Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/991

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Pastry.—Pastry is one of the most important branches of culinary science, and possibly one of the oldest, for at a very early period the Orientals understood the art of utilizing flour for this purpose. In its primitive form pastry was simply a mixture of flour, oil and honey; and it appears to have been confined to these substances for centuries, even among the southern nations of the European continent. At the commencement of the middle ages a change began to take place; butter frequently replaced the oil, salt was used as a flavouring ingredient, and the qualities of richness and lightness which are imparted by eggs had been discovered. The next step was to use paste as an enclosure for meat, and when this advance was made, its use in combination with fruit, cream, etc., followed as a matter of course. The art advanced step by step until the middle of the nineteenth century, the dinner tables of the intervening period having afforded considerable scope for the display of constructive and decorative skill. Since the dinner à la Russe banished almost everything of an edible nature from the table, any talent in this direction has been chiefly expended on small pastries, which, if less imposing in structure than those of past ages, yet afford a wide field for ingenuity, taste and manipulative skill.

The recipes on the following pages comprise what may be termed standard pastes, and also their many variations. Numerous illustrations are given of the methods in which the respective preparations may be utilized for pies, tarts, tartlets, etc., with the directions for compounding the mixtures employed for filling such pastry.

Pastry Making.—The quality especially to be desired in pastry is lightness, and this depends almost entirely upon the amount of cold air in the pastry when expansion takes place in the oven. The best pastry is therefore that which contains the greatest quantity of the coldest air prior to baking. The repeated foldings and rollings to which puff paste is subjected have this increase of air in view; while in short crust the expansion is aided by adding baking-powder, or other acid, and alkaline substances, which, when moistened, combine to form a constituent identical in its composition and effect with that of the