Pastries bring a smile to our faces. They taste delicious and usually look amazing, too. But what exactly defines a pastry and what makes it so hard to create these bakery sensations?
What is Pastry?
At its essence, pastry is a dough that is made with flour, water, and a fat component. Usually butter is used, but oil or shortening can be used instead.
What are considered pastries?
The word pastry can refer to all manner of foods. They can be sweet or savory and pastries can be found in every single international cuisine.
When it comes down to it, if a food is made out of a dough, then it is most likely a pastry. However, the dough does need to have a high fat content, so that it can distinguish itself from other baked goods such as bread or cookies.
Basic Types of Pastries
If you love pasty but aren’t sure how to work the dough, you may want to start with shortcrust pastry. Unlike other types, it can be worked harder.
The result is a thicker, hardier pastry dough that is great for thick pie tarts and other sweet treats.
With roots in the Middle East, filo pastry is a delicate, versatile pastry. It is made by mixing the ingredients together before rolling the dough into very thin sheets.
Filo pastry is most often used in sweet treats such as baklava.
Unlike other types of pastries, choux pastry needs an element of heat in its preparation. The ingredients are mixed together on the stovetop.
The result is that steam is trapped in the dough, and when baked, creates a hollow space in the pastry.
Choux pastry is used in the construction of eclairs and cream puffs. Usually, a pastry cream is piped into the hollow space of these pastries.
When it comes to your most basic, versatile type of pasty, flaky pastry is where it is at. Whether you’re looking for a recipe for sweet or savory dishes, such as pie crusts and sausage rolls, this is what you will use.
Flaky pastry should be molded as little as possible. In the end, you want there to be pea-sized bits of butter in the dough, which will translate to the flaky texture.
If made correctly, puff pastry will double or triple in size, thanks to the many pockets of air trapped inside. It is a very delicate pastry and takes a lot of time and effort.
You will need to continuously layer the dough, creating miniscule layers of butter. You also need to chill it while working, so that the butter doesn’t melt while being worked.
Puff pastry is used to make such delicious treats as mille feuille, vol-au-vents, and cream horns.
Main Types of Pastries
Non-laminated pastry refers to the dough that has been mixed and not folded. It can be leavened, meaning rising agents, such as yeast or baking powder have been added. It can also be unleavened, meaning it is more a mixture of flour, water, and butter.
Laminated pastry can take quite a lot of effort to produce. It refers to the process of continually folding dough so that micro layers of butter are produced.
Through the process, the dough is folded and then rolled out. However, the dough also needs to be chilled periodically so that the butter doesn’t melt and the dough becomes tough.
At the end, you will have over 50 layers of dough. When it is cooked, the moisture in the butter evaporates and the pastry puffs up.
10 Popular of Pastry Recipes
If you love exact numbers, then danishes are the perfect pastry for you. They need to be rolled out so that exactly 27 layers exist in the final product.
To complete this task, the pastry for danishes are rolled out thinly. It is a yeast dough with lots of layers of butter in it.
The dough is then shaped into a circle and is often topped with a fruit or cheese filling.
Pigs in Blankets
While there may be many variations of this savory appetizer, we’re going to focus on the one that is so popular in the United States.
Pigs in Blankets takes a mini hot dog or, if you want to be a bit classier, a sausage. Then, it rolls it up in croissant dough.
Once cooked, the croissant dough becomes crispy and flaky, turning the snack into a mini sandwich.
Origin: United States
The key to croissants is all about layers. The dough is laminated, which means it has multiple layers of butter throughout it.
Once the perfect texture has been created, the dough is then rolled out into a thin layer. The dough is cut into triangles and rolled together, before finally being shaped into a crescent.
Once cooked, croissants should be light, crispy, and extremely buttery.
There are sugary variations of croissants, and chocolate-filled pastries are quite common.
With a shortcrust pastry base, tarts can be filled with just about any flavor combination you can think of. They have an open top, meaning there is only one layer of pastry.
Common variations of tarts include fruit tarts, custard tarts, and chocolate tarts.
A shortcrust pastry is used with tarts because it is so sturdy. It also holds up well when excess moisture is placed on top. Therefore, you won’t have a runny, soggy mess when you bake your tarts.
This pastry straddles the border between savory and sweet. Pretzels are made with a yeast dough.
It is shaped into a long rope which is then twisted to make a knot. While the pretzel knot is the most recognizable, you can twist pretzel dough into many different shapes.
They key with pretzel presentation is that the design should be symmetrical.
Once formed, coarse salt is sprinkled on top. You can also vary this a bit by adding cinnamon, sugar, and even cheese as a topping.
To create a donut, you need to start with a flour dough, although this is further divided into a cake dough or a yeast dough, depending on what you’re making.
The dough is then traditionally cut into a circle and deep-dried. Once it has been deep-fried, a donut can be topped with different glazes or icings.
Donut holes are also popular. However, despite their name, the dough is formed separately, into small, bite-sized pieces.
While donuts exist all over the world, the donuts we consume the most were perfected in the United States.
Origin: United States
Pastry chefs like to innovate and so the cronut was born less than 20 years ago. It takes croissant dough which is shaped then like a donut. Once fried, cream is added to the middle layer.
When they were first created in New York, crowds flocked to try this amazing concoction. It has since been emulated the world over.
If you’re trying to make it yourself at home, give yourself plenty of time. It takes three days to produce a finished product.
Origin: United States
A visit to New Orleans is not complete without stopping for a snack of beignets. Borrowing from the French Creole heritage, beignets are similar to donuts in that they are fried dough.
However, they have a square shape and are coated with powdered sugar. They are best served warm.
You can also find beignets in France. In this variation, choux pastry is used which is then deep fried.
Origin: France and United States
This Italian dish is made with pastry dough. The dough is fried into a tube shape, leaving an opening on either side.
A filling of creamy, sweet ricotta cheese is then piped into the middle and for an added touch, chocolate chips can be added.
Cannoli can be small or large. Their size ranges from 3.5 inches to 7.5 inches in length.
There are few things more French than macarons. This pastry consists of two discs of dough with a creamy filling in between.
Macarons are made with almond flour, making them gluten-free. They get their shape and height thanks to the addition of egg whites.
The beauty of macarons is that the filling can come in almost any type of flavoring while the dough can be any color. This makes them a gorgeous treat that can be styled to match any type of occasion.
Which is the richest type of pastry?
While all types of pastry have a high fat content, not all have a high sugar content.
For example, croissants lend themselves more to the savory category.
The richest and sugariest type of pastry is a sweet shortcrust. It has a high sugar content, plenty of butter, and also the addition of egg yolks.
Hopefully, your stomach isn’t growling too much after reading this guide. Pastries are popular for a reason. They are rich, delicious treats, and no matter if you are eating a sweet or savory version, you will be sure to end up eating more than you should.