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These vegan cornetti or Italian croissants with custard are the ultimate Italian breakfast recipe. The dough is light, soft and aromatic, and you can fill them with our delicious vegan custard or with your favourite jam. Our recipe is easy to make, with simple ingredients that you already have in your pantry.
What are cornetti?
Cornetti are the Italian take on the French croissant. They look almost exactly the same, crescent-moon shaped, but they are made with a different dough, and they often come with a filling of custard, jam, or chocolate.
Also, did you know that in Italy, dipping a croissant in a warm cappuccino is probably the most beloved breakfast of all? If you have ever been to Italy, you know that croissants are served in literally every single café, from north to south, and these days it's even possible to find delicious vegan cornetti in many places.
If you go to an Italian supermarket, you can find more than a dozen different types of cornetti, made with different doughs and with different fillings. When it comes to doughs, there are two main types. One is a butter-layered leavened dough, very similar to puff-pastry. The other is a leavened brioche bread dough.
When it comes to fillings, there are 3 main varieties of fillings. With custard (cornetti alla crema), with apricot jam (cornetti all'albicocca), and with nutella (cornetti al cioccolato).
Our recipe is made with a vegan leavened brioche bread dough, and can be filled with anything you like. Our tip is to fill them with our vegan custard / vegan pastry cream, and eat them for breakfast, dipped in your favourite plant-milk cappuccino.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Flour: I use first-clear flour but, if you can't find it, just go for bread flour. That is basically a flour that is less refined than all-purpose, but not as heavy as whole-grain flour.
- Sugar: plain sugar works best. No syrups or other sugar types.
- Instant dry yeast: I love instant dry yeast because you don't have to mix it with water to activate it. You can replace it with fresh yeast, but if you do so you need 3 times more fresh yeast compared to our instant dry yeast dose.
- Soy-milk and water: this is our go-to milk for cooking. You can replace it with any other plant milk of your choice. We mix it with water in this recipe to make the vegan cornetti extra light and soft.
- Sunflower oil: this is our go-to fat because it is comparatively healthier than coconut oil, and because it has little flavour, it's affordable and widely available.
- Vanilla extract and orange zest: both necessary for the aroma. Better if the orange is organic.
- Filling: either vegan custard, vegan nutella, or apricot jam.
If you want to fill your croissants then you'll need a pastry piping bag with a long and thin nozzle.
Mistakes I made
- I put the filling before rolling, and it's a mess. It's way easier to put it after they are cooked. Just let them cool down for 10 minutes, then fill them up using a pastry piping bag with a long and thin nozzle.
- I used too much flour when rolling the dough, and the croissants dried out too much. The second time I made them, I didn't use any flour when rolling the dough flat, and the result was a lot better. The vegan cornetti turned out soft, light and airy.
- Pick the right yeast: I use instant dry yeast, which doesn't require to be activated in warm water and sugar, but it can simply be added to the flour. If you don't have instant dry yeast, you can use either 7g (1.4tsp) of active dry yeast or 25g of fresh yeast. In both cases, you need to first dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water and sugar before adding it to the flour.
- Proof the dough in a warm place: turn on your oven for 30 to 45 seconds, then turn it off and put the dough to proof inside it. You can also keep the light of the oven on (just the light, not the heat), if you have that function.
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth: a damp cloth is better than a piece of film because 1) it doesn't add up to plastic pollution, and 2) because it keeps the dough moist, helping the yeast do a better job. Keep in mind though that the dough will double or triple in volume, so leave enough space between the dough and the damp cloth.
Frequently asked questions
In Italy croissants are called cornetti, and sometimes, especially in the north, people call them brioche.
Cornetti means "little horns", from the Italian "corno", horn. Italian croissants are called "cornetti" because their shape resembles that of little horns.
Croissants are neither French, nor Italian, but most probably are of Austrian origin, even though they are a very popular preparation in both France and Italy.
French croissants are made with a butter-layered leavened dough, very similar to puff-pastry. The butter flavour and flakiness is what characterises French croissants.
Italian croissants are sometimes made like French croissants, however, they are most often made with less butter and with a brioche-like dough. Also while the French croissant is neither sweet or salty, the Italian croissant is sweet, and filled with either jam, pastry cream, or nutella.
Traditional croissants are not vegan friendly because of the butter, and sometimes egg, found in the dough. However, more and more places are offering vegan croissants that taste as delicious as the non-vegan ones.
If you happen to drive on the Italian highway or freeway, or in some Italian airports, try a vegan croissant from "Autogrill", the iconic Italian rest-stop found everywhere in Italy. They are delicious!
Storage before cooking
To store croissant before cooking them, you should create the shape of the croissant, put them on the baking tray, then freeze for 15 minutes. When they are hard, transfer them into a freezing bag and put them back in the freezer. They keep frozen for up to 3 months.
To thaw them, take them out of the freezer, put them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and let thaw. Once they are thawed, let them proof for 1 hour before cooking them.
Storage after cooking
If you have already cooked and filled your cornetti, it is best to keep them in a reusable plastic bag that is suitable for storing food. This way they'll keep nice and soft for about 4 to 5 days. Alternatively, you can freeze them for about 1 month. In this case, let them cool completely before freezing them.
The three most popular Italian croissants variations in Italy are with apricot jam and with chocolate or nutella filling. Check out our "just like nutella" spread. It's perfect to fill croissants.
Vegan Cornetti - Italian Croissants
- Pastry piping bag with long nozzle (only if you want to fill them)
- 500 g (3.7 cups) bread flour or all-purpose + 2 to 3 tbsp for kneading*
- 100 g (0.5 cups) sugar
- 7 g (1.4 tsp) instant dry yeast or 7g active dry yeast, or 20g fresh brewer's yeast but in this two cases dissolved in warm water.
- 150 g (0.6 cups) plant-milk soy, almond, oat
- 150 g (0.6 cups) water
- 60 g (0.3 cups) sunflower oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 orange zest
- 1 pinch salt
For the filling
- vegan custard
- apricot jam
- In a bowl add flour, sugar and instant dry yeast and give it a quick stir.Now add the rest of the ingredients: orange zest, lukewarm plant-milk, water, sunflower oil, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Mix with a spatula till all the ingredients come together.NB: if you don't have instant dry yeast, you can use either 7g (1.4tsp) of active dry yeast or 25g of fresh yeast. In both cases, you need to first dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water and sugar before adding it to the flour.
- On a worktop add 2 tbsp of flour, then transfer the dough on it, and knead with your hands. Let the dough absorb all the flour, then knead vigorously for 5 minutes. If the dough is too wet, you can add an additional tbsp of flour. But keep in mind that by the end, your dough should be elastic, soft and moist. It should almost stick to the worktop.You can use a kitchen-aid if you prefer.
- Put the dough in a bowl, brush it with a thin layer of oil and cover the bowl with a damp kitchen cloth, leaving enough space for the dough to double in volume. Let proof for 2 to 3 hours in a warm place. TIP: turn the oven on for 30 seconds, then turn it off and put the dough in it to proof.
- After proofing, transfer the dough onto a clean worktop and flatten it, first with your hands, then with a rolling pin. Make a rectangular shape of 50cm by 30cm (20inch by 12inch).
- With a sharp knife or with a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 9 to 10 triangles.
- Roll each triangle on itself to give it the shape of a croissant. With the scraps, repeat the same process.
- Put the finished croissants on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, leaving some distance between them. On a standard tray, I fit 9 croissants. Let proof for 1 hour in a warm place. TIP: turn the oven on for 30 seconds, then turn it off and put the croissants in it to proof.
- Preheat the oven to 180C or 356F. Brush the top of the croissants with plant-milk and bake on the mid-lower oven rack for around 20 minutes. NB: The time really depends on the oven and on the size of the croissant, so keep an eye on them. They should be slightly golden on top.
- Let cool down for 10 minutes before eating them or before filling them with our vegan custard***, or with your favourite jam.
- To fill them you need a pastry piping pag with a long and narrow tip.
Did you try these at home? Don't forget to leave us a comment or to tag us on Instagram @Italiaplantbased.