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The patty shell is a useful bowl made of pastry dough, puff pastry, or sometimes made of batter-based breads like the typical waffle bowl. These shells can vary in size and are used for a variety of different entrees, hors d’ouevres, and desserts. You can fill patty shills with glazed fruit, ice cream, sautéed vegetables, or anything you’d like.
You may be able to buy the baked form of the patty shell from bakeries, and often you can get either dough, usually available in rounds, which you shape yourself, or preformed unbaked patty shells in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. It’s a little harder to find the waffle bowl type, and you may need to learn how to make these on your own. You can also use puff pastry, of a slightly thicker pastry crust, to create shells from scratch.
You may find some variance in size on the different types of patty shells. You’ll have to choose size depending upon what type of portions you’d like to serve. Waffle bowl shells tend to be largest. Most other forms are in a cup size form, just perfect for single serving sizes. One of the easiest ways to make patty shells, so they retain their shape as they bake, is to use muffin tins to create them. Since you’ll typically be making several at a time, a muffin tin can give you 8-12 patty shells to work with.
If you’re hand forming the shells, it’s a good idea to use dough that is very chilled, since working the dough to create the shell won’t create overworking, and the shell will retain it’s shape. You can alternately bake a patty shell in a ramekin or any ovenproof bowl or cup you choose. As much as the patty shell is a way to serve something, it is also something to eat, so aim for light flaky pastry that tastes delicious and complements its fillings.
A number of recipes that utilize patty shells direct you to form and bake the shells, and then add seafood. Shrimp, and creamed crab are popular choices. If you’re not a big seafood fan, chicken salad can be beautifully presented in this type of shell. Generally, the main difference between a patty shell and other types of tarts or small pie shells is that you don’t bake the filling inside the shell. The shells are baked and cooled, and then have added whatever you intend to fill them with. Do note that cooling the shells can be very important if you are filling the patty shell with any type of foods that are prone to spoiling. For instance, you wouldn’t want to put a mayonnaise-based chicken salad into a warm patty shell, since this might cause quick spoilage of the dish.