The first thing that comes to mind when we think of pastries are the elaborate wedding cakes or the delicate specialties that are available today, but the history of the pastry chef began long before medieval times. The Assyrians are credited as the first, in the 8th century BC, to combine very thin layers of bread dough with chopped nuts and honey to create what we know as Baklava. Greek seamen discovered and loved this pastry and brought the recipe to Athens. There, Greek pastry chefs developed a method to roll the dough thinner when making the delectable treat and created phyllo dough, which is now used in many light and delicious pastry recipes. Commercially made phyllo dough can be purchased but if you are adventurous you can easily make the dough yourself.
French and Italian Renaissance pastry chefs took the basic phyllo dough recipe and perfected "puff pastries" which were filled with anything from sweetmeats to fruits, small eggs or birds. From this basic recipe, pastry chefs in the 17th and 18th century created new recipes such as Napoleons, Cream puffs and Eclairs.
Chocolate was first used in pastry after Spanish & Portuguese traders brought it to Europe from the New World starting in the 1500's.
Even with all the pastry recipes that were developed and used many years ago, French pastry chef Antonin Careme (1784-1833) is the person actually credited as the first master pastry chef of modern times. Chef Careme was the first person to use art in his pastry creations. What would he think if he could see the exquisite sugary creations that are made by pastry chefs today?