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7 Types Of Pastry, Explained

food, 7 types of pastry, explained

Pastries in a glass case

The pastry world is a complicated one that fans of the hit television show “The Great British Bake Off” know all too well. Pastry has been a facet of societies long before baking shows, though; the Egyptians were the first society to record mixing fat into dough and wrapping around it meats before cooking (via the Macmillan Dictionary Blog). After Northern Europeans invaded the Mediterranean during the Crusades, pastry making was adopted by the Italians and the Europeans. After the 1700s, pastry making became more of an artisan craft and inspired culinary art renditions through figures like Marie-Antoine Carême, per Pure History.

Nowadays, you don’t have to travel far to find fine pastry. We should also note the difference between the pastry we’re talking about. It’s the technique and style of incorporating fat into flour that will become, with the addition of flavorings and artistic infusion, a delectable baked good (which are called pastries). Patisserie, per Le Cordon Bleu, refers to French, Italian, or Belgian adaptations of pastry and the shops in which pastries are sold. Confusing, we know.

Here’s a breakdown of pastry 101: the types, methods, and creations you can whip up by (not so simply) mixing flour and fat.

Shortcrust Pastry

food, 7 types of pastry, explained

Baked fruit pie on table

Shortcrust pastry is a basic, widely-used form of pastry made by combining chunks of butter with flour. Once the butter begins to form small chunks with the flour, cold water is added to make the dough come together in a ball. As noted by The Guardian, the butter prevents the water from soaking the flour and making a goopy mess. The goal of a shortcrust pastry is to keep the dough soft and crumbly while avoiding gluten development. The baker should also be sure to add the water slowly to the dough to prevent over-saturating and causing the dough to harden and become too dense.

After the pastry comes together, it is chilled before being rolled out on a floured surface. Chilling the dough for at least 30 minutes is vital to allow the gluten to slack and the fat to firm up. The resulting texture of the dough is soft, crumbly, and full of tiny pockets of fat resulting in a super flavorful crust. Shortcrust pastry is most commonly used for baking pie crusts. You can flavor the dough with cheese for a savory quiche Lorraine or add chocolate for a chocolate-crusted cream pie.

Hot Water Crust Pastry

food, 7 types of pastry, explained

Pork stuffed hot water crust

Hot water crust pastry is often used for pies because of its durability. According to the King Arthur Baking Company, you’ll commonly see hot water crust pastry used for meat pies and roasted root vegetable pies because it can withstand the weight of the fillings. To make hot water crust pastry, the cook heats water and fat (usually animal lard or vegetable shortening) until it comes to a boil. Then, the fat is poured into a well of flour and stirred until equally moist. Unlike other types of pastry, hot water crust pastry needs to be kneaded to ensure the dough is amply hydrated.

As you might imagine, hot water crust pastry differs greatly from regular pie crust. Per its name, hot water is a key component in pre-gelatinizing the starches in the flour, similar to tangzhong, a Japanese bread-making technique. The resulting texture of the dough is much more pliable, thick, and sturdy. You should consider using cold water for a shortcrust pastry method if you desire a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth feel. The texture of the hot water crust pastry is much more ideal if you plan to take the pie out of the pan and for the crust to maintain its shape. If you are an amateur baker with a tendency to rip holes in your crust, you should also note that hot water crust is easier to repair with chunks of leftover dough.

Puff Pastry

food, 7 types of pastry, explained

Croissants on white table

Puff pastry is not for the faint of heart. This style of pastry dough is made by methodically interspersing and layering fat in a block of dough. According to Bakerpedia, once the puff pastry dough is baked, the fat melts and the water inside it releases steam. It’s the steam that produces the “puff” effect and the desirable qualities in a croissant.

The key to perfecting a puff pastry is to make sure the dough stays cold. If you use butter as your source of fat, you will notice that a warm dough will result in the butter seeping out of the dough while it’s baking and not producing the correct puff shape of the dough. You should also keep your oven hot, because an oven that is too cold will not cause the butter to steam — rather it will just seep out of the dough. Most puff pastry recipes call for baking at 400 degrees Fahrenheit to produce both a brown color and the perfect puff.

If making puff pastry is not your forte, you can make your life easier by purchasing frozen puff pastry and leaving it in the freezer for when you need it. Use puff pastry to wrap a beef wellington or delicately craft a chicken pot pie.

Viennoiserie

food, 7 types of pastry, explained

Viennoiserie with chocolate drizzle

Le Cordon Bleu describes viennoiserie as a hybrid of pâtisserie and French bread. Unlike other types of pastry, viennoiserie usually includes an active yeast culture and white flour, along with the help of enriching agents like butter, eggs, or milk. According to French Forever, is believed that this hybridized pastry is rooted in Austria and eventually made its way to French life by the end of the 1830s.

The ingredients of the viennoiserie set the dessert apart from others in a French storefront. You’ll notice that viennoiseries are much more golden brown in color because of the enriching agents. The texture, French Forever notes, is a flaky, crunchy exterior with an interior like of either soft thin layers or soft doughy bread. Unlike other kinds of pastry you’d find in Europe, viennoiseries are usually eaten for breakfast rather than as an after-dinner treat.

Some of the most popular viennoiseries you may find in a French shop include the le pain au chocolat, le pavé suisse (Swiss brioche), and chouquettes.

Rough Puff Pastry

food, 7 types of pastry, explained

Rolling pin on rough pastry

Rough puff pastry is similar to its non-rough namesake, but its ingredients come together faster and less arduously than a traditional puff pastry. This dough requires significantly fewer folds and less time between folding, thus making it the perfect dough if puff pastry feels much too difficult to make by yourself. Bakerpedia notes one of the major downsides of using rough puff pastry over other pastry types is that the dough won’t produce the same rise as a puff pastry, so it is best to stick to recipes like beef wellington and Napoleon cake.

To make a rough puff pastry, a baker must incorporate golf-ball-sized chunks of fat into the dough (rather than the entire slabs used in puff pastry). Then, the dough is quickly rolled, sheeted, and folded with no resting time in between. The resulting dough has deliciously (but less consistently placed) airy fat layers. Some bakers, as noted by Bakerpedia, will add lemon juice to the dough to it tender during the folding process.

Filo Pastry

food, 7 types of pastry, explained

Spinach triangles on plate

Filo dough (also spelt as phyllo dough) is a thin type of pastry dough that differs from puff pastry. Per Bakerpedia, filo dough originated in the Mediterranean region and eventually spread to other regions in the Eurasian subcontinent. Bakers include flour, water, fat, salt, and vinegar together to form very, very thin sheets of dough. Once the sheets are formed, the dough can be stacked, shaped, and formed into baked goods like baklava and spanakopita.

Filo dough is very fragile, so once it is formed into sheets, the dough is frozen until it is ready to be used. If you mistakenly use filo before it is thawed, however, the dough will crack, split, and become useless. The dough also tends to dry very quickly because it is thin, so if you work with filo dough, you should complete all other preparation steps before removing the dough from your refrigerator.

If you plan on working with filo at home, you should know to keep melted butter handy. Traditionally, sheets of filo are stacked with butter in between and baked until golden brown and flaky. The result is a texture similar to puff pastry, but rarely will bakers substitute filo dough and puff pastry interchangeably. Puff pastry is much thicker and will not offer the same mouth-feel as thin filo pastry, per Martha Stewart.

Choux Pastry

food, 7 types of pastry, explained

Choux buns on tablecloth

A pâte à choux is used to make many french pastries like éclairs, cream puffs, and gougères. To make a choux, a baker will bring water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil before adding flour and stirring until the mixture comes off the sides of the pot. It is important for the baker to cook the dough for long enough to evaporate most of the moisture from the dough; this allows eggs to be more easily incorporated in a stand mixer. Next, the baker pipes the choux dough into the desired shape and bakes until golden brown. Once the pastry has finished baking, it can be filled and served. The resulting choux pastry is light, fluffy, and hollow in the center.

Choux works via the same mechanics as puff pastry — with steam. Per the Institute of Culinary Education, choux pastry contains both milk and water, but bakers can get creative by substituting these ingredients for a flavor infusion. You can use earl grey tea rather than water, for example, for a bigger and more flavorful puff. More milk will darken the choux, so the baker must be able to play with the ratios of water and milk in the recipe. The baker can also substitute butter for more flavorful fats like duck fat, but must be aware that the hydration of the fat will alter the resulting puff.

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