The great pastry guide

The great pastry guide

Puff

What is it: Puff pastry is a wonderfully light, buttery pastry. The flakiness we all know and love is formed by layers of fat. In the oven, the butter melts, leaving hollow pockets in the dough. These fill with steam, causing the pastry to puff up.

Best for: Pie crusts, canapés and dessert pastries. Because this pastry rises, it is perfect to top or surround sweet and savoury dishes.

We made: Cuban chicken plait

The leftovers: Yummy lids; cut into rounds and use to top pot pies made with leftover curry, stew or chicken.

Phyllo

What is it: Phyllo pastry is set apart from its puffy counterpart in the fact that it is unleavened. Its flakiness is achieved by layering multiple sheets of pastry, brushed with oil or melted butter.

Best for: Middle Eastern and Balkan dishes, where this pastry technique originated from.

We made: Phyllo veggie parcels

The leftovers: Deep-fried Nutella squares; spread with Nutella, fold closed, and deep-fry until golden brown.

Shortcrust

What is it: It is a short (non-elastic) pastry with a ‘half-fat-to-flour’ ratio. Like phyllo, shortcrust also does not contain a leavening agent. It is also not layered, giving it a more crumbly texture as opposed to flaky.

Best for: Because it does not rise, this pastry is best used as a base or lining for pies, tarts and quiches.

We made: Apple and raspberry tart

The leftovers: Quick cherry pie; Line a tart tin and blind bake for 15 minutes. Spread cream cheese over the bottom, fill with a tin of black cherries, and top with whipped cream.

Choux

What is it: An extremely light and delicate pastry with the most important ingredient being egg and not butter. While in the oven, they fill with steam, resulting in crispy buns with a perfectly hollow centre waiting to be filled.

Best for: This French pastry is best for the classics, eclairs and profiteroles.

We made: White-chocolate and caramel eclairs

The leftovers: Milk tart buns; pipe in some milk tart filling and sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and icing sugar.

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