Contemporary Culinary Traditions

A mixture of flour, fat, and water often with other ingredients; made into a dough and cooked; and then used to cover, support, encase or constitute dishes such as the pie, tart, pasty, and croissant. The term "pastry" may also be used to denote a particular dish which consists partly or wholly of pastry. Five types emerge as most important:

  1. Shortcrust. The most common and simple pastry, the shortcrust is used for pies and pâtés.
  2. Rough puff. A more flaky variation on shortcrust in which numerous layers expand upon baking.
  3. Puff. Similar to rough puff in its layered structure, though its method of preparation leads to a crisp, frail delicacy.
  4. Choux. Made by melting butter in hot water with flour, the pastry is delicate and spongy in texture.
  5. Filo pastry. Pastry of numerous paper-thin layers separated by films of butter.

Shortcrust Pastry

Often referred to as medium-flake pastry in the United States, shortcrust is made from flour, fat (lard or butter), water, and salt. After the fat has been chilled, it is cut into tiny cubes, spread and rubbed into the flour; the result looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Iced water is gradually added while constantly stirring until the dough thickens, and can be formed into a ball. The ball is then wrapped in aluminum foil or grease-proof paper; chilled for a brief period; and then rolled out and baked.

A shortcrust of suet -- the hard fat about the kidneys and loins in beef and mutton that yields tallow -- is light in texture. A hot water crust includes the same ingredients as a normal shortcrust, but the boiling water causes the fat to melt resulting in a strong pastry intended for raised pies.

To create a shortcrust pastry of rich flavor - one that is in itself delicious to eat - the cook must, naturally, make some changes in regards to fat and egg content. By increasing the level of fat in relation to flour, and by adding egg and sugar, the result is a soft, crumbly, and tender pastry which calls attention to itself. The French pâté brisée ("broken-textured pastry"), for instance, is the classic choice in the preparation of flans; it contains a small amount of sugar, even when used for savory dishes, though it lacks egg. On the other hand, the pâté sèche ("dry pastry") and pâté sucrée ("sweet pastry") include a high egg proportion, and even more sugar. In Austria, the supremely rich mürbe Teig ("tender pastry") adds sour cream or cream cheese to the egg shortcrust. The Linzertorte of the same country includes ground almond as an ingredient. The Russian coulibiac, made with yeast as opposed to flour, is light and fluffy; it borders on being a rough-puff.

Rough Puff Pastry

Identical to the shortcrust in terms of ingredients, the rough puff pastry differs in the technique with which it is prepared. For the rough puff, the shortcrust pastry is folded and rolled three or four times. The layers of the dough will partly separate and rise during cooking, while not nearly as elaborately as the puff pastry (see below).

The proportion of butter to flour is high, and a small amount of water is added. One-quarter of the butter is added to the flour during the first stage which forms the shortcrust. The pastry is then rolled, dotted with more butter, folded, re-rolled, and put to rest in a cool place. The procedure is repeated once or twice again until all of the butter has been used. The rough puff is finely layered with irregular inclusions of butter; the light texture rests midway between shortcrust and puff pastry.

Puff Pastry

A genuine puff pastry calls for only one-eighth of the amount of butter to be used in the first mixture. After the pastry has been rolled out, the rest of the butter is spread on two-thirds of the pastry sheet. This dough is then spread and folded into three so that there are three layers of pastry enclosing two of butter. The process of folding and rolling is repeated exactly six times, resting between each turn. The pastry rises to a light, laminated texture used to create some of the finest sweet and savory dishes (in France especially).

The use of yeast in the puff pastry originates in Vienna, Austria, though the tradition has become important to the preparation of croissants and such foods. The dough is similar to the normal puff pastry: milk, eggs, flour, and a mixture of butter and lard. The dough is rolled at least four times. The effect of the yeast rising combined with the rolling and turning produces a pastry of similar lightness, though the texture is softer and richer, the flavor delicious.

Choux Pastry

Flour is added to melting butter in nearly boiling water; the mixture cooks until smooth and not sticky. One by one, eggs are beaten in. Before cooking, the pastry -- which should feel velvety soft -- is put through a forcing bag. The resultant pastry is delicate and spongy to the mouth; it is therefore a brilliant base for éclairs and light confectionery. The versatility of the Choux was elaborated on by Barbara Maher (1982): "who could guess that this pastry is the basis of products as apparently dissimilar as: cream puffs, Herzogbrot (Bread of the Dukes), carolines, salammbos, Mecca rolls, Paris Brest and St Honoré (examples of gateau)."

Filo Pastry

A Greek pastry (though Turkish in origin) in which paper-thin sheets of dough are buttered and stacked separately (as in baklava, borek, and spanakopitta); or by rolling up one paper-thin sheet around a filling to create multiple layers (strudel, retes, and zavin). The sheets are made thin by stretching the dough with the hands. To perform this challenging task fluently, the knuckles must be used - not the fingertips - which helps to avoid tearing the dough. Alternately, a rolling pin may be used, or for convenience, a stack of sheets, separated by cornflour until paper thin. The result, with almost ethereally crisp layers, is a pastry of extraordinary lightness and complexity.

Sources
Beranbaum, Rose. The Pie and Pastry Bible. New York: Scribner, 1998.
Friberg, Bo. The Professional Pastry Chef. New York: John Wiley, ed. 2002.
Maher, Barbara. Cakes. London: Norman & Hobhouse, 1982.

Pas"try (?), n.; pl. Pastries ().

1.

The place where pastry is made.

[Obs.]

Shak.

2.

Articles of food made of paste, or having a crust made of paste, as pies, tarts, etc.

Pastry cook, one whose occupation is to make pastry; as, the pastry cook of a hotel.

 

© Webster 1913.

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