The world of pastries is filled with a wide range of flaky, buttery, and irresistible delights. From the delicate layers of a perfect croissant to the crumbly texture of a homemade tart, each one is a testament to the magic that simple ingredients like flour, fat, and water can create.
In this comprehensive guide, we’re ready to take a deep dive into the delicious different types of pastries. With each type showcasing its unique charm, from the airy puff pastries to the comforting richness of shortcrust, we’re set to uncover the stories behind these baked goods.
Pastry making may seem daunting at first, but once you understand the basics, it’s all about creativity, patience, and a bit of kitchen fun. The magic of pastry lies in its simplicity; at its core, it’s all about combining flour and fat with just the right touch.
- Flour and Fat: These are the stars of the show. The type of flour and fat used and the way they’re combined ultimately determines the texture and flavor of the pastry. Most often, you’ll find pastries made with all-purpose flour and butter, but other types of flour and fats (like shortening or lard) can also be used.
- The Mixing Method: How you mix your flour and fat matters. For flaky pastries, like pie crust or puff pastry, you want to leave small chunks of fat in the dough. These melt during baking, leaving behind little pockets that make the pastry flaky. On the other hand, for mealy pastries like shortcrust, you want to rub the fat into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Water: Adding the right amount of water is crucial. Too much and your pastry will be tough; too little, and it will be crumbly. The trick is to add just enough to bring the dough together.
- Resting and Baking: Rest your pastry dough in the refrigerator before rolling it out. This helps relax the gluten and makes the dough easier to handle. When it comes to baking, remember that pastries love a hot oven. A high temperature ensures that the water in the dough evaporates quickly, giving the pastry a nice lift and creating those beautiful golden layers we love.
There you have it! These are the fundamentals that bring all sorts of delightful pastries to life. Now, let’s delve into the different types of pastries, each with its unique method and charm.
If you’ve ever been fascinated by the countless, delicate layers in a croissant or a mille-feuille, you’ve encountered puff pastry. Puff pastry is a labor of love, made by alternating thin layers of dough and butter, a method known as lamination. As the pastry bakes, the water in the butter turns into steam, causing the dough to puff up and create countless flaky, airy layers. These layers are simultaneously tender and crispy, making puff pastry perfect for a variety of treats. From sweet danishes and turnovers filled with fruit or custard to savory Beef Wellington or vol-au-vent (a small hollow case of puff pastry), this versatile dough adds a touch of elegance to any dish.
When you picture a classic pie or tart, you’re likely imagining a shortcrust pastry. This type of pastry, made from a simple mix of flour, fat (usually butter), and water, is cherished for its crumbly and buttery texture. The trick to a successful shortcrust is minimal handling to prevent the development of gluten and keeping everything cool for a flaky, tender crust. Shortcrust pastry is incredibly versatile and can be used in a range of sweet pies, from apple to cherry, as well as savory favorites like quiche and savory tarts.
Choux pastry, with its light and airy texture, is a baker’s dream. This pastry is unique due to its two-stage cooking process: first, water, butter, and flour are cooked together on the stovetop to form a thick paste, then eggs are added to give richness and enable the dough to puff up in the oven. As the dough bakes, it becomes hollow, making it perfect for filling with whipped cream or custard for desserts like cream puffs and éclairs or with a savory cheese mixture for gougeres (cheese puffs). The options are endless with this versatile pastry!
The blitz pastry could be considered a quicker, less fussy sibling to puff pastry. It is also made by layering dough and fat, but the process is less exact, often simply involving large chunks of butter being incorporated into the dough. As this pastry bakes, the water in the fat evaporates, creating steam that separates the dough into flaky layers. While the layers are less distinct than in puff pastry, the resulting texture is gorgeously light and flaky, making this pastry ideal for turnovers, sausage rolls, and rustic tarts.
Filo (also known as phyllo) pastry is a staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. Its name translates to ‘leaf’ in Greek, a nod to its incredibly thin, paper-like sheets. Working with filo requires a delicate touch, as each thin sheet is brushed with oil or melted butter before being layered and baked into golden, crispy treats. Despite its delicate nature, filo bakes into a sturdy casing that is ideal for a multitude of fillings. Sweet treats like the nut and honey-filled baklava or savory pies like spanakopita and börek showcase the versatility of this exceptional pastry.
Immersing yourself in the world of pastries can be an exciting and rewarding journey, but it’s also an experience best shared. At Kirshenbaum Baking Co., we’re all about bringing these diverse pastries to life in the most delicious ways possible. Each pastry you’ll find at KBC is expertly crafted with the highest quality ingredients and an attention to detail that honors the rich traditions behind these varied doughs. From flaky puff pastries filled with sweet or savory ingredients to buttery shortcrust pies and tarts, there’s a world of textures and flavors waiting to be discovered.
We invite you to come by and explore this variety at Kirshenbaum Baking Co.! Get to know our menu, try new things, revisit old favorites, and delight in the magic that each type of pastry brings. Either stop by our bakery or place an order online today, and let us add a dash of pastry magic to your day!