|Place of origin||Worldwide|
|Main ingredients||Often flour, sugar, milk, butter, lard or shortening, baking powder, eggs|
Pastry is baked food made with a dough of flour, water and shortening (solid fats, including butter or lard) that may be savoury or sweetened. Sweetened pastries are often described as bakers' confectionery. The word "pastries" suggests many kinds of baked products made from ingredients such as flour, sugar, milk, butter, shortening, baking powder, and eggs. Small tarts and other sweet baked products are called pastries. Common pastry dishes include pies, tarts, quiches, croissants, and pasties.
The French word pâtisserie is also used in English (with or without the accent) for the same foods. Originally, the French word pastisserie referred to anything, such as a meat pie, made in dough (paste, later pâte) and not typically a luxurious or sweet product. This meaning still persisted in the nineteenth century, though by then the term more often referred to the sweet and often ornate confections implied today.
Pastry can also refer to the pastry dough, from which such baked products are made. Pastry dough is rolled out thinly and used as a base for baked products.
Pastry is differentiated from bread by having a higher fat content, which contributes to a flaky or crumbly texture. A good pastry is light and airy and fatty, but firm enough to support the weight of the filling. When making a shortcrust pastry, care must be taken to blend the fat and flour thoroughly before adding any liquid. This ensures that the flour granules are adequately coated with fat and less likely to develop gluten. On the other hand, overmixing results in long gluten strands that toughen the pastry. In other types of pastry such as Danish pastry and croissants, the characteristic flaky texture is achieved by repeatedly rolling out a dough similar to that for yeast bread, spreading it with butter, and folding it to produce many thin layers.
Different kinds of pastry doughs are made by utilizing the natural characteristics of wheat flour and certain fats. When wheat flour is mixed with water and kneaded into plain dough, it develops strands of gluten, which are what make bread tough and elastic. In a typical pastry, however, this toughness is unwanted, so fat or oil is added to slow down the development of gluten. Pastry flour can also be used, since it typically has a lower level of protein than all-purpose or bread flours.
Lard or suet work well because they have a coarse, crystalline structure that is very effective. Using unclarified butter does not work well because of its water content; clarified butter, or ghee, which is virtually water-free, is better, but shortcrust pastry using only butter may develop an inferior texture. If the fat is melted with hot water or if liquid oil is used, the thin oily layer between the grains offers less of an obstacle to gluten formation and the resulting pastry is tougher.
The European tradition of pastry-making is often traced back to the shortcrust era of flaky doughs that were in use throughout the Mediterranean in ancient times. In the ancient Mediterranean, the Romans, Greeks and Phoenicians all had filo-style pastries in their culinary traditions. In the plays of Aristophanes, written in the 5th century BC, there is mention of sweetmeats, including small pastries filled with fruit. Roman cuisine used flour, oil and water to make pastries that were used to cover meats and fowls during baking in order to keep in the juices, but the pastry was not meant to be eaten. A pastry that was meant to be eaten was a richer pastry that was made into small pastries containing eggs or little birds and that were often served at banquets. Greeks and Romans both struggled in making a good pastry because they used oil in the cooking process, and oil causes the pastry to lose its stiffness.
In the medieval cuisine of Northern Europe, pastry chefs were able to produce nice, stiff pastries because they cooked with shortening and butter. Some incomplete lists of ingredients have been found in medieval cookbooks, but no full, detailed versions. There were stiff, empty pastries called coffins or 'huff paste', that were eaten by servants only and included an egg yolk glaze to help make them more enjoyable to consume. Medieval pastries also included small tarts to add richness.
It was not until about the mid-16th century that actual pastry recipes began appearing. These recipes were adopted and adapted over time in various European countries, resulting in the myriad pastry traditions known to the region, from Portuguese "pastéis de nata" in the west to Russian "pirozhki" in the east. The use of chocolate in pastry-making in the west, so commonplace today, arose only after Spanish and Portuguese traders brought chocolate to Europe from the New World starting in the 16th century. Many culinary historians consider French pastry chef Antonin Carême (1784–1833) to have been the first great master of pastry making in modern times.
Pastry-making has a strong tradition in many parts of Asia. Chinese pastry is made from rice, or different types of flour, with fruit, sweet bean paste or sesame-based fillings. The mooncakes are part of Chinese Mid Autumn Festival traditions, while cha siu bao, steamed or baked pork buns, are a regular savory dim sum menu item. In the 19th century, the British brought western-style pastry to the Far East, though it would be the French-influenced Maxim in the 1950s that made western pastry popular in Chinese-speaking regions starting with Hong Kong. The term "western cake" (西餅) is used to refer to western pastry, otherwise Chinese pastry is assumed. Other Asian countries such as Korea prepare traditional pastry-confections such as tteok, hangwa, and yaksik with flour, rice, fruits, and regional specific ingredients to make unique desserts. Japan also has specialized pastry-confections better known as mochi and manjū. Pastry-confections that originate in Asia are clearly distinct from those that originate in the west, which are generally much sweeter.
See also: List of pastry chefs
Pastry chefs use a combination of culinary ability and creativity for baking, decoration, and flavoring with ingredients. Many baked goods require a lot of time and focus. Presentation is an important aspect of pastry and dessert preparation. The job is often physically demanding, requiring attention to detail and long hours. Pastry chefs are also responsible for creating new recipes to put on the menu, and they work in restaurants, bistros, large hotels, casinos and bakeries. Pastry baking is usually done in an area slightly separate from the main kitchen. This section of the kitchen is in charge of making pastries, desserts, and other baked goods.