Pastry is a dough of flour, water and shortening that might be savoury or sweetened. Sweetened pastries are often described as bakers' confectionery. The word "Pastries" suggests a large number of kinds of baked products made from ingredients such as flour, sugar, milk, butter, shortening, baking powder, and eggs. Small tarts and additional sweet baked products are called pastries. The French word pâtisserie is additionally used in English (with or without the accent) for the same foods. Common pastry dishes include pies, tarts, quiches and pasties.

Pastry can additionally refer to the pastry dough, from which such baked products are made. Pastry dough is rolled out thinly and used as a base for baked products.

Pastry is differentiated from bread by having a higher fat content, which contributes to a flaky or crumbly texture. A good pastry is light and airy and fatty, but firm enough to support the weight of the filling. When making a shortcrust pastry, care must be taken to blend the fat and flour thoroughly before adding any liquid. This ensures that the flour granules are adequately coated with fat and less likely to develop gluten. On the additional hand, overmixing results in long gluten strands that toughen the pastry. In additional types of pastry such as Danish pastry and croissants, the characteristic flaky texture is achieved by repeatedly rolling out a dough similar to that for yeast bread, spreading it with butter, and folding it to produce a large number of thin layers.

Types

Pecan and maple Danish pastry, a puff pastry type
Profiterole or cream puff, a choux pastry
Strudel, a phyllo pastry
Pork pie on a plate
Shortcrust pastry 
Shortcrust pastry is the simplest and most common pastry. It is made with flour, fat, butter, salt, and water to bind the dough. This is used mainly in tarts. It is additionally the pastry that's used most often in making a quiche. The process of making pastry includes mixing of the fat and flour, adding water, and rolling out the paste. The fat is mixed with the flour first, generally by rubbing with fingers or a pastry blender, which inhibits gluten formation by coating the gluten strands in fat and results in a short (as in crumbly; hence the term shortcrust), tender pastry. A related type is the sweetened sweetcrust pastry, additionally known as pâte sucrée, in which sugar and egg yolks have been added (rather than water) to bind the pastry.
Flaky pastry
Flaky pastry is a simple pastry that expands when cooked due to the number of layers. It bakes into a crisp, buttery pastry. The "puff" is obtained by the shard-like layers of fat, most often butter or shortening, creating layers which expand in the heat of the oven when baked.
Puff pastry 
Puff pastry has a large number of layers that cause it to expand or "puff" when baked. Puff pastry is made using flour, butter, salt, and water. The pastry rises up due to the water and fats expanding as they turn into steam upon heating. Puff pastries come out of the oven light, flaky, and tender.
Choux pastry 
Choux pastry is a quite light pastry that's often filled with cream. Unlike additional types of pastry, choux is in fact closer to a dough before being cooked which gives it the ability to be piped into various shapes such as the éclair and profiterole. Its name originates from the French choux, meaning cabbage, owing to its rough cabbage-like shape after cooking.
Choux begins as a mixture of milk or water and butter which are heated together until the butter melts, to which flour is added to form a dough. Eggs are then beaten into the dough to further enrich it. This high percentage of water causes the pastry to expand into a light, hollow pastry. Initially, the water in the dough turns to steam in the oven and causes the pastry to rise; then the starch in the flour gelatinizes, thereby solidifying the pastry. Once the choux dough has expanded, it is taken out of the oven; a hole is made in it to let the steam out. The pastry is then placed back in the oven to dry out and become crisp. The pastry is filled with various flavours of cream and is often topped with chocolate. Choux pastries can additionally be filled with ingredients such as cheese, tuna, or chicken to be used as appetizers.
Phyllo (Filo)
Phyllo is a paper-thin pastry dough that's used in a large number of layers. The phyllo is generally wrapped around a filling and brushed with butter before baking. These pastries are quite delicate and flaky.
Hot water crust pastry
Hot water crust pastry is used for savoury pies, such as pork pies, game pies and, more rarely, steak and kidney pies. Hot water crust is traditionally used for making hand-raised pies. The usual ingredients are hot water, lard and flour, the pastry is made by heating water, melting the fat in this, bringing to the boil, and finally mixing with the flour. This can be done by beating the flour into the mixture in the pan, or by kneading on a pastry board. Either way, the result is a hot and rather sticky paste that can be used for hand-raising: shaping by hand, at times using a dish or bowl as an inner mould. As the crust cools, its shape is largely retained, and it is filled and covered with a crust, ready for baking. Hand-raised hot water crust pastry doesn't produce a neat and uniform finish, as there will be sagging throughout the cooking of the filled pie, which is generally accepted as the mark of a hand-made pie.

Definitions

A French pastry shop window
Pastry chef with croquembouche
  • Pastry: A type of food used in dishes such as pies or strudel.
  • Pastry bag or piping bag: An often cone-shaped bag that's used to make an even stream of dough, frosting, or flavoured substance to form a structure, decorate a baked item, or fill a pastry with a custard, cream, jelly, or additional filling.
  • Pastry board: A square or oblong board, preferably marble but usually wood, on which pastry is rolled out.
  • Pastry brake: Opposed and counter-rotating rollers with a variable gap through which pastry can be worked and reduced in thickness for commercial production. A small version is used domestically for pasta production.
  • Pastry case: An uncooked or blind baked pastry container used to hold savoury or sweet mixtures.
  • Pastry cream: Confectioner's custard. An egg- and flour-thickened custard made with sweetened milk flavoured with vanilla. Used as a filling for flans, cakes, pastries, tarts, etc. The flour prevents the egg from curdling.
  • Pastry cutters: Various metal or plastic outlines of shapes, e.g. circles, fluted circles, diamonds, gingerbread men, etc., sharpened on one edge and used to cut out corresponding shapes from biscuit, scone, pastry, or cake mixtures.
  • Pastry blender: A kitchen implement used to properly combine the fat and flour. Usually constructed of wire or plastic, with multiple wires or small blades connected to a handle.
  • Viennoiserie: French term for "Viennese pastry," which, although it technically should be yeast raised, is now commonly used as a term for a large number of laminated and puff- and choux-based pastries, including croissants, brioche, and pain au chocolat.

Chemistry

Different kinds of pastries are made by utilising the natural characteristics of wheat flour and certain fats. When wheat flour is mixed with water and kneaded into plain dough, it develops strands of gluten, which are what make bread tough and elastic. In a typical pastry, however, this toughness is unwanted, so fat or oil is added to slow down the development of gluten. Lard or suet work well because they have a coarse, crystalline structure that's quite effective. Using unclarified butter doesn't work well because of its water content; clarified butter, which is virtually water-free, is better, but shortcrust pastry using only butter might develop an inferior texture. If the fat is melted with hot water or if liquid oil is used, the thin oily layer between the grains offers less of an obstacle to gluten formation and the resulting pastry is tougher.

History

A typical Mediterranean baklava, a phyllo dough pastry sweetened with nuts and honey
Russian pirozhki

The European tradition of pastry-making is often traced back to the shortcrust era of flaky doughs that were in use throughout the Mediterranean in ancient times.

In the ancient Mediterranean, the Romans, Greeks and Phoenicians all had filo-style pastries in their culinary traditions. There is additionally strong evidence that Egyptians produced pastry-like confections which were made by dipping a baked flour cake in honey and serving with desert nuts as toppings. They had professional bakers that surely had the skills to do so, and they additionally had needed materials like flour, oil, and honey. In the plays of Aristophanes, written in the fifth century BC, there's mention of sweetmeats, including small pastries filled with fruit. The Roman cuisine used flour, oil and water to make pastries that were used to cover meats and fowls throughout baking in order to keep in the juices, but the pastry wasn't meant to be eaten. A pastry that was meant to be eaten was a richer pastry that was made into small pastries containing eggs or little birds and that were often served at banquets. Greeks and Roman both struggled in making a good pastry because they used oil in the cooking process, and oil causes the pastry to lose its stiffness.

In the medieval cuisine of Northern Europe, pastry chefs were able to produce nice, stiff pastries because they cooked with shortening and butter. Some incomplete lists of ingredients have been found in mediaeval cookbooks, but no full, detailed versions. There were stiff, empty pastries called coffins or 'huff paste', that were eaten by servants only and included an egg yolk glaze to help make them more enjoyable to consume. Medieval pastries additionally included small tarts to add richness.

It wasn't until about the mid-16th century that actual pastry recipes began appearing. These recipes were adopted and adapted over time in various European countries, resulting in the myriad pastry traditions known to the region, from Portuguese "pastéis de nata" in the west to Russian "pirozhki" in the east. The use of chocolate in pastry-making in the west, so commonplace today, arose only after Spanish and Portuguese traders brought chocolate to Europe from the New World starting in the sixteenth century. Many culinary historians consider French pastry chef Antonin Carême (1784–1833) to have been the first great master of pastry making in modern times.

Pastry-making additionally has a strong tradition in a large number of parts of Asia. Chinese pastry is made from rice, or different types of flour, with fruit, sweet bean paste or sesame-based fillings. The mooncakes are part of Chinese Mid Autumn Festival traditions, while cha siu bao, steamed or baked pork buns, are a regular savoury dim sum menu item. In the nineteenth century, the British brought western-style pastry to the far east, though it would be the French-influenced Maxim in the 1950s that made western pastry popular in Chinese-speaking regions starting with Hong Kong. Still, the term "western cake" (西餅) is used to distinguish between the automatically assumed Chinese pastry Other Asian countries such as Korea prepare traditional pastry-confections such as tteok, hangwa, and yaksik with flour, rice, fruits, and regional specific ingredients to make unique desserts. Japan additionally has specialised pastry-confections better known as mochi and manjū. Pastry-confections that originate in Asia are clearly distinct from those that originate in the west, which are generally much sweeter.

Pastry chefs

Pastry chefs use a combination of culinary ability and creativity in baking, decoration, and flavouring with ingredients. Many baked goods require a lot of time and focus. Presentation is an important aspect of pastry and dessert preparation. The job is often physically demanding, requiring attention to detail and long hours. Pastry chefs are additionally responsible for creating new recipes to put on the menu, and they work in restaurants, bistros, large hotels, casinos and bakeries. Pastry baking is usually done in an area slightly separate from the main kitchen. This section of the kitchen is in charge of making pastries, desserts, and additional baked goods.