The many different types of pastry desserts are generally made from four basic types of pastry dough. Shortcrust pastry, the most common type of pastry, is typically used to make pies and pie crust. Rough puff or puff pastry is lighter, flakier, and used in tarts and turnovers. Phyllo is an extremely thin and delicate pastry used for baklava and spanakopita while cream puffs and eclairs are typically made from pâte à choux pastry.
Pies, tarts, and quiches are made with shortcrust, the most common type of pastry dough. Very easy to make, the basic ingredients — flour, fat, water, and salt — are combined and rolled onto a flat surface. The flat pastry dough is then shaped, filled with fruit or some other ingredient and then baked. Desserts made with shortcrust may use the pastry as a foundation crust as well as a top crust.
The main ingredient in strudel, turnovers, and tarts is rough puff or puff pastry and is considered one of the most light and flaky of all doughs that can be used to create pastry desserts. A Napoleon is created by combining alternating layers of puff pastry and cream, custard, jam or other ingredients. A modified form of this pastry is also used to make light and flaky croissants.
Greek baklava is one of the most common pastry desserts that can be made from phyllo pastry dough. This type of pastry is made up of very thin, translucent sheets of party dough. These ultra-thin layers are typically grouped together to make stronger sheets of dough. Since it is so thin, phyllo dries out very easily and must be kept under a a damp cloth or layer of plastic during preparation. To help them brown, the individual layers are typically coated with oil or butter. This pastry dough can be quickly oven-baked or fried.
Pâte à choux, or simply choux pastry, is one of those French pastry doughs that requires precise timing and very particular handling. This light pastry dough is made by boiling fat and water, adding flour, cooling the mixture, and then gradually adding eggs. Pastry desserts made with this type of dough include cream puffs, profiteroles, or eclairs filled with different flavors of cream or custard. Some of these pastries are iced, glazed, or topped with chocolate.
Most pastry desserts are made from baked or fried pastry dough combined with creams, fruit filling, chocolate or other sweet ingredients. Some types of pastry like pâte à choux may prove difficult to work with, requiring delicate handling and precisely measured ingredients. Others like shortcrust are very simple to prepare and may be used to easily create some tasty pastry desserts.