The use of chocolate in pastry-making in the west, so commonplace today, arose only after Spanish and Portuguese traders brought chocolate to Europe from the New World starting in the 16th century. Many culinary historians consider French pastry chef Antonin Carême (1784–1833) to have been the first great master of pastry making in modern times.
Puff pastry has many layers that cause it to expand or “puff” when baked. Puff pastry is made using flour, butter, salt, and water. The pastry rises up due to the water and fats expanding as they turn into steam upon heating. Puff pastries come out of the oven light, flaky, and tender.
In the medieval cuisine of Northern Europe, pastry chefs were able to produce nice, stiff pastries because they cooked with shortening and butter. Some incomplete lists of ingredients have been found in medieval cookbooks, but no full, detailed versions. There were stiff, empty pastries called coffins or "huff paste", that were eaten by servants only and included an egg yolk glaze to help make them more enjoyable to consume. Medieval pastries also included small tarts to add richness.
Pastry is differentiated from bread by having a higher fat content, which contributes to a flaky or crumbly texture. A good pastry is light and airy and fatty, but firm enough to support the weight of the filling. When making a shortcrust pastry, care must be taken to blend the fat and flour thoroughly before adding any liquid.
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