Last week I bought all of the cream horn moulds that I could find in Leamington Spa – thank you The Cook Shop. There were three of them. At £2.50 each, this was going to be an expensive bake. I’d have to give cream horns a second go if I was going to get my money’s worth, even if they were a disaster. Luckily they weren’t and, they weren’t even that complicated. Just a bit time-consuming.
I used a recipe from the Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking for raspberry and lemon cream horns (although I didn’t use raspberries) which used a “quick” rough puff pastry, lemon curd and whipped cream.
According to the recipe, for twelve cream horns, I was supposed to make a half quantity of pastry used in another dish in the Big Book of Baking (a giant sausage roll), or a 375g pack of frozen puff pastry. The sausage roll recipe also uses a 375g pack. I was confused. Would a half quantity of pastry really be enough? Given that I only had three moulds, and that there were only going to be three people testing the horns, I thought I’d make the smaller amount. As I suspected, there wasn’t enough pastry for twelve horns. I made seven.
To make the quick rough puff, I put some butter into the freezer and, when it was very hard, grated it into a bowl of plain flour and salt. I used a knife to cover the butter with the flour and added ice-cold water mixed with a bit of lemon juice to make a dough. The recipe says that the dough should be slightly soft and “shaggy looking”. I have no idea what a shaggy dough looks like. Mine looked like this.
I wrapped it in clingfilm, put it into the fridge and went to do my ironing.
It seems to me, that the key to making pastry that has layers or puff, is working quickly, and keeping everything cold. I do have a marble slab for rolling cold pastry but I don’t often use it. It always seems too much trouble to heave it onto the worktop. I decided that, this time, it might be a good idea, so I hauled it out of the bottom drawer. I rolled the pastry into a rectangle. The recipe says that this should be 12x35cm. I wasn’t that precise, but I did have a (rough) rectangle. I folded the bottom third up over the middle third and the top third down over the other two layers. I sealed the right and left edge with the rolling-pin and then, because my rectangle was still a bit on the rough side, I folded the edges in, just to neaten them up a bit. Not in the recipe, I know, but how could it hurt? I wrapped the pastry up again and put it back into the fridge. A little bit of butter had found its way onto the marble, but not very much.
The recipe says that the pastry should be chilled for at least an hour, or up to twelve hours. I left mine overnight. This was turning into another several-day-bake.
To make the pastry into horns I rolled it out to a large rectangle. It was nowhere near the 31x41cm required by the 12 horn recipe, but it was a rectangle. I used a rolling-pin to shift the whole thing onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and put it into the fridge. After twenty minutes of chilling time, I tidied up the rectangle with a stanley knife and put it back into the fridge, again, for about twenty minutes. When it came out this time, I cut the pastry into neat strips. I ended up with seven strips, 2.5cm wide and 38cm long (the length of the baking tray). I brushed the strips with egg white and, starting at the narrow end, wrapped three of them around my three cream horn moulds. All of the pastry then went back into the fridge for half an hour. When the time was up, I gave my horns another brush with egg white, sprinkled them with sugar and put them into the oven at 200° fan for 15 minutes. I let them cool for ten minutes and then took them off the moulds. They looked fine.
I ran the moulds under the cold tap and started the wrapping process again, only this time, I forgot to chill the pastry once it was on the mould. I can’t say that I noticed much difference between the chilled and unchilled pastry
For the filling, I made lemon curd. I heated butter, sugar, lemon juice and zest in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and stirred the mixture with a wooden spoon until the sugar had dissolved. I strained some beaten eggs into the mixture. I actually bothered to strain them. Can’t quite believe it of myself. I stirred until the mixture thickened – this took about ten minutes – took the bowl off the heat, and left the lemon curd to cool.
I filled the pastry horns with the lemon curd – right down to the bottom – and put a bit of whipped cream at the opening (oh, and I filled one with whipped cream and strawberries – in case a pregnant friend of mine who was a taster for the week couldn’t eat lemon curd – unpasteurised eggs and all that). I had no leaks – hooray, and the pastry definitely looked like it had layers (maybe not as many as the cream horns in the Big Book of Baking or as in the flaky pastry I made for eccles cakes), but layers nonetheless.
All in all, I was pretty pleased. The lemon curd was lovely; sharp and sweet and much better than out of a jar, and the pastry was crumbly and crisp. The pastry did go soggy pretty quickly, once the horns had been filled though, so I’m glad I only made the seven. I think I will try them again, and not just to get my money’s worth from the moulds. The pastry is time-consuming with all the chilling that has to be done, but if you have time and can get on with other stuff (a couple of episodes of Home and Away perhaps) while it’s in the fridge, it’s definitely worth while giving it a try.