Many of the world’s finest creations trace back to classical and ancient times. Papyrus and hieroglyphics came from ancient Egypt, and the Romans, aside from aqueducts and military tactics, are thought to have given us all used types of pastry.Using natural sweeteners, it’s thought that the Romans, Greeks, and ancient Egyptians used a filo-type pastry (a mix of oil and flour) when creating sweet tarts, fruit pastries, and honey cakes, as well as dumplings stuffed with nuts and dates. We’ve seen proof of these treats in writings and on ancient tomb paintings. The Romans later created a basic dough that they used to cover meats with when cooking. The paste of water, oil, and flour shielded the meat moist, as well as prevented the outside from being burned. The intention was never to eat it and it was later discarded. It appears that the no. 1 reason for ancient bakers being held back was a lack of lard or butter to form the richness associated with today’s pastry.

 

French fancies and medieval masterpieces

It wasn’t until the advanced stages of the Medieval period that we began to see fuller recipes for pastries that resembled the puff and versions of shortcrust versions that we became to be familiar with. The earliest known cookbook in the English language is The Forme of Cury. It’s believed to have been authored shortly before the 15th century and refers to making coffins and chastletes- early tart cases and pies. Many of these recipes include saffron and egg yolks in order to give the dough some colour. Then we saw the creation of hand-formed game pies and hot water crust pastries, which both became popular table centrepieces, and were often associated with galas and banquets. Pastry-making became more fashionable in the 17th century. British bakers took pride in applying elaborate decorations and techniques and were also inspired by culinary developments from over the Channel. French painter-cum-cook Claude Gelée allegedly created puff pastry in around 1645 when he made a laminated dough by accident when attempting to make a kind of rolled butter cake. The earliest recorded British version dates back to 1692 when Hannah Biskaer’s recipe was accompanied with a manuscript featuring the ‘puff paist’ recipe.

The first ‘celebrity chef’

Marie-Antoine Carême is widely believed to have been the very earliest ‘celebrity chef’. The French pastry maker brought pastry into grande cuisine. His creations were seen in the windows of his own Paris patisserie shop before he cooked for such European leaders as George IV. These buttery, rich confections, with their splendour and glamour, were partly responsible for the growth in popularity of French pastry desserts. We have a lot to be grateful to them for, such as a mishap in the kitchen that brought us the taste Tatin, or for Carême developing the layered Mille-Feuille (translated to a ‘thousand leaves’), as well as the traditional fillings uses in frangipane and crème pâtissière. Many recipes we know today can be traced back to some of France’s greatest kitchens.

The first ‘celebrity chef’