is rolled out and folded in a number of different ways to produce numerous layers in the finished dough. Both the butter and the dough need to be kept refrigerated at all times, and the lamination has to be given time to rest in between each roll-out so that the gluten may relax. If the lamination is allowed to get too warm, the butter will melt, and if it is allowed to become too cold, there is a possibility that the dough may tear.
Either scenario has the potential to result in the product having poor layering and an insufficient rise, causing it to be mushy and doughy. In the event that you are successful, the result will be one of the most delicious pastries you have ever had because of the layers’ crispiness, flakiness, and airiness.
Examples of savory applications of puff pastry include pie crusts and vol-au-vents, while examples of sweet applications include cream horns, mille feuilles, and parmiers. Puff pastry may also be used for both savory and sweet applications.
In the tradition of viennoiserie, which employs a form of puff pastry leavened with baker’s yeast to produce items such as Danish pastries, croissants, and pain au chocolat, there is a sub-category of puff pastry known as viennoiserie puff pastry. Eggs, milk, and butter are common additions to the dough before it is baked.
Flaky pastry is a bit simpler to make than puff pastry, but it still has to be handled carefully and must be kept refrigerated while it is being prepared. Puff pastry is easier to create than flaky pastry.
When producing flaky pastry, the butter is not added in a single layer as it is when making puff pastry; rather, it is integrated in stages, with a little being added after each fold. This is in contrast to puff pastry, in which the butter is put in a single layer.
Also, unlike puff pastry, it is not required to be in the shape of a solid rectangle; rather, it may be stretched out while still soft using a palette knife and then refrigerated before the next roll-out.
You might also grate frozen butter onto the dough as an alternate option. The end result is a pastry that, rather of forming layers of sheeting, creates flakes. Despite this, the dough nevertheless has an excellent rise and a light, airy feel.
Making flaky pastry requires a good amount of work, but it is more forgiving than puff pastry, and for this reason, it may be seen by some as a more practical choice.
Flaky pastry may be used to make the crusts for savory pies and sausage rolls, in addition to sweets like vanilla slices, turnovers, jam puffs, and Eccles cakes. Flaky pastry can also be used to make crusts for Eccles cakes.
Rough Puff Pastry
This is a terrific hack or cheat’s puff pastry that takes a fraction of the time to produce and with a lot less difficulty than traditional puff pastry does. It is truly a hybrid between flaky and puff pastry.
It is ideal for the contemporary home baker who may not have the time to spend in preparing a complete puff or flaky pastry, but who still wants to achieve exceptional results in their baking endeavors. It is prepared by combining flour, salt, and cold water with either butter that has been grated and frozen or butter that has been diced and cooled.
Instead of rubbing the butter into the flour, lumps of butter are added to a dough that is formed by combining the flour with water to form a dough that is somewhat firm. After that, it is rolled out and folded, just as you would do with puff or flaky pastry, and then it is refrigerated.
It is expected to provide a rise and texture that is comparable to flaky pastry, but with a far lower degree of danger.
In most recipes, such as those for sausage rolls, savory pie crusts, and tarts, flaky pastry and rough puff pastry may be used interchangeably in place of one another. However, it will not offer the rise that can be accomplished with puff pastry, therefore if you want to make vol-au-vents, you need buy puff pastry from the shop.
Specialty and Regional Pastries
Filo Pastry (Phyllo)
Filo is a cousin of puff pastry that is used in Middle Eastern cuisine. It is an unleavened pastry made of extremely thin and delicate sheets of dough that are separated by layers of oil or melted butter. When baked, it has a highly crisp texture, but unlike puff pastry, it does not rise as it cooks because it contains a considerably smaller proportion of water.
Another distinction is that the high-gluten dough, rather of being rolled out, is stretched to a very thin layer and then brushed with the liquid fat. Subsequent layers are then applied to achieve the appropriate thickness.
The preparation of this delicate and paper-thin pastry is quite challenging and calls for a high level of expertise, in addition to a big working area and a lengthy roller. It is most often purchased ready-made, having been manufactured industrially using machinery that were specifically designed for the purpose.
In spite of this, you need to work quickly while handling filo pastry since it dries out very quickly. Before shaping it, you should brush it with oil or ghee.
One of the most well-known applications of filo pastry is in the preparation of the Turkish dessert baklava; however, filo dough may also be used to make the wrappings for savory appetizers like samosas and spring rolls.
Choux is a kind of flaky pastry that is created by combining flour, water, butter, and eggs. By heating the water and butter before integrating the flour, a high moisture content is formed in the dough. This also has the effect of gelatinizing the starch, which makes it possible to add additional water.
After being allowed to cool, the eggs are then incorporated into the dough, which results in the addition of even more moisture. When baked, this moisture transforms into steam, which causes the food to expand three times its original size.
The finished product is a baked good that has a flaky crust and a hollow middle; traditionally, the center is filled with cream, and the top is covered with melted chocolate.
Choux pastry is used to make a variety of traditional French sweet pastries, including éclairs and profiteroles.
Hot Water Crust Pastry
This last dessert is a true departure from the norm in the world of pastries since it is handled while still hot and uses melted fat. This English pastry is dense and substantial, and it is used in the production of raised meat pies and pasties.
After melting the lard in boiling water, flour is added to the mixture to create a paste that is both hot and sticky. On a pastry board, this paste may be kneaded before it is shaped into pie shapes, filled, covered, and sealed.
This moist and sticky pastry is perfect for containing meat juices and other liquid fillings, and it becomes a golden brown color in the oven after being coated with beaten egg.
Although it is not as crisp as shortcrust pastry, this dough is considerably stronger, and as a result, it is better suited to its traditional usage in pork pies. Additionally, it is a forgiving pastry that can be used at home.
Now that everything has been laid out before you, you are fully aware of which kind of pastry to use in whatever part of your baking. Now the only challenge you have is choose which of those delectable pastries you want to bake first!