The term pastry traditionally refers to the dough from which many baked goods are made consisting of flour, water, and fat. Because of the high fat content and minimal handling, pastry dough has a flaky texture. It can be used to create sweet and savory dishes.
Using Pastry Dough
Traditional pastry recipes use a flaky dough covering or wrap for a creamy, sweet, or savory filling. In this way, pastry can be many things, including puffs, petit fours, turnovers, pockets, popovers, éclairs, and shells. The fillings can be an even wider range of items, from savory fish or seasoned meats to rich, decadent creams and tangy fruits. Knowing how to prepare these recipes can help any cook expand his or her dessert repertoire instantaneously, because they can easily experiment with different fillings to create unique and delicious desserts from one basic technique or recipe.
Pastry recipes can be challenging because many dough blends are delicate and difficult to work with, particularly to make intricate or layered treats. For delicious pastry, consider the following tips:
- Follow the recipe as closely as possible - even a slight change in ingredient proportions can affect how the pastry adheres, rises, or flakes.
- Work with small portions of pastry at a time, refrigerating the remainder until it is needed, to keep it from becoming too sticky to manipulate.
- Handle pastry minimally. The more you handle it, the tougher it becomes.
- To create golden pastry, brush with melted butter, beaten eggs, or an egg wash prior to baking.
- When substituting frozen dough, be sure to buy the precise kind called for in the recipe; different types of pastry dough have remarkably different properties and may not be interchangeable.
- Consider adding an icing or glaze to dessert pastries. Chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon are popular flavors that can easily be drizzled over the dough for an elegant finishing touch. Open pastries can also be topped with meringue, whipped cream, or frosting.
Types of Pastry Dough
Many types of pastry exist, including:
- Short crust is the pastry used to make pies and tarts. The main ingredients are fat, flour, water, and salt.
- Pâte à choux (or choux pastry) is the light dough used in cream puffs, profiteroles, and éclairs. You make it by simmering the water and fat together and then adding flour and eggs.
- Puff pastry can be found in recipes like beef Wellington and napoleons. Making it requires a multi-step process of incorporating fat into the dough in order to create little pockets of air that cause the pastry to puff as it bakes. You can create a less labor intensive version, rough puff pastry, to create strudel.
- Phyllo (or filo) dough is a thinly rolled dough that you layer to create a flaky texture. You can find phyllo in recipes such as spanakopita and baklava.
From simple appetizer treats to elegant desserts with a sophisticated flair, pastry recipes are an integral and versatile part of many foods.