One of the most ubiquitous and eye-catching sights in a bakery are the rows of colourful and decadent pastries lined up in a display case.

Pastry is actually dough made with flour, butter and milk, but in Pakistan pastries cover an entire family of bakery items that include everything from cakes and brownies to tarts and are most often taken with evening tea.

Pastry arrived in South Asia with the British, although filo-style pastry dates back to Mesopotamia and Egyptian civilisation.

In the Indian subcontinent, pastry became popular because of its smooth texture. Pastry is made from fine flour, butter, milk sugar, eggs, yeast and fruit flavourings.

The ingredients are mixed well to form dough, which is rolled out, shaped and baked in an open. Honey, chocolate, jam and other items are used as toppings.

Pastries are offered by small and large bakeries throughout the twin cities. One such outlet is Tehzeeb Bakery, which has been selling pastries for 25 years.

Mohammad Saddique, a chef at Tehzeeb, said making and decorating pastries is an art.

“I started learning how to make pastries and cakes from people who were trained by British-era bakery chefs. The basic recipe is more like the British, but has been changed slightly in the last decade,” he said.

He added that in the old days, dry pastries were popular and fresh cream pastries and brownies were nowhere to be seen.

“Fresh cream was used for cream rolls and puff pastries only, but regular pastries were decorated with sugar icing,” he recalled.

Mr Saddique said the owner of his bakery travelled abroad and brought back dessert recipes from Europe, according to which they made changes to their local food items.

He added that they try to bring in new pastry flavours, but the basic ingredients are the same and fresh cream and fruits are used as toppings.

Hadees Chaudhry, the manager, said the bakery does not use any preservatives or chemicals for flavour.

The bakery produces pastries in many flavours, such as chocolate fudge, caramel and fresh cream, as well as the old bakery-style pastries and brownies.

“Cake and pastries are the two options for something with tea or coffee,” Chaklala Scheme-III resident Naeem Ahmed said.

“We usually prefer pastries, and I put extra cream on the brownies for the children.”

He added that he is tempted by the pastry counter every time he walks into a bakery. Such items are so popular that you can find them at most bakeries, he said, but “there are hardly one or two stores where you can get fresh items”.

Suleman Raja recalled that he has loved chocolate brownies since he was a child.

“I am a father of two now, but whenever I see brownies it is difficult to control myself. I usually get pastries and keep them in the fridge,” he said.

“I like pastries because of the soft and creamy texture, compared to desi desserts such as barfi,” said 12-year-old Malik Qasim.

“Chocolate, fresh cream, pie and lemon tarts are my favourite, but I don’t like old-style pastries because the topping is made from sugar,” he added.

Originally published in Dawn, October 1st, 2018

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