Word of Mouth: Pastillage

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Pastillage [pa-steel-ahj] n. Modeling paste made from gelatin and confectioners sugar, used to make pastry decorations.

Pastillage is one kind of decorative and edible paste that bakers and pastry chefs have used for many years to creatively adorn their confections. Along with fondant and gum paste, pastillage can be molded into many different shapes, and tinted.

Pastillage dries harder than fondant, and it makes relatively sturdy little decorations. I tried my hand at pastillage recently and I was rather surprised at how easy it was to work with.

It was like Play-Doh for grownups - smooth and easy to roll, especially when I rolled it out between sheets of wax paper. I used a tiny Linzer cookie cutter to cut out little hearts for a wedding I helped cater. These dried quickly and looked beautiful; it was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

Homemade pastillage tastes and crunches like a Necco Wafer or a Valentine's conversation heart. In other words, it doesn't taste all that great, especially when it has a lot of food coloring worked in. But even though it doesn't taste fantastic, the ingredients of homemade pastillage are at least natural and relatively safe - as opposed to the fondant you find on craft store shelves with an indefinite shelf life. (How do they do that?)

Basic Pastillage recipe at Cupcake Bakeshop
Pastillage demonstration at eGullet Forums

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.