Want to try baking? Been asked to bring some dessert to a dinner party? Planning a party for the holidays? Brush up on your knowledge of pastries for the perfect treat.
While pastries are always a part of baker’s offerings, they don’t always have to be sweet. In fact, pastries come in different sizes, shapes, textures, and flavors.
What are Pastries?
Pastries are being made for thousands of years worldwide, and it plays a part in many different cuisines and cultures. It takes many forms, shapes, and sizes and can be served for breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner.
Pastries are often categorized with breads. While both are bakers’ goods, they are actually different.
The term “pastries” encompasses baked products made from flour, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, shortening, and baking powder. It can also refer to pastry dough from which these kinds of baked products are made. Pastries can be savory or sweet, and sweet pastries are often described as bakers’ confectionery.
Pastries have higher fat content than bread, giving them a flakier and more crumbly texture. A good pastry is light, fatty, and airy but firm enough to support the weight of its filling.
Major Types of Pastries
1. Shortcrust pastry
Shortcrust pastry is the most common type of pastry. It’s made of flour, butter, fat, salt, and water to bind the dough. Making this pastry includes mixing the fat and flour, adding water, chilling, then rolling out the dough. This results in tender, flaky layers in the dough.
2. Puff pastry
Rich and flaky, puff pastry is often considered the king of pastries because of its highly equivalent layers and colossal rise. It’s made using laminated dough consisting of flour, salt, butter, and water. Layers of dough and fat are sandwiched and rolled together, then overlapped a number of times to create layers. When cooked, the trapped air between layers of dough and fat rises, resulting in a light, flaky, airy, and tender pastry. Puff pastry has a delicate structure, so it works best when used as a flat base for dry ingredients or as a topping for pies.
3. Filo pastry
Filo pastry is notably different from both shortcrust and puff pastry. Made with less fat, the pastry comes in paper-thin sheets that need to be layered together to create a thin and flaky casing for fillings. These pastries are very delicate as they can rip or tear easily when used, making them suitable for slightly drier fillings. It also tends to dry out very fast when baking, so you need to be quick when working with it. It’s better if it stays moist.
4. Choux pastry
Choux pastry is a type of pastry that’s very light, crisp, and often filled with cream. It’s closer to a dough before being cooked, which gives it the ability to be piped into various shapes. The name originates from the French word “choux,” which means cabbage, as it creates a rough, cabbage-like shape after cooking. A mixture of milk or water and butter is heated together, and when the butter melts, flour is added to form a dough. Then, eggs are beaten to the dough to enrich it. The high concentration of water causes the pastry to be light and hollow.
5. Hot water crust pastry
Hot water crust pastry is often used for making savory pies like game pies, pork pies, and steak and kidney pies. It was traditionally used for making hand-raised pies. Usually, the ingredients include hot water, flour, and lard. The lard is melted and brought to a boil before the flour is mixed. The result is a hot and sticky paste that can be shaped by hand.
Pastries often Served at Parties
Wondering what pastries to serve at your next party? Here are some of the most popular pastries served at parties:
Croissants are a type of puff pastry from France that has a rich and flaky roll with a distinct crescent shape. It’s best when made with fresh and pure butter and a sweet yeast mixture. When baked correctly, the yellowish-white inside would be slightly elastic when pulled from the middle, making it great for covering with a spoon of butter or fresh jam. It’s also often combined with cheese or chocolate.
Typically eaten at breakfast, croissants are often served at tea parties and brunches.
Pies are a baked dish made of pastry dough casing with a filling of various sweet and savory ingredients. Sweet pies can be filled with fruit, nuts, sweetened vegetables, brown sugar, or other thick fillings made of eggs and dairy. Meanwhile, savory pies can be filled with meat, eggs, cheese, or a mixture of two ingredients. Here are some popular pies served at parties:
- Apple pie – made of flour and lard crust, with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and of course, apples. This pie is often served at autumn get-togethers.
- Banoffee pie – made of bananas, toffee with whipped cream, and a cookie crust. It’s usually topped with grated chocolate.
- Berry pie (blueberry pie, blackberry pie, strawberry pie) – made with berry-based filling like blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. It’s often served during the summertime.
- Black bottom pie – made with two flavors of custard: the bottom is chocolate custard, while the top layer is rum-flavored vanilla custard. The pie is topped with a layer of sweetened whipped cream and some thin chocolate shavings.
- Chess pie – made of a cornmeal crust, eggs, butter, sugar, and vanilla. It’s a sweet Southern specialty like a pecan pie without the pecans. It’s a winter recipe usually served when fresh fruits are out of season.
- Chiffon pie – almost like custard pie or cream pie, but uses egg whites and gelatin in the base to provide a lighter and fluffier filling.
- Key lime pie – made of a pie crust or graham cracker crust, kiwi and lime, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk. It can be served with no topping or topped with meringue topping or whipped cream.
- Mince pie – made of dried fruits, sugar, and spices. It’s usually served during the Christmas season, filled with fresh and candied fruits, sugar, nuts, spices, wine, and suet. It was known as mincemeat pie back then, as it traditionally contained venison.
- Mud pie – made of cooked chocolate filling in a crust made of vanilla or chocolate cookies or graham crackers. It’s often topped with whipped cream. It’s sometimes made with coffee mousse or other coffee fillings and a chocolate fudge sauce to make the “mud.”
- Pecan pie – made with plain pastry and pecans bound in a rich filling of corn syrup, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. It’s often garnished with whipped cream. It’s often served during the holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Pumpkin pie – made with a spiced, pumpkin-based custard filling with a single pie shell and rarely with a top crust. It’s often flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and powdered ginger.
- Rhubarb pie – made with a rhubarb filling and a bottom pie crust and different styles of the upper crust. Often, a lattice-style upper crust is used for style. A strawberry rhubarb pie is a common variation.
- Sweet potato pie – made of mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, evaporated milk, eggs, and spices like nutmeg. The custard filling may vary from light and silky to dense. It’s often served at Thanksgiving and Christmas parties in place of pumpkin pie in the Southern United States.
- Breakfast pie – filled with breakfast items like eggs, cheese, and breakfast meats.
- Meat pie – filled with pork, poultry, beef, lamb, or even fish, plus herbs and vegetables.
- Pot pie – a stew baked inside two flakey crusts. It differs from a meat pie, which is simply a savory two-crust pie of minced meat in plain pastry.
- Shepherd pie – consists of minced meat – usually lamb but sometimes beef – covered with a top crust of mashed potato. It doesn’t have a bottom crust. It’s often served with peas.
- Steak pie – made from stewing steak and beef gravy enclosed in a pastry shell. It’s often served with steak chips (or fried, thickly sliced potatoes). In the UK, steak pies are a traditional food eaten at soccer games, while in Scotland, it’s often served as a dinner for New Year’s Day.
Donuts are made of leavened fried dough popular in many countries and are prepared in different forms. It’s usually deep-fried from flour dough. Once the donuts are fried, they may be glazed with icing, chocolate ganache, sugar icing, or topped with powdered sugar, sprinkles, cinnamon, or fruit. The most common types are the ring donut, the filled donut, and donut holes.
Because it’s very accessible, it’s not often made from scratch. Most people buy store-bought donuts and present them at a dessert table. You can serve it as a donut tower, but a trendy way to serve it is by using a donut wall. It’s great to serve alongside coffee.
A Danish pastry, often shortened to just Danish, is a sweet, multilayered, laminated pastry in the viennoiserie tradition. It’s a popular breakfast buffet item, available in flavors like chocolate, cheese, cherry, and apple. These are fluffy and crispy on the outside and flaky and buttery on the inside. It’s great to serve at a breakfast party or brunch.
Macarons are sweet French meringue-based confection made with egg whites, almonds, sugar and sandwiched around a layer of buttercream and ganache. They are round in shape and bite-sized. It comes in a wide variety of flavors and colors.
Macarons can be decorative for a dessert table, making it a popular pastry to serve at parties. Usually, macarons in colors that fit the theme of the party are displayed. These confections are also beautiful when served on a macaron tower.
Eclairs are long pastries made with choux dough and are filled with custard or chocolate-flavored cream. Then, they are topped with fondant icing. This French dessert is a staple at any gourmet bakery or French patisserie. It can be served at any kind of party, but especially at French-themed parties.
Originating from Italy, cannoli are made of a tube-like shell of fried pastry dough loaded up with a creamy and sweet filling. It’s usually filled with ricotta cheese, which can be flavored with vanilla, chocolate, marsala, pistachio, rosewater, and other flavorings. Chocolate chips or candied citron can be mixed into the filling, and the open ends of the tube are decorated with pistachio nuts and chopped chocolates. Its size ranges no bigger than a finger to as large as a fist.
A German type of pastry, strudel, is a sweet, layered filo pastry with a usually sweet and sometimes savory filling. Sweet fillings often include apple, cherry, cheese, and poppy seed, while savory varieties include cabbage and spinach. The traditional strudel pastry dough is elastic and stretchable.
With a unique knotted shape, pretzels are made with baked dough. Pretzels have hard and soft varieties and can be made with both sweet and savory flavors. Salt is the most common seasoning for pretzels, but other flavorings used are cheese, mustard, sugar, chocolate, sweet glazing, cinnamon, nuts, and seeds. Most soft pretzels are best eaten shortly after preparation, while hard-baked pretzels have a long shelf life.
Quiche is a kind of custard pie, but it’s so popular on its own that it deserves its own category. It has a pastry crust and a filling of eggs, milk, or cream, but sometimes, they can be made without a crust. Quiches are rich and savory and are often made with ham, bacon, mushrooms, onions, herbs, and shellfish. Mini quiches are usually served as hors d’oeuvres at parties, while regular-sized quiches are served as lunch or dinner entrée or as a first course.
A baked dish with a filling on top of a pastry base, tarts have an open top. They are sometimes confused with pies, but pies have a covered top. The pastry used for tarts is usually shortcrust pastry, and the filling may be sweet or savory. Tarts can be made with sweet ingredients like chocolate, custard, and fruit, or savory ingredients like quiches.
12. Cream puffs
Known as profiteroles in France, cream puffs are a French dessert made with choux pastry balls filled with whipped cream, custard, pastry cream, or ice cream. These puffs can be left plain or topped with chocolate ganache, powdered sugar, or fondant icing.
Cobbler is a cooked fruit dish with toppings different from other coked fruits with toppings. The fruit is baked in a baking dish or casserole, then a biscuit dough or shortcake batter is dropped onto the fruit before baking. It’s perfect for serving warm with the cool and creamy contrast of ice cream or whipped cream.
Baklava is a Middle Eastern dessert made of layers of phyllo pastry filled with a mixture of sugar and chopped nuts. The pastry is sliced, baked, then brushed with a yummy honey syrup flavored with lemon or rosewater. The honey makes the pastry very sweet.
Brioche is a combination of bread and pastry, with a high amount of butter, milk, and egg, which makes it rich, tender, and flaky. Sometimes, it’s used as a bun for a tastier burger or used as bread on sandwiches.
Usually portrayed as small pockets with hot fillings, empanadas are crescent-shaped, flaky pastry batter pies found in Latin America. They are made by folding dough over a filling, which can be meat, tomato, cheese, corn, and other ingredients. Empanadas are easy, tasty, and filling snacks, making them great party food. It’s best served when warm.
A beignet is a deep-fried choux pastry dough similar to the Spanish churros, German Spritzkuchen, and Italian zeppoles. It takes different flavors and shapes depending on local preferences. In New Orleans, beignets look like donut holes and are sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. This type of beignet is often served as a dessert with a sweet dipping sauce like chocolate.
For more tips and recommendations, you may also check out our Ideas for Serving Coffee and Donuts at Your Party.