“All food starting with p is comfort food: pasta, potato chips, pretzels, peanut butter, pastrami, Pizza, pastry.” Sara Paretsky
One of the most difficult comfort foods to master in the kitchen is the pastry. Unlike regular cuisine, all the measures have to be in exact precision, proportion as well as timing. Too much and too little handling damages it. Despite all this, mastering few types of pastry gives every “home kitchen cook” a profound sense of accomplishment as well as delightful treats on holidays for the entire family.
Pastry is different from cooking because you have to consider the chemistry, beauty and flavor. It’s not just sugar and eggs thrown together. I tell my pastry chefs to be in tune for all of this. You have to be challenged by using secret or unusual ingredients. Ron Ben-Israel
A dough of flour, water and shortening (solid fats, including butter) that may be savoury or sweetened is what encompasses pastry. From sweet to savoury, many kinds of baked products are made of ingredients such as flour, sugar, milk, butter, shortening, baking powder and eggs, although the sweeter version are often known as baker’s confectionery. Pies, tarts, quiches and pasties are the common pastry dishes with minor variations that come under their labeling. Today with ready-made pastry dough available, homemade pastry as become a little easy especially when schedules gets a bit hectic.
To make a full-blooded puff pastry, you need time, you need patience, and you need precision. It’s all about the lamination: it’s all about building up the layers of butter, dough, butter, dough; as the butter melts, it creates steam, and that brings up the layers of the two doughs apart from each other, and that’s what gives it the rise. Paul Hollywood
From shortcrust pastry to puff pastries, the evolution of various varieties has been synchronous with time, tradition, locale flavours and culture. Like many of the desserts, the tradition of pastry making started off as early as the era of Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. Although the initial pastry covers over dishes were not meant to be eaten but used for baking to keep the juices in. The medieval cuisine of Europe had a breakthrough with pastry chefs using shortening and butter to make stiff pastries as well as newer techniques like the raised hot water crust initiated in the 14th century. Unlike the earlier processes which had used oil, causing the pastry to lose its stiffness. Towards middle of 16th century pastry recipes have been written, adopted and altered to the local flavour and availability.
I was drawn to bakery and pastry. It’s the same discipline you employ in dance – you take the instruction, and you keep on practicing, seeking perfection. You never achieve it, but you strive. Ron Ben-Israel
Although the pastry making traditions were different in the East and the West with different types of flour even rice flour going into the mix for the former. With the advent of travel and international cultural exchange, in the 19th century the trends of pastry making in Asia began to include a bit from the West. Once considered as a mere cover for dishes to be thrown away; today with a wide varied range pastry has become portable from creative miniature arts to eye-catching centerpieces as well as a culinary sheet for rich creative toppings and fillings of colourful, edible and delectable delights adding a bit of sparkle to make fusion varieties along with the classic recipes.
“The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry.” Marie-Antoine Careme
With a wide variety of cultural diversity and advancement of technology, Indian kitchens have been experimenting with sweet pies, tarts, Bougatsa of Greece, Danish pastry, Baklava, Apple strudel among the gulab jamuns, jalebis and Chatti pathiris that we have had since our childhood. Personally for me, I think tarts or sweet pies especially apple pies are way easier even with lack of oven, as a pressure cooker or crock pot on stove-tops can suffice. Although pastry making can lead to a kitchen disaster if not done with care, the satisfied feeling makes the experimentation worth the effort.
“A pastry usually tastes better if it looks nice. A cream pastry, now that looks nice – in fact, there is nothing I mind as long as it looks nice.” Arne Jacobsen