The Evolution Of Pastry . . .

The origins of pastry, like the pie, are shrouded in myth and folklore but it is known that the Romans, the Greeks and the Phoenicians all had the thin filo style pastes in their repertoire, while there is some evidence to suggest that the ancient Egyptians made and ate confections derived from pastry. Pastry making also has a strong tradition in many parts of Asia. Chinese pastry is made from rice, or different types of flour, with fruit, sweet bean paste or sesame-based fillings.

Most, if not all, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries have the filo style of pastry in their ‘common’ culinary history: they had the knowledge in the form of ‘professional’ bakers and access to the required ingredients such as flour, oil and honey.

The European traditions of pastry-making can also be traced back to the flaky doughs that were in use throughout the Mediterranean in ancient times.

These recipes and methods were introduced into Western Europe by soldiers returning from the Crusades.

In the medieval cuisine of Northern Europe it was found that they were able to produce good, stiff pastries because they cooked with shortening and butter.

The stiff, empty pastries, or cofynes that formed the basis of early pie production were a direct result of these developments. Medieval pastries also included small tarts to add richness to the snack.

It was not until about the Mid 16th century that actual pastry recipes began to appear. These recipes were adopted and adapted throughout Europe, resulting in the manifold baking traditions from Portugal in the West, to Russia in the East

Many culinary historians consider French pastry chef Antonin Carême (1784–1833) to have been the first great master of pastry making in modern times. His influence has been phenomenal.

Beginning in the 19th century, the British brought western-style pastry to the far east. But it was though French influences in the 1950s that western pastry became popular in Chinese-speaking regions starting with Hong Kong.

Other Asian countries such as Korea have traditionally prepared pastry-confections made with flour, rice, fruits, and regional specific ingredients to make numerous unique desserts. Japan also has specialized pastry-confections of its own though it should be noted that pastries that originated in Asia are distinct from those that originated in the West which are, as a general rule, much sweeter.

The recipes I have appended here are collated from the ‘Art Of Home Cooking’ volume, which forms part of the archive, produced by the manufacturer of Stork margarines sometime during the fifties. There are two further, earlier documents that I shall post in follow up to this!

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