Flaky and rich, with glossy surfaces brushed with vanilla syrup, cornetti are Italians’ breakfast pastry of choice, typically enjoyed with a cappuccino. This is an easy recipe to recreate café-quality cornetti at home—not too sweet or too buttery.
Like French croissants, Italian cornetti are made from a laminated dough. The lamination process involves repeatedly folding and rolling out a yeasted dough with a sheet of butter so as to create thin, alternating layers of dough and butter, which will give you buttery, flaky cornetti. It’s not difficult; it just might require some practice. The silver lining is, the more you practice, the more pastries you’ll have for breakfast!
You’ll need to start the day before, to prepare the dough for rising and the butter sheet for chilling. The two activities won’t require much time, especially if you have a stand mixer to knead the dough.
Some tips for a perfect lamination: Work on a well floured wooden board or marble table, and try to work in a cool room, which will make it easier to roll out the butter without melting it. If it gets too hot, refrigerate the dough in between the two folding steps for about 30 minutes to chill and firm up the butter again.
This recipe will make 20 cornetti. Should that be too many for you to have in one go, you can bake all of them immediately and freeze the leftovers, or simply bake a few and freeze the rest immediately after shaping them.
To enjoy frozen baked cornetti, simply remove them from the freezer and warm them in a hot oven just before breakfast; they will thaw immediately, and you’ll have hot cornetti in just a few minutes.
To enjoy frozen unbaked cornetti, remove them from the freezer the night before, and arrange them, well spaced, on an oven tray lined with parchment paper to rise. In the morning, bake them according to the recipe.
Makes 20 cornetti
For the dough:
- 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
- 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 block (1 ounce) fresh yeast, or 1 1/2 packets (3/8 ounce or about 3 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- Zest of two organic oranges
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
For the butter sheet:
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
For the vanilla syrup:
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 vanilla bean
The day before, prepare the dough: Combine the bread flour, all-purpose flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.
Dissolve the yeast in the milk and whisk well. Add the mixture into the flour, then add the water and the lightly beaten eggs. Knead at low speed for about 10 minutes.
Mix the sugar with the scraped seeds of the vanilla bean and the orange zest. Add to the dough along with the butter. Knead for 10 more minutes at low speed, until the butter has been completely incorporated. You should get a smooth, elastic ball of dough, and the sides of the bowl should be clean.
Transfer the dough into a bowl or plastic bag that has enough space to allow the dough to double. Cover or seal, and transfer to the fridge to rise for 24 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the butter sheet: Sandwich the butter between two sheets of parchment paper. With the help of a rolling pin, gently spread the butter into a square about 1/4-inch thick, as regular as possible. Transfer to the fridge to chill.
The next day, laminate the dough: Transfer the dough from the fridge to a well-floured surface.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a disk slightly larger than the square of butter. Place the butter in the center of the dough and gently pull the four sides of the dough over the butter, like folding an envelope, to close it inside. Pinch the edges together to seal them.
With the help of the rolling pin and some flour, roll out the dough to three times its length, keeping the same width. Fold the dough into thirds and seal the edges by pinching the dough together.
Rotate the dough 90 degrees, and roll it out into a rectangle four times its length, keeping the same width.
Now, fold the dough into fourths: fold the two ends in so they meet in the middle, then fold the whole thing in half, like closing a book. Pinch the edges together to seal them.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for about one hour.
Shape the cornetti: Remove the dough from the fridge onto a floured surface. Roll it out into a 1/4-inch thick rectangular sheet, twice as long as it is wide, with the longer edges at the top and bottom.
With a sharp knife or a pizza wheel, cut the rectangle in half horizontally, making two long strips. Then, cut each strip in a zigzag pattern into 10 long, narrow triangles. You should get 20 triangles, with each one weighing about 2 ounces.
Roll up each triangle from the base to the tip, finishing with the tip tucked underneath so that it doesn’t open while rising.
Arrange the cornetti, well spaced apart, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let them rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until they have doubled in size.
Make the syrup: While the cornetti are rising, prepare the vanilla syrup. Pour the water into a small saucepan, add the sugar and the open vanilla pod, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer for about 5–8 minutes, until the syrup becomes thick and slightly golden. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Bake the cornetti: When the cornetti have doubled, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Just before baking, brush the cornetti lightly with milk. Bake for about 15–17 minutes, until golden brown.
As soon as the cornetti are out of the oven, brush them with the vanilla syrup. Serve them immediately, or wait until they are slightly warm.