Wheat flour is essential to pastry-making because it is the only flour with the gluten that allows dough to stretch and expand in the oven. Different types of wheat flours are suited to different types of pastry. Pastry flour, which is milled from soft wheat, is best for rich short crust and refrigerator dough’s. Regular short crust and chou pastry require allpurpose flour, a mixture of hard and soft wheats, with a gluten content high enough to make dough’s resilient but still tender. To produce tender puff pastry, a mixture of all-purpose flour and low-gluten cake flour is recommended. Dough’s for strudel and phyllo should be made from strong, high-gluten bread flour that can stand up to stretching into large thin sheets.
Fat, in the form of butter, margarine, solid vegetable shortening, lard, or vegetable oil, plays several important roles in pastry-making. In addition to adding flavor, the fat coats and separates flour particles, helping to lubricate and tenderize the pastry. Because fat is not absorbed by the other ingredients, it acts as a spacer, contributing flakiness to the pastry. The method of incorporating the fat into the dough affects the final texture, and differs with the various pastry types. Whether the fat is creamed, cut in, rolled in, or melted, it should be evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
Water and milk are the most commonly used liquids in pastry but orange and lemon juice, cream, egg, and other additions can contribute to the flavor and texture of the pastry. The liquid starts the development of gluten in the flour. During baking, the liquid turns to steam, helping to leaven the pastry. The amount of liquid used will affect the tenderness of the dough, as does the fat and type of flour.
Source: Wheat Foods Council www.wheatfoods.org
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