Pastries and pies are a chameleon class of desserts that can be sweet or savoury, hot or cold, sophisticated or humble. The common element is pastry, that provides the nest for the myriad of fillings that can be either fried or baked. Pastry is a mixture of flour and fat that can be flaky or compact (mealy). Whether it is light and airy (puff pastry) or dense and crumbly (mealy pastry), the success of the finished product depends on the type, amount and method of incorporation of the fat, the conditions under which the dough is mixed and baked, and how gluten develops in wheat flour.

The earliest recorded recipes for pastry date back to the cradles of civilization in the Mediterranean region: ancient Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia and Egypt. They were not necessarily the same, however, as their ingredients, cooking methods and preparations varied according to culture and cuisine.

A good recipe for pastry is one that balances tenderness and flakiness, which can be achieved by the way the fat is incorporated into the dough, and the conditions under which it is mixed, baked and handled. Tenderness is favoured by conditions that discourage the development of gluten – hence keeping ingredients cold and using a quick mixing method to minimise the formation of gluten – while flakiness is influenced by hydration, which is why we add water little by little rather than all at once. This prevents the formation of large clumps of gluten and produces a short pastry that resists sogginess. معجنات وفطائر