There are some recipes that I love unconditionally. These cornetto biscuits with grapefruit jam is one of them. As far as Italian breakfast pastries go, you don’t really have a lot of options. Unlike the French, Italians keep things really traditional – they’ll either have a custard filled cornetto, which is how to say croissant in Italian, or they’ll stick to dry biscuits dipped in their morning cappuccino.
This recipe is the best of both worlds and something I grew up eating. My grandmother is the embodiment of the old ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ mantra. When I was a kid, she would sit me down at the breakfast table and serve what felt like a million courses. She would expect you to eat everything in a marathon breakfast that lasted an hour. You couldn’t move until you’d eaten the boiled egg, the piece of toast with Vegemite – for an Italian, my grandmother loves Vegemite – a huge bowl of porridge, five Weetbixs and milk, a caffè latte and a few of these biscuits.
We call them cornetto, even though the traditional Italian cornetto recipe is very different. An Italian cornetto is basically a croissant. It has layers of buttered puff pastry that when cooked, puffs up for a crunchy texture. Usually it’s filled with custard or jam or served plain, so you can dip it into your coffee. I’ve never understood that last part. You end up with this soggy milky mess and bits of cornetto fall into the cappuccino, so you feel like you’re drinking a slightly thick coffee that’s gone bad!
These biscuits have the traditional cornetto shape, but are actually made with a pastry/cake batter hybrid that my grandmother always uses when she makes tarts. The pastry is really rich and buttery and puffs up in the oven to create little dimples. But the self-raising flour stops it from being heavy and crunchy like a traditional biscuit.
I don’t known exactly how to describe the experience. When you bite into it, it’s like a shortbread and lemon drizzle cake are having a party in your mouth. It’s almost Willy Wonka-level magic. When you pick it up, it just looks like a biscuit. You don’t expect it to be so soft and buttery and cake-like.
Before you roll the cornetto up, you spread over a layer of jam. This time, I’m using grapefruit jam because grapefruits are in season in Tuscany atm. The tart and super fruity flavour of grapefruit cuts through the richness of the cream and butter, so it’s a match made in heaven. If you can find really good grapefruit jam, then you can skip the step of making it at home.
Giulio is attempting to lose weight at the moment, so I naturally feel the need to ply him with grapefruits. It’s not really working because he runs whenever he sees me reach for a grapefruit and even if I can convince him to breakfast on this, frankly b-grade fruit, he chows down on at least a kilo of bread a few hours later at lunch. Trying to stop an Italian from eating bread is a lost cause. Trying to stop an Italian who grew up in his parents’ bakery from eating bread is just asking for trouble. Sometimes that man is a mystery to me. He complains about being overweight, but never actually exercises, joins a gym, steers clear of the bread or really does anything that could be even mistaken for healthy living.
I want to shake him, but what I’m actually doing is turning all the stray grapefruit that are beginning to pile up in my house into jam. I refuse to make jam without pectin. It has ended badly way too many times, so I’m keeping this jam really simple: sugar, fruit juice and the pectin I have left over from last summer when I was supposed make apricot jam but forget and let the apricots go all mouldy and gross.
I like my jam really tangy, almost like a marmalade, but you can adjust the sugar to your tastes.
Jam in hand, it’s just a case of spread, roll, bake and you have your very own Italian cornetto biscuits. They last ages in a well-sealed container, which is not great for Giulio and his half-hearted diet, but it’s definitely good for me as I rush out the door, biscuit in hand. It’s no match to her marathon breakfast sessions, but I think my grandmother would approve of me eating at least one of her buffet breakfast options!
Cornetto biscuits with from scratch grapefruit jam
for the grapefruit jam:
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons pectin
for cornetto pastry:
200g unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup caster sugar
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour
200ml pouring cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
icing sugar, to serve
To make the grapefruit jam, juice your grapefruit and place the juice in a small saucepan. If you like chunky jam, add the grapefruit flesh as well. Add the sugar and pectin and bring to a slow boil over medium heat. Stir constantly for another minute then remove from the heat and spoon into sterilised jars. Reserve 1/4 cup of jam for this recipe.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the butter and sugar in an electric mixer and whisk on high speed for 8 minutes or until pale and creamy. Add the egg, beating well. Add the cream and vanilla, and mix to combine. Gradually add the flours and mix until the dough comes together.
Bring together to form a ball, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface into a rough 26cm circle. The pastry needs to be super thin, so keep rolling until it’s about 1-2cm thick.
Spread the jam in a thin layer evenly over the surface of the dough. Make sure it goes right to the edges.
Using a pizza cutter, slice into 12 wedges. Roll up each wedge, beginning at the wide outer edge and moving inward. Place on a lightly greased baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Bend corners slightly to form a crescent. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool and dust with icing sugar.
Makes 12 cornetto biscuits.
Looking for more biscuit recipes? Try my Coffee Florentines with Cranberries and Pistachios or Crystallized ginger, cranberry & almond biscotti!