Think of cornetti as Italian croissants but with a difference. They’re less buttery (and therefore somewhat less flaky), more brioche-like (thanks to the addition of eggs) and, most importantly, they are always sweet, with a distinct citrus perfume. They’re a staple of the Florentine bar counter or pastry shop and probably the most popular breakfast choice. You can find cornetti of all types: plain, wholewheat, dusted with icing sugar, shiny with sugar syrup, marbled with chocolate, or with a variety of fillings from jam to pastry cream to honey. Many pasticcerie will also offer a selection of mignon pastries – that is, dainty half-sized ones, if you only want a small bite to eat.
This recipe, which is inspired partly by Paoletta Sersante’s popular blog, Anice & Cannella, partly by Carol Field’s method in The Italian Baker and partly by my own preferences, will give you small, mignon cornetti vuoti (or ‘empty’ cornetti) with a bit of shine from a lick of sugar syrup and some crunch from raw sugar. Once you’ve perfected these, you may like to try filling them by placing a teaspoon of your favourite jam or other filling such as pastry cream on the widest part of the dough before rolling them up.
While it looks like a lot of work, making cornetti is easier than it seems, mostly involving resting time to make this elastic dough easier to work with, with just a bit of rolling and folding in between. One piece of advice: it is best to work in a cool environment so that the butter doesn’t get too soft, so resist the urge to make cornetti on a hot day. An ingenious tip I got from a pastry chef: if you have a warm kitchen, cover the work surface where you will be rolling your cornetti dough with a baking sheet topped with ice or bags of frozen peas, and leave for a while to chill.
I like to make these over two or three days – it seems like a long time but it is very low maintenance this way and will easily fit around a work schedule. By the morning of the last day, which simply consists of shaping the cornetti and letting them rise before baking, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best pastries you’ll ever taste.