Pastry Dough: Puff Pastry, Choux Pastry, Shortcrust

Pastry chefs and bakers make a lot of dough, including puff pastry dough, shortcrust dough, and choux pastry dough.

Puff Pastry

Best known for being flaky and light, puff pastry is a kind of unleavened dough. It is formed by many different layers (mostly of fat, such as butter). In French, the culinary term for puff pastry is pâte feuilletée, where the verb feuilleter means “to leaf through.”

While the French croissant is also a flaky pastry, its base is not typical puff pastry dough. Rather, croissant dough is leavened, meaning it contains yeast, which causes it to rise.

Flaky Pastry

Also of note: flaky pastry dough is technically not the same thing as puff pastry dough. In the case of puff pastry dough, the layers are even and thus are more puffed (more air gets between the layers). In flaky pastry dough, there are chunks or lumps of fat (butter, lard) separating bits and pieces of dough, rather than full layers of fat separating layers of pastry dough.

Choux Pastry

This type of pastry dough, called pâte à choux in French, is made from eggs, butter, flour, and water. There is no leavening agent on its ingredient list because the cooking technique for this dough puffs the pastry through the use of steam. Choux pastry is the base of such French pâtisseries as éclairs, profiteroles, croquembouches, and beignets. Such desserts are often filled with cream and/or topped or covered in chocolate.

Shortcrust Dough

Shortcrust is the type of dough used to make pies and tarts. It is the simplest pastry dough to make; it’s ingredients are: flour, fat (butter, lard), water, and salt. Note that sugar is not among the base ingredients for shortcrust pastry, meaning that this type of dough is used for both savory and sweet items. When sugar is added to the dough mixture, the result is often called sweetcrust pastry.

Phyllo Dough

Phyllo dough (or Filo dough, Fillo dough) is sometimes mistaken for a variant of puff pastry. Unlike puff pastry dough, however, phyllo dough consists of a layering of extremely thin or paper-thin sheets of dough. These dough sheets are not separated by fat, like in the case of puff pastry dough.