About this module
Welcome to your first Start Up learning module on all things baking! Our introductory chapter will cover the basics on baking ingredients, different baking outcomes and techniques for making various pastries and cakes. This is a great starting point to get familiar with all things baking, and start your foray into the creative world of sweet, delectable treats!
Now that we’ve looked at what goes into the most staple baked product that is bread, let’s look at what goes into pastries – the diverse and exciting cousin of bread.
The basic ingredients are flour, fats, liquid such as water or milk and salt. Other ingredients such as eggs and sugar can be added for flavour and variety.
First and foremost, we should look into the different varieties of pastries, and understand how ingredient choices, combinations and techniques make this possible.
The five common varieties are puff pastry, flaky pastry, shortcrust pastry, choux pastry, and filo pastry – all of which differ in texture and flavour. In this topic, let’s look into its ingredients.
First the puff pastry, known for its popular products like curry puff, tuna puff, palmiers, danish pastries and more. These pastries have a series of distinct layers of flakes, resulting in a crisp and soft eating texture.
The flaky texture is made by laminating alternating layers of dough and fat.
The next variety is flaky pastry, which are your sweet such as apple pasties, blueberry or savoury pies and parcels such as pasties, sausage rolls, savoury pies and turnovers. These pastries are known for having different shapes and a texture that is airy and flaky.
Similar to puff pastries, it is made with multiple layers of dough and fat.
However, in flaky pastries, there are less layers and hence, less rolling and folding needed.
Then, you have Shortcrust pastries, defined by products such as fruit tarts, chicken pies, mushroom pies, chocolate tarts. These products have a wonderfully crumbly texture that is perfect for sweet and savoury fillings.
Compared to puff and flaky pastries, these do not puff up. Instead, they are sturdy and crumbly.
To keep the shortcrust pastry short and tender, the gluten development needs to be restricted.
This is done by rubbing fat into the flour, as fat coats the flour, minimising gluten formation, and a small amount of liquid is added to bring the crumb together.
Next, Choux Pastry. These, of course, are the widely loved profiteroles, cream puffs, éclairs. They are known for its crispy outer shell and hollow interior which allow for sweet fillings to be piped in.
To get this pastry, flour, water, and butter are cooked on a stove top forming a dough to gelatinize the flour so that it can absorb a higher moisture content, then eggs are added to form a thick batter that is piped into shape.
The hollow centre then forms during baking, thanks to the steam released from the high moisture content of the batter.
Lastly, we have Filo Pastry, such as baklava, sausage rolls and spinach and cheese filo pastry. They are sweet AND savoury with paper-thin, delicate and flaky pastries.
Paper-thin sheets of unleavened flour dough are separated by a thin film of butter.
Then, the filo is wrapped and brushed with another layer of butter.
Now that we are familiar with the varieties of pastries, let’s look at the key ingredients needed to make them.
Firstly, we pick a flour that enables a flaky and crumbly product.
In order to achieve this, we need a medium protein flour, which is all purpose flour.
The reason is that if the flour is too high in protein, it will result in a tough pastry due to its strong gluten formed.
If the flour is too low in protein, it will result in a doughy pastry due to insufficient gluten strength. The pastry will also not hold its shape well.
Therefore, the ideal flour for making pastries and cookies is all purpose flour which has a protein content of 9% to 10.5%.
Next, we need fats in pastries to give it the unique flavour and texture.
Fats are essential in pastries because it coats and separates the flour particles, which helps to lubricate and tenderise the pastry. It gives texture to the final product.
The product’s flavour and texture also depends on the type of fats you choose – between butter, margarine and shortening.
Margarine and shortening are commonly used to make flaky and crumbly pastries due to their higher melting point (Margarine at 35 to 38°C and Shortening at 46 to 48°C).
Making them easier to handle despite a warmer room temperature.
However, it often leaves an unpleasant and waxy taste in the mouth.
On the other hand, butter has a melting point at 32 to 35 °C, which means the product would spread before the binding agent firms up.
For a better mouthfeel and tender pastry, butter is the best choice as it adds flavour and richness.
Although, it is a common practice to use half the amount of butter and half of margarine to make pastries.
There are specially made pure butter sheets for pastries such as Anchor’s Lamination Butter Sheet that is convenient and ideal for any bakery due to its higher melting point.
This solves the pain point of managing butter’s lower melting point, whilst meeting pastry chefs’ handling requirements.
Next, Liquid: Water and milk are the most commonly used liquids used in pastry making, but orange or lemon juice, cream, eggs, and other additions can also be added.
They contribute to the flavour and texture of the pastry, giving it structure and flakiness to the crust.
For example, if too much liquid is added, the crust will be tough. If too little liquid the crust will fall apart.
During baking, the liquid turns to steam, helping to leaven the pastry. Water helps to develop the gluten, therefore the liquid starts the development of gluten in the flour.
Sugar gives the crust colour and flavour. During production, having sugar also makes it easier to sheet out the dough.
Salt enhances the taste and flavour to the pastries. Salt must be dissolved in the liquid before added to the mix to ensure even distribution. By using unsalted butter, you could control the amount of salt.
Eggs. While eggs may not be a core ingredient for pastry making, it does help to improve the flakiness or crumbly texture of pastry.
It contains proteins that provide structure, which helps to bind the dough. The protein in egg coagulates when there is heat during baking, which helps form the batter and provides stability.
Which brings us to cookies. Cookies are one of my favourite snacks because they are crispy, sweet and so easy to eat.
Just like other form of pastries, cookies are the perfect example of how Flour, Fats, Liquid, Sugar, Salt and Eggs affect the product.
In conclusion, by knowing the ingredients needed for pastry making as well as how it affects the final product, you can make the perfect pastry that is soft and short, flaky or crumbly.