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  • Writer's pictureJames Howe

Types of pastry and how to use them

The Big 4

Types of pastry and how to us them
The big 4 types of pastry and how to use them

You can’t have a discussion about the worlds best foods without mentioning pastry. And with good reason: pastries are one of the most beloved and commonly eaten bakes in the world today. In fact, there are more than 300 varieties of them! So what is it about pastries that makes them so adored by so many? Is it their flaky crust or moist interiors? Could it be their versatility? Or is it because they are just plain delicious? Whatever your answer may be, the fact remains that knowledge of good pastry is a valuable skill for any Chef or home cook to master.


Types of Pastry and how to use them

Shortcrust Pastry

Let's start with the easiest one of the lot. Shortcrust is probably the first pastry a young chef would encounter in their training. Mainly because it is easy to make, easy to bake and easy(ist) to patch us if it goes a slightly wrong.


Shortcrust can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes. most commonly in Pies, Quiches & Tarts. You can quickly convert a basic shortcrust for a sweet dish just by sprinkling a little sugar over the pastry before blind baking. A process of cooking without filling, often with lined with greaseproof paper & beans to weigh it down and help keep the shape.

Basic Recipe

Types of pastry and how to us them
Shortcrust pastry

250g plain flour

125g butter, diced, and kept cool in the fridge

1-3 tbsp milk or water

pinch salt

Sift the plain flour into a large bowl or the largest bowl. Add the diced butter rub in with your fingertips. Add the salt and mix again.

Gradually add the liquid by starting with 1 tbsp milk or water, then adding a little more until the mixture comes together to form a dough.

Tip the mixture onto a surface and gently bring it together with your hands, then shape into a disc.

Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 20 minutes before using.


Puff Pastry

Puff Pastry can be tricky to master at first. The biggest mistake I see new chefs make is try and rush it. I know it can be frustrating when you just want to enjoy its flakey goodness. But give it the TLC it needs and you won't regret it.


Again, Puff can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes. You can use it for a delicious pie with an impressively risen top, classics such as a Beef Wellington, sweet treats like a Mille Feuilles, or in canapés like a Vol Au Vent.

Basic Recipe

Types of pastry and how to us them
Puff pastry

250g strong flour , plus extra for dusting

225g cold butter

Put the flour and a pinch of salt in the food processor. Turn it on and steadily pour in 150ml of water. When the dough comes together, cover it in cling film and chill for 20 mins.

Lightly flour your surface and roll the dough into a 25cm circle. Put the butter in between two pieces of baking parchment and soften it by tapping it with a rolling pin. Cut the butter in half and repeat the process until the butter is pliable but still cold. Reshape to the size roughly of a postcard.

Put the butter in the centre of the pastry and fold over the right and left sides of the circle, overlapping in the middle. Press the dough with your rolling pin to make it longer and then lightly mark into thirds. Fold the bottom third up to cover the middle third and the top third down. Seal the dough gently by pressing down on the edges with your rolling pin. Give the dough a quarter turn.

Roll the dough out to a long rectangle (roughly 18 x 38cm), keeping the edges square and the sides straight. Mark the dough into thirds again, fold the bottom third up and the top third down. Seal the edges and give the dough a quarter turn. Repeat one more time, cover and chill for 20 mins.

Repeat step four twice more, chilling each time. Chill for one hour before using.

Pro tip *After each turn, use your thumb to leave an imprint of how many turns you have completed. That way you won't forget half way through the process.


Choux Pastry

Choux is wonderfully light and crisp pastry that is a real treat to eat. Master this one and you'll have the ability to whip up an absolute show stopper of a dessert.


While it does have some savoury applications, this pastry is more often used in sweet dishes. Eclairs and profiteroles are probably the most recognisable choux dishes ever. Fill with Cream, Custard, Jam? Top with Chocolate or Icing? So many options that sometimes it's hard to choose!

Or deep fry and roll in sugar for fantastic Churros.

Basic Recipe

Types of pastry and how to us them
Choux pastry

50g butter, cut into cubes

2 tbsp caster sugar

75g strong white flour, sifted with a pinch of fine sea salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Put the butter and 2 tsp of the caster sugar in a saucepan with 150ml water.

Place the pan over a low heat until the butter and sugar have melted, then bring to the boil.

Take off the heat, add the flour all at once and beat energetically with a wooden spoon until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.

Leave to cool for 15 mins,

then beat in the eggs bit by bit until you have a stiff, glossy mixture (this process is much easier in a food processor).


Filo Pastry

Filo is originally from the Middle East and is often considered the recipe for modern puff pastry. It does not rise like puff but it shares that lovely crisp, flakey finish.


In its own right, Filo can be used to make lovely Parcels, Tarts, Strudels that can be sweet or savoury. But also in recent years Filo has risen to prominance as a healthier alternative to Puff or Shortcrust due to the lower fat content. So feel free to experiment with this one by swapping out the usual Pastry for a few sheets of filo.

Basic Recipe

Types of pastry and how to us them
Filo pastry

450g Plain Flour 1/2tsp Salt 300ml Warm Water 30ml Olive Oil

First things first, pop the flour and salt into large bowl and mix together. Slowly pour in the water and oil mixing together as you add it. You can use a freestanding mixer with a dough hook attachment or a fork and mix by hand. Once combined beat your dough together for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth dough which is still slightly sticky. Pop your dough onto your work surface dusted with cornflour. Divide your dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Pop onto a baking tray dusted with corn flour making sure your balls of dough are spaced slightly apart, you might need to put spread your dough across 2 trays to ensure there is enough space between each piece. Dust the balls of filo dough with corn flour and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave your dough to rest for 2 hours. Once your dough has rested, roll each piece of dough on a surface dusted with corn flour. Make sure you use plenty of cornflour on your dough and rolling pin as the dough will be a bit sticky. Roll your dough into a rectangle about ¼ cm thickness. Once you have rolled out a sheet of filo, place on a piece of baking parchment dusted with corn flour. Then dust the sheet of filo with cornflour and cover with a damp tea towel. Place the next sheet of filo on top of the previous sheet and then cover with the damp tea towel, repeat until you have rolled out all 12 sheets of filo. You filo pastry is now ready to use or keep refrigerated and covered with cling film to prevent it drying out.


Final Thoughts

So that's the Big 4 types of pastry and how to use them. Now this is not by any means an inclusive list. These 4 go on to form many derivatives. So by learning these you will unlock a world possibility in the kitchen. Good Luck and remember, it's easy when you know Howe.


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