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Cornet Pastry
Cornet Pastry (History)
Originated from: Italy
Occasion: Special times
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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For list of ingredients see "Pastries with Cream"



Generally speaking a "cornet" is thought of as an ice cream cone, but in fact it can be any pastry shell that is filled with cream or custard. In Montreal's Italian pastry shops the cone-shaped shells are called "cornets" [See picture]. Apparently, the cornet shells which are made of puff pastry originated in France -- or maybe not! Some food historians claim that puff pastry was already known in "Egypt at the time of the New Empire" which makes it over 600 hundreds years old. Still, the French insist that Claudius Gele, an apprentice French pastry cook, invented puff pastry in 1645 and later brought it over to Florence where it was a huge success. However, Italians are quick to point out that "puff pastry" was already being made in Italy long before that. Apparently there is reference to puff pastry in a document published in Venice in 1525! So it's hard to know who and when puff pastry was invented. However, all one can say for sure is that pies were being eaten by the ancient Romans in the 1st century! Of course, pies don't make use of puff pastry, but they do use a thin crust made of flour and water.... Still, the French do have an endearing legend regarding "their" invention. According to all accounts the apprentice chef, Claudius, invented puff pastry it in an effort to please his sick father whose doctor had put him on a strict diet of "flour, water and butter!" Not only did Claudius make his sick father happy, he also increased the profit margin of the pastry shop he worked for. Later, he brought his recipe to Florence where another pastry shop he worked for reaped the benefits of his invention as well. Supposedly, Claudius prepared his pastries in a locked room and refused to divulge the recipe's ingredients. Obviously, after his death his secret was revealed and soon afterwards people all over the world were enjoying his famous culinary creation. However, while those living in Northern Italian cities served cornets at weddings and other major life events prior to World War II they were not known in the Southern Italian countryside. As most foods were made at home for various celebrations, pastries (except for cream puffs) would have been avoided. Also, butter is an essential ingredient in "puff pastry" -- an ingredient rarely used in Southern cooking. Sicily, of course, developed a whole array of pastries that used butter, nonetheless whoever did enjoy them had to be very well-to-do. In the 1950s those Italians who immigrated to North America immediately developed a fondness for cornets (How could they not?), and so they became a regular fixture at weddings, baptisms etc. It wasn't until till the late 1970s that cornets became quite commonplace and eaten any old time. In France puff pastry is also known as "feuilletage." In England it is often referred to as "butter pastry." Personally, I think, cornets or "cream horns" as they are also known, are best left to pastry chefs to make. This said, I think, it's important to know the ingredients of the things one eats. So recipes can be of interest even when one doesn't intend to make them. Most pastry shops (if not all!) don't list the ingredients they use in their pastries, and many times their chefs when asked will simply refuse to divulge the Top Secret information. Thank God for the internet! Ignorance is not bliss in the kitchen.... Photo of store-bought cornet: by the contributor.

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