At its most basic, pastry is a mixture of flour and fat bound with water to form a paste. Historically it was used as a case for baking other items, but people eventually realised the pastry was worth eating too. The wide range of pastries made today vary in texture and taste according to the proportion of fats used, the way in which it is incorporated with the flour, and the method used to shape the dough.
Shortcrust pastry is the easiest type of pastry to make. It’s also very versatile as it readily incorporates other flavourings. It can be used for sweet or savoury pies and tarts, pasties and other pastry parcels. Regular shortcrust pastry is bound with water but for a richer version the water is replaced with egg.
Pate sucrée is a French sweet pastry similar to shortcrust pastry but with high sugar content and egg yolks for richness.
Puff pastry has a much higher fat content than short pastries and uses a special rolling and folding technique to create fine layers of dough that trap air between them. The pastry then puffs up on baking, creating scrumptious leaves with a light texture and rich flavour. This is one pastry that really impresses.
Flaky pastry and ‘rough puff’ are both similar to puff pastry but easier and quicker to make. They are ideal for recipes where you want a flaky texture but do not need the pastry to rise impressively.