There are lots of types of pastry from sweet to savoury, shortcrust to choux. Whipping up puff, choux or filo pastry is no easy feat, so it helps to know a little more about each type of pastry and what dishes can be made with it.
8 types of pastry to master
Here are the eight most commonly used types of pastry.
Shortcrust pastry is widely used for making sweets tarts and pies, like frangipane tart or mince pies. But you’ll also see it used in quiche and other savoury bakes. It has a crumbly, closer to biscuit-type texture, but it’s robust enough to hold liquid or soft fillings. It’s made with flour, fat and a little water, and the crumbliness will depend on the amount of fat used and the way in which the contestants handle the pastry. Pâte sucrée is a sweet version made with egg yolks.
Shortcrust pastry tip: Keep everything cold… ingredients, equipment and hands. Avoid adding too much flour to your work surface as it can make the pastry tough and allow the pastry to rest after handling so that the fat can firm up again.
You’re probably familiar with puff, it’s used in apple turnovers, vol-au-vents, mille feuilles (a mini dessert of stacked layers) and palmiers (French butterfly-shaped bakes). Puff is characterised by the fat and air trapped between the layers – and it’s notoriously difficult to make. Pies are sometimes made with a shortcrust base and a puff top. It’s sweetened with sugar for desserts.
Most frequently used for sausage rolls, jam puffs and some pies, flaky pastry is best made in cool conditions to avoid the fat from melting. It must be chilled as much as possible during and after the whole process.
If you’re a fan of the Great British Bake Off, then you’ll be familiar with the term rough puff pastry. Often used by contestants in bakes instead of puff or flaky – it’s actually something in the middle of the two. It’s also good for sausage rolls, savoury pie crusts and tarts. It’s easier to make than puff but it’s light, like flaky pastry.
As the name suggests, choux, or pâte à choux to give it its full name, hails from France and was first made in 1540 for French royalty. It’s traditionally used for making eclairs, choux buns and croquembouche (those towers of profiteroles), because when it’s piped and baked, it makes extremely light puffs of pastry, which are crispy on the outside, with hollow pockets – perfect for filling with cream, chocolate or mousse. The airiness is a result of choux having a high water content; that water is turned into steam during baking, forcing the shell outwards and providing volume.
Traditional British pastry, suet crust is used to make things like steak and kidney pudding, spotted dick and other steamed or boiled puddings, and dumplings. Suet crust should have a spongy texture and it’s made with self-raising flour, suet (the hard white fat on the kidneys and loins of cattle, sheep, and other animals, instead of butter or lard) and water.
Hot water crust
This type of pastry is best-used for ‘hand-raised pies’ (deep pies shaped by hand) with a meat filling, like pork pies – but any meat or game works. In Victorian times, Boxing Day leftovers were traditionally layered into a hot water crust, which sounds pretty epic. The pastry has a crisp, rich taste, and the key to hand-raising pies is to shape the hot water crust as quickly as possible.
You’d have to be mad not to just buy filo, or phyllo (it means leaf in Greek), in the shops. The very thin sheets, with high gluten content flour, are very tricky to make because they’re fragile and can dry out quickly. It is delicious though and used to make a lot of Middle Eastern and Balkan pastries like baklava and börek. The bakers must be sure to brush the layers with oil or butter and somehow keep the sheets covered while working with them (a plastic wrap or damp cloth can be used).
Helpful pastry making tools
Pastry mat with measurements
Silicone baking mats
Ceramic baking beans
Pastry lattice roller cutter
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