[Sca-cooks] Leaf pastry devloped into puff pastry

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Fri Nov 21 15:18:03 PST 2008

Terry Decker wrote:
> The earliest source I have seen referenced for "puff" pastry is a charter 
> by
> the Bishop of Amiens in 1311 which mentions puff pastry cakes.  Since I
> haven't seen the text, I can't be certain of the reference.
> There is an English reference from the Liber Albus (1419), "Panis levis 
> qui dicitur 'pouf '."  This "puff" is probably an enriched, light bread 
> rather than modern puff pastry.  I think, but am not certain, that this is 
> the same or a similar reference to the "puff" mentioned in one of the 
> versions of the Assize of Bread and Beer.
    I question references to France. Like the Islams they stole the best
from other countries and perfected cooking but were not the originators.
I, therefore, question 'puff' pastry in Amiens in 1311. As far as the
White Book is concerned, London was in contact with Amiens from 1295 at
least on for importing woad so yes, the English logically could have
picked up recipes from Amiens but  I prefer "Joe Pastry's" explanation:
"Disregarding the French for a moment (and who doesn't love to do that
every so often?), what do Spain, Florence, Venice and Turkey all have in
common? Answer: they all had extensive contact with Middle Eastern
peoples well before the rest of Europe. Spain was occupied by the Moors
from about 700 A.D. to roughly 1500 A.D., during which time it was known
by its Arabic name, /Al-Andalus/. Florence and Venice were of course
powerful seafaring city-states that traded almost continuously with Arab
peoples even when those, whaddyacallem, /crusades/ were goin on. And
Turkey, well, it was part of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, which
bordered the Islamic Caliphate until Constantinople fell to the Ottomans
in 1453 (at which point it became the defacto capital of the entire
Middle East).
"So...plenty of opportunity here for the peoples of southern Europe to
learn the pastry-making arts from the Arabs --- which they then adapted
to their local fats (all of them --- especially the Turks --- were
butter-eaters to one extent or another). And thank goodness they did,
since butter does a far better job of pushing up layers than oil does.
Yet it's the Arabs who ultimately get the medal for pioneering the
technology that led to modern pastry."
The full text can be found at: http://www.joepastry.com/index.php?s=venice
    Now I have a question for you. Am I translating 'hojaldre' correctly
as being leaf pastry or could it be flaky or rough puff pastries, French

I would have chosen Genoa over Florence.  Florence is a land-locked city on 
the Arno, which became a sea power by purchasing Pisa in 1405.  They lost 
the franchise around 1509.  Florence was active in bamking and trade, but 
their contacts were more with European countries than with Arabic countries. 
Without references, the history is suspect.

>From what I've read, the local fats of southern Europe tended to be lard 
rather than butter and I'm curious as to how extensively butter was used in 
the Moslem cultures of the period.

I think how one translates "hojaldre" is a function of time and place and I 
must admit that my understanding of Spanish etymology is very limited.  I 
have no idea what the definition of the word was in the 15th Century. 
Modernly, I have a recipe that makes it out to be rough puff pastry dough. 
I also have a Panamanian recipe that makes it out to be a fried bread.  Like 
the references from Amiens and the Liber Albus, if the word can't be tied to 
a recipe or a description, then there is no way to be certain as to what is 
being discussed.


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