This recipe for vanilla cream horns and berry tartlets is an accidental discovery of another Napoleon pastry use. This pastry is excellent to make nearly quilt free, gluten free shells for different pastries and tartlets. I made this discovery when I was left with too many leftovers of the dough after making sour cherry and walnut strudel. All cuts of this dough are easily combined together and rolled again without any loss of dough characteristics. I utilised leftovers to make biscuits, tart shells and realised, that I prefer the texture and taste of the final product better when compared to the product made with sweet shortcrust gluten free pastry.
There are several significant benefits of this pastry. It is easier to make, the recipe is full proof reliable, the dough is flexible and easy to roll very thin, it needs less dusting and, finally, you can use and reuse leftovers as many times as you want. Reusable pastry still makes perfect dry and crunchy biscuits. There are also 2 major dietary advantages of this quick puff pastry. The dough has half the sugar and nearly half content of butter, compared to shortcrust pastry. I used this dough to make shells for vanilla horns, as well as other shells of different shapes and sizes, similar to those of cannoli and ice-cream cones.
I made pastry shells using regular and non-stick moulds and individual tartlet cases. I did not use oil spray or butter for moulds. It was an open baking without the use of baking weights. None of the baked shells stick to moulds and it was easy to separate pastry from moulds.
I experimented with different types of milk and gluten free plain flours to roll the dough to achieve the resulting pastry to be dry and crunchy. Its texture is very similar to that of cannoli or good quality ice-cream cones, only not as sweet as they are. These qualities allow to store pastry shells for a long time. The longest I kept them in air-tight glass container at room temperature was for 5 weeks without any change in pastry moisture content.
Long storage time is a major advantage in my personal circumstances, because I have to spread my cooking and baking for special occasions over several days. With my several other autoimmune conditions, apart from coeliac disease, I get exhausted quickly and have to be very careful of pushing myself too far and later paying the price for that. So it is very handy that I can bake pastry shells in advance, keep them until I need them, and only make a cream on the day.
The easiest filling choice is to use whipped cream with little sugar and vanilla to fill these pastry shells. I experimented with different vanilla cream options. I have tried vanilla pastry cream on its own, vanilla pastry cream mixed with whipped cream, vanilla pastry cream mixed with egg whites beaten with sugar, and ricotta cheese with sugar and egg whites. I deliberately did not try the mixture of pastry cream and butter cream, a delicious option, but too rich. All fillings I tried were quite runny and were not as firm as whipped cream. To my surprise they however kept the shape, and did not leak from the pastry shells. The pastry did not absorb moisture from the cream. It was possible to bite into the pastry even the next day without it complete disintegration in the hand. We had to make a special effort to leave several pastries for 24 hours untouched at room temperature to check that.
After all these experiments I realised, that I like pastries and biscuits made from this dough so much, that I might never go back to my regular shortcrust dough, except to make pastry cases for frangipane tarts. Don’t get me wrong, shortcrust pastry is very nice and served me well all those years, but it has twice the amount of sugar and fat in it. The texture of shortcrust pastry is more crumbly, but unless you overload the dough with butter, it will always become less and less crunchy with time. It will not stay dry and crunchy indefinitely without losing its texture.
It is unusual for me to write such a long preface before the recipe, but these pastries are the flavour of the season for me, and I am afraid, they will stay my favourites for a long time. List of ingredients mentions in italic the brand or type of the product I used in order to achieve the best taste and texture of the pastry.
- 150 g fine rice flour (McKenzie’s brand)
- 270 g gluten free all purpose plain flour (Orgran)
- 1 large egg
- 70 g regular granulated sugar
- 10 g vanilla sugar (with natural vanilla flavour)
- 100 g unsalted butter (Lurpak)
- 200 ml full cream cold milk (ultra heated Coles full cream)
- pinch of salt
- extra gluten free plain flour for dusting (tapioca flour gives the best crunch)
- extra egg for egg wash
- coconut sugar to sprinkle the dough before baking
enough to generously fill shells baked from 1/2 pastry
- 3 egg yolks (I made several versions of pastry cream using 3 egg yolks, 1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk, 2 whole eggs. It did not make real difference to the taste, preparation technique or the ability of the cream to incorporate whipped cream. In practical terms it might be easier to use 2 eggs instead of 3 egg yolks if you have no use for egg whites on the day)
- 15 g corn flour
- 250 ml full cream milk
- 50 g sugar
- tea spoon vanilla sugar
- 1/2 tea spoon vanilla paste
- tea spoon lemon zest
- finely chopped pistachios to decorate
Separately for vanilla cream
- 125 ml whipping cream 35% fat
Berries for tartlets
- punnets of raspberries, blueberries or strawberries
You can find step by step images of dough preparation here
- cut butter in 2cm cubes and put them in the freezer for 20 min
- mix 2 types of flour, add salt, separate flour mix in 2 portions
- in food processor mix 1/2 flour mix with butter
- combine both flour portions in a deep bowl
- in a smaller bowl lightly beat egg with all sugar, add milk, mix until the sugar is dissolved
- add wet ingredients to flour mixture
- combine wet ingredients with flour using a knife until all liquid is absorbed
- press a mixture to form a ball, weight of the dough approximately 450 g
- make 2 separate disks from the dough
- the dough can be used immediately or kept refrigerated to rest
- roll the first disk, refrigerate the second pastry disk covered in glad wrap
- roll the dough 2-3 mm thick (as thick as you like)
- cut the dough to necessary shape with cookie cutters
- press the dough into tartlet cases or roll around pastry moulds
- use egg wash to glue dough together when using baking moulds
- use egg wash to brush the dough baked as horns, cones or cannoli shapes
- sprinkle coconut sugar for decoration
- bake at preheated to 170 degrees C fan forced oven until golden brown
- separate baked pastry from moulds, rest pastry shells on wire rack
- store pastry at room temperature in a air-tight glass container
- beat egg yolks(whole eggs) with sugar until pale and creamy, add vanilla paste
- heat 200 ml milk
- add corn flour to 50 ml of cold milk, mix until all corn flour is incorporated
- add milk and corn flour mixture to beaten egg yolks(whole eggs)
- add warm milk to the mixture constantly stirring with a whisk
- return the mixture to slow heat and constantly stirring cook until the mixture thickens
- cool the cream to room temperature, cover the top to avoid skin forming
- separately whisk whipping cream until stiff peaks
- pastry cream has to be completely cold, even better to prepare it the day before and store refrigerated, use a whisk to loosen it before adding whipped cream
- gradually incorporate whipped cream into pastry cream
- add and mix in lemon zest
- use pastry bag to fill pastry shells with vanilla cream, alternatively use tea spoon
- decorate with finely chopped pistachios
- to make vanilla cream tartlets, fill pastry shells with vanilla cream and decorate with berries of your choice
These pastries can be prepared 1-8 hour ahead. They will not lose their share or appearance, and pastry will not get soggy and wet. The next day vanilla horns and cones will look the same, but vanilla cream in tartlets might develop barely noticeable thin skin. However, I might have happened, because I was too generous with vanilla cream and it was nearly overflowing. Cream quantities from the list of ingredients will let you fill half of the pastry cases. It also depends on the size of tartlets and other pastry shells you bake. Total quantity of pastries baked from this recipe will feed a big party even with strong appetite for sweets. Tightly packed it will use all the space of 2 wire racks.
At the moment these vanilla cream pastries are my favourite sweet treats for tea, together with Napoleon cake. They are as delicious as Napoleon, but don’t need the same time and effort to make, and are much lighter, so I can have more of them.