Tucked behind a cart dishing out khichdi to rickshaw-wallahs in Lal Kuan, Old Delhi, is a tiny little bakers’ paradise. Unlikely though it might seem, Matchless Machine Tools sells everything you could possibly want, and quite a bit that you would need a diplôme from Lenôtre to find a use for. Over the years I’ve acquired cutters in every possible shape, including mango; heart-shaped sponge tins and a gadget for piping biscuits in a hundred different forms. Last week, I found something I’d never seen before: conical metal moulds for making cream horns, an old-fashioned British pastry in which a puff pastry cone is filled with jam and cream.
In India, cream horns are ubiquitous, sold in every local bakery alongside pineapple pastries. In Old Delhi, the sight of vendors wandering through the lanes with trays piled high with cream horns always stirs dim memories from my childhood. Dim, because in Britain the cream horn has almost completely disappeared; in fact, I had to refer to blogs with names like Wartime Housewife and my mother’s ancient cookbooks—the sort that offer recipes for Prawn Cocktail and Vol-au-Vents—to find any mention at all.
Sweet escape: Cream horns can be found everywhere, even with street vendors. Photo courtesy: Pamela Timms
Since India has been such a loyal friend to the cream horn, I decided to give them a bit of a desi makeover. So out goes the awful fake gloop and in comes real fresh cream spruced up with seeds from a Keralan vanilla pod. Instead of the usual fluorescent fruit jam, and because I’ve been longing to use them in my baking, I’ve made a syrup from the beautiful falsa berries which are in season at the moment.
With the addition of good-quality cream and fruit, they turned out to be utterly delicious, and quite a sophisticated little mouthful too. They wouldn’t be out of place as a dinner party finale or an afternoon tea.
What are we waiting for—it’s definitely time for a cream horn revival.
Falsa and Vanilla Cream Horns
300g readymade puff pastry—keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it (this will make it easier to handle)
A little milk for brushing
Caster sugar for sprinkling
300ml whipping cream
1 vanilla pod
2/3 tbsp sifted icing sugar
For falsa syrup
(if falsa are not available, use a good-quality raspberry or strawberry jam)
150g falsa berries, washed
100g apricot jam
You will need 12 5-inch metal cream horn moulds and a large baking sheet.
Photo courtesy: Pamela Timms
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Lightly butter the baking sheet, then cover it with a sheet of baking parchment paper. Grease the metal moulds with melted butter.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and on a clean, lightly floured surface, roll it out very thinly. Cut the pastry into 2cm-wide strips. A strip about 40cm long will be enough to cover one mould.
Slightly dampen one side of the strip with a few drops of water. Starting at the pointed end of the mould, and with the moistened side of the pastry next to the mould, wind the pastry around the mould, overlapping the layers slightly. Don’t roll the pastry all the way to the rim of the mould as the pastry will puff over the edge and make it difficult to remove the mould after baking. Press the pastry gently to seal all the edges.
Place the covered cream horn moulds on to the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush all over with a little milk and sprinkle with caster sugar. Put back in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the horns are golden brown. Take the tray out of the oven and leave the horns to cool completely before removing the moulds.
For the falsa syrup, place the berries, jam and water in a pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the mixture through a sieve to remove the falsa pips. The mixture should be fairly thick, not runny. Leave to cool.
Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways, scrape out the seeds and add to the whipping cream along with the icing sugar. Whisk until thick, then refrigerate until needed.
When the pastry horns are cool, take them off the metal moulds. Into each horn, pipe or spoon about a dessertspoon of the falsa mixture, then pipe or spoon in the vanilla cream. Eat immediately.
Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at Eatanddust.com
Write to Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org