Got baking on your mind? Been asked to bring dessert to a dinner? Brush up on your knowledge of the 10 most popular pastries for the perfect sweet treat every time!
While pastries are a part of a baker’s offerings, surprisingly enough they don’t necessarily have to be sweet. In fact, pastries come in a variety of sizes, shapes, flavours and textures. What’s more, they’re made from ingredients such as flour, sugar, milk, butter, shortening, baking powder and eggs.
Pastries are different from breads in that they have higher fat content, which gives them a flakier, more crumbly texture.
- The perfect pastry is light and airy, but firm enough to be able to support any filling it might have.
The five basic types of pastries
The five basic types of pastries are shortcrust pastry, filo pastry, choux pastry, flaky pastry and puff pastry.
- These pastry types are combined with various ingredients and flavours around the world to create such cultural staples as: samosas in India, empanadas in Spain, pain au chocolat in France and spanakopita in Greece.
In North America, however, the word “pastry” has a slightly different connotation. Here are our top 10 versions of what it means:
A type of puff pastry from France, croissants are a rich, flaky roll named for their distinct crescent shape.
- Typically eaten at breakfast, croissants can be made by layering yeast-leavened dough with butter, and combined with cheese or chocolate.
A pie is a baked dish of fruit, meat or vegetables, typically made of a pastry-dough crust and often topped with pastry.
- While apple pie is a fixture in North American culture, other popular pie flavours include cherry, peach, pecan and blueberry.
A sweet pastry and specialty of Denmark, danishes are a popular breakfast buffet item, available in flavours like apple, cherry, chocolate and cheese.
- When baked correctly, they are fluffy and crispy on the outside, and buttery and flaky on the inside.
Macarons (not to be confused with macaroons) are a sweet French meringue-based confection made with egg whites, sugar and almonds, sandwiched around a layer of ganache or buttercream.
- They are round and bite-sized, and come in a wide variety of colours and flavours, like pistachio, rose and salted caramel.
An oblong, hollow pastry made with choux dough and filled with custard or chocolate-flavoured cream, éclairs are a staple at any gourmet bakery or French pâtisserie.
- They are topped with fondant icing — the same type of icing that is commonly used on profiteroles.
A German type of layered pastry, strudels are made with filo pastry and a filling that is usually sweet.
- Popular varieties include apple, cheese and sour cherry. They are often served with cream.
- Cannoli originate from Italy, and are made with a tube-like shell of fried pastry dough filled with a creamy, sweet filling usually made with ricotta cheese.
- They can range in size no bigger than a finger to as large as a fist.
Unmistakeable with their unique knotted shape, pretzels are made with baked dough in both soft and hard varieties.
Originating in Europe, pretzels can be made with both sweet and savoury flavours and a variety of toppings and coatings.
A baked dish made with a filling over a pastry base, tarts (unlike pies) have an open top.
Traditionally baked with shortcrust pastry, tarts can be made with sweet ingredients like custard and fruit, or savoury ingredients (often called quiches).
Called cream puffs in the United States, profiteroles are a French dessert made with choux pastry balls filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, custard or ice cream.
The puffs may be left plain or topped with powdered sugar, fondant icing or chocolate ganache.