Pastry is a dough meant to act as a case for other food, savoury or sweet. It can be used to form just a bottom casing, with the top left open, or the pastry can completely contain the food inside it.
There are many different types of pastries, designed with different properties, textures, behaviours and tastes in mind.
All pastry doughs are best worked with cold, with the exception of phyllo pastry, choux pastry, and hot water crust pastry
A basic pastry is flour, fat, salt and water.
In general, in making a pastry you want a flour that is low in gluten, as gluten can make the pastry tough. Wholewheat flour can add great flavour, but it makes the pastry harder to work with and more crumbly.
Salt in a pastry recipe helps to both strengthen the dough and take the edge off a bland taste.
Lemon juice in a pastry recipe can soften the gluten, making the pastry more flexible.
The only pastry that uses a leavener is suet crust pastry. Otherwise, the "rising agent" in pastry is just steam (choux pastry uses both beaten egg and steam.) In other pastry recipes, egg yolk may be used as a binding agent.
You usually work the fat into the flour first before any liquid is added because once water is added to flour, the gluten gets activated. Consequently, the danger of overworking a pastry dough only starts when the liquid is added. You can work the pastry mixture till the cow's come home if it's just the dry ingredients and fat in there so far.
You let pastry rest before lining a pan with it because while making the pastry, you stretched the dough. Resting allows it to "relax", so that when you roll it out, you get an idea of its true size. If you don't, when baked, it may shrink in the pan.
"If the cookery column "class" will please come to order, we'll conduct a brief review on the subject of man's favorite dessert -- pie!
Literature & Lore
- What proportions of shortening and flour should be used when a "balanced" recipe for pasty is increased?"
- What causes tough pastry?
- How can one be sure of having flaky pastry?
- Why is chilling recommend for pastry?
- How long can pastry be store successfully?
- Why is a hot oven used for pastry?
- How can one avoid a soggy undercrust?
- Should pastry be turned over when being rolled?
- Why is the edge of the lower crust of filled pies moistened?
-- Mary Ellis Ames. Director of Pillsbury's Cooking Service. Pies, Pastries and Pielets (sic) in "Cooking Closeups" column. Uniontown, Pennsylvania: The Morning Herald. 3 December 1936.
The French developed pastry making into a special branch of cooking all its own, which they call "pâtisserie." In French, a pastry cook is a "pâtissier."