Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Pastries bear little family resemblance to cakes or breads or pastas. They’re a very different expression of the nature of the wheat grain. In making other dough and batter foods, we use water to fuse the particles of wheat flour into an integrated mass of gluten and starch granules, and further knit that mass together with cooking. By contrast, pastry is an expression of the fragmentary, discontinuous, particulate qualities of wheat flour. We use just enough water to make a cohesive dough from the flour, and work in large amounts of fat to coat and separate flour particles and dough regions from each other. Cooking gelates half or less of the water-deprived starch, and produces a dry mass that readily crumbles or flakes in the mouth, releasing the fat’s complementary moist richness.