When we think of pastries, we often picture flaky croissants. But have you ever wondered if all kinds of pastries use yeast? In this article, we’ll explore pastry types to find out how common yeast really is in baked goods.
There are essentially seven types of pastries. Among them, leavened dough, leavened flaky pastry, and presburger pastry contain yeast, while puff pastry, shortcrust pastry, choux pastry, and filo pastry are all made without yeast.
Yeasted Pastries Overview
In this overview, we will examine three primary categories of yeasted pastries.
Leavened Dough Pastries
The yeast-leavened dough is commonly used for a wide range of sweet and savory pastries. This type of dough yields a soft, tender texture with a slightly chewy crumb. The rise of these baked goods occurs through yeast fermentation.
Pastries of this type are mostly made from enriched yeast dough, which, alongside the essential elements of flour, salt, water, and yeast, often incorporates ingredients like sugar, eggs, fats, dairy products, and flavorings such as vanilla, lemon zest, and cinnamon.
Yeasted pastries are significant in culinary traditions across numerous European countries, particularly during festive occasions. Examples of these treats include cinnamon and cocoa rolls, poppy seed or walnut-filled strudels, and jam or cottage cheese-stuffed buchtels.
Furthermore, various breakfast pastries like pretzels, kipferl, buns, and rolls are made using yeast-leavened dough.
Leavened Flaky Dough Pastries
Leavened Flaky Dough Pastries are renowned for their distinctive layered texture, achieved through lamination. This technique involves folding butter into the dough multiple times, creating layers that result in a light, airy interior and a crisp, golden-brown exterior upon baking.
Two key processes contribute to the rise of these baked goods: yeast fermentation and expansion through steam produced by heat.
Pastries made from leavened flaky dough are popular all over Europe and often enjoyed for breakfast. Their roots can be traced back to the Viennese kipferl, originating as far back as the 13th century.
This category includes the iconic French croissant, the Danish pastries (Wienerbrød) popular in Scandinavia, and the plunderteige in German-speaking regions. While the preparation method for these three dough types is similar, the key distinction lies in the amount of butter used, as well as the presence of eggs – croissants omit eggs, whereas plunderteige and Danish pastries include them.
Presburger pastry is a yeasted shortcrust dough known for its high quality. It is commonly used in European cuisines, especially in Austria and Hungary, often during festive occasions like Christmas.
The ingredients for Presburger pastry include flour, butter, powdered sugar, egg yolk, a pinch of salt, milk, and yeast. Its preparation differs from that of regular shortcrust dough as activated yeast is added. The assembled dough is then chilled in the refrigerator for half an hour, rolled thinly, and filled.
The most popular pastries made from Presburger dough are crescent rolls (known as kipferl in German) and strudels, filled with ingredients like walnuts, poppy seeds, and jam. To achieve the distinctive marbled appearance, the surface of Presburger pastries is first brushed with egg yolk and then with egg white after drying, just before baking.
The Overview of Non-Yeasted Pastries
In this overview of pastries made without yeast, we’ll explore four main categories: Flaky Pastry (Shortcrust Pastry), Choux Pastry, Puff Pastry, and Filo (Phyllo) Pastry.
Shortcrust pastries, such as Linzer, and the traditional Scottish shortbread dough, serve as the base for pies, cakes, tarts, and various types of small baked goods. In addition to butter, flour, and egg yolks, they often incorporate ground almonds or walnuts. Shortcrust doughs are made without the addition of leavening agents.
There are two methods for preparing shortcrust pastry: The first and most common method involves rubbing cold butter into the flour, and then combining it with the other ingredients. The second method involves mixing room-temperature butter with powdered sugar and egg yolks, then adding the flour.
Before rolling and shaping, flaky pastries should be chilled in the refrigerator to allow the butter to solidify within them.
During the mixing or kneading process, fat coats the flour particles, preventing the formation of gluten strands. This ensures that shortcrust pastry maintains its tender and crumbly texture. While on the subject of crumbly dough, you may be interested in my article on what can make shortbread dough too crumbly.
Choux pastry, known as Pâte à choux in French (which translates to “cabbage dough”), has a history that dates back to the Renaissance era. Its origins are often attributed to the Italian chefs of Catherine de’ Medici.
Choux pastry is a fundamental dough in French cuisine, used to create pastries like cream puffs, éclairs, and profiteroles. It also serves as the base for iconic treats like Croquembouche, as well as cakes such as Paris-Brest and Saint-Honoré. In terms of texture, Choux dough is a dense paste that’s piped onto baking sheets to form the pastries, which vary in shape and size.
If you’re looking for additional information about the history of baked goods, you might want to consider reading my article about the origins of renowned French pastries.
To make the dough, a cooked mixture of milk or water (sometimes a combination of both), butter, a pinch of salt and sugar, and flour is used. Once cooked, whole eggs are added one by one, up to the point where the dough reaches its optimal consistency.
Upon baking, the moisture in the dough transforms into steam, causing the pastry to rise and develop a crispy shell with a hollow interior, all without the use of added leavening agents. Once the pastries have cooled, this hollow space is usually filled with custard or whipped cream.
The technique of creating puff pastry can be credited to the French, who refined it into the delicate, flaky pastry we recognize today. Its preparation is a complex process that involves layering high-quality butter between thin sheets of dough, then folding and rolling the dough repeatedly to create hundreds of layers.
During baking, the moisture in the butter transforms into steam, causing the layers to expand and separate, resulting in a characteristic light, crispy, and flaky texture. This allows the puff pastry to rise without the need for yeast or any other leavening agent.
Puff pastry dough is versatile; it finds use in both sweet and savory dishes and pastries such as Beef Wellington, cumin bow ties, cheese straws, and Napoleons.
Filo (Phyllo) Pastry
Filo pastry, also referred to as phyllo pastry, is a delicate and thin dough originating from the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. It is present in diverse culinary traditions, particularly in Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Introduced to Europe through Ottoman conquerors, filo pastry became the foundation for a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory.
This pastry is created by repeatedly rolling and stretching the dough into thin, translucent sheets. The dough contains very little fat, resulting in its characteristic crisp and flaky texture when baked. Each sheet is typically brushed with melted butter or oil before being layered to create a stack.
In Greek and Turkish cuisines, filo pastry is renowned for its use in creating dishes like baklava (a dessert made with layers of filo, nuts, and syrup) and spanakopita (a pastry filled with spinach and cheese). A savory-filled pastry known as börek (burek) is popular across the Balkan region.
Sweets crafted with filo pastry also hold a significant place in the culinary traditions of Austria and Hungary. Various fruit-filled sweet strudels are made with this versatile dough, with perhaps the most famous being the Viennese classic, the apple strudel.
While filo pastry consists of basic ingredients such as flour, water, salt, and fat (either oil or butter), its preparation demands considerable expertise.
As we examine various dough types, it becomes evident that yeast plays a crucial role in some pastries but not all. Leavened dough, leavened flaky pastry, and Presburger pastry utilize yeast fermentation, while flaky, choux, puff, and filo pastries rely on alternative methods to achieve their distinctive flavors, textures, and appearances.
Both yeasted and non-yeasted pastries offer gourmet experiences in their own right and have found their place in diverse cuisines around the world.
My name is Debora, the founder of My Delicious Sweets, and a qualified confectioner with broad experience in the confectionery industry. On my blog, I will share important, interesting, and fun facts about food, along with some of my favorite recipes.