Every year, around this time I find myself in full on baking mode. It is a rarity for me to bake, but winter break brings it out in me year after year. On the top of my list of holiday favorites and ones that remind me of childhood are my Mom’s mini cream horns. My Mom learned this recipe from a seasoned baker at church--which is where most of the best recipes come from I have found. These mini cream horns started out as an idea to bring to a party and became such a big hit that my Mom began making them year after year. My Mom would work from morning until night making hundreds if not thousands of these sweet treats. I would take them to school to give them to my teachers as gifts, we would take them to parties, and we always saved some for our own Christmas day festivities.
You can see my Mom's original recipe in her hand writing above. That's how you know it's a family recipe--when it's one that has been written down on paper and passed down. Those are the good ones--the ones we hold onto forever and remind us of times past. I have made some slight adjustments from her recipe, but it is still almost identical to the original. One thing that you will need for this recipe is the wooden clothes pins pictured below. You can find these in some grocery stores and definitely on Amazon. I have a large bag of these so I have plenty to use and don't get slowed down when I'm making a large batch of these. The first time you get these, you will want to season these with vegetable oil (spray or oil is fine) and bake them in the oven to let it set in. This will help your dough keep from sticking to the pins. Each time you use them, you will spray them with oil and they keep getting better and better with age--much like a cast iron skillet.
The first thing you want to do is make sure you have thawed out your puff pastry sheets. I find mine in the freezer section of the store near the pie crusts. This time of year, they are often sold out so make sure to get yours early while you can. I typically thaw mine out and then place them back in the fridge until I am ready to make them. The day I want to bake them, I get them out about 10-20 minutes early so they can become more pliable--this allows you to roll them out without getting in a workout. Pro-tip: This is also a good time to get out your butter for the icing so it can come to room temp if you keep your butter in the fridge. Be careful to not let the puff pastry sheets get too warm or else they will be too mushy and hard to work with. Above, you can see I put down flour to roll out the puff pastry sheet (two come in each box). After I rolled mine out, I use a pizza cutter to cut them into strips. First, I cut down the middle of the puff pastry sheet cutting it into two sections (my Mom does three sections but I like making mine a little larger--this step is totally up to you). Then I cut across the puff pastry sheet and make one inch cuts. You can see that you end up with a good amount of puff pastry strips that you can now use to wrap around your clothes pins. You will wind one piece of dough around the clothes pin making a spiraling pattern.
You will need to make an egg wash in a bowl to seal the dough so they don't unravel while baking. I use 3-4 eggs and separate the whites from the yoke. For the egg wash, I whisk together the egg whites and add just a splash of water. To seal the dough, you will use your egg wash and apply it with a pastry brush. Then, place it with the seam side onto the pan. Be sure to give them space to fluff up in the oven and space them out on the pan. I bake mine on 325 degrees until they're golden brown (I have not timed this, but I would say 10-15 minutes). I place one pan in the oven and continue working on other pans and just keep popping them into the oven until it's full. When the cream horns are golden brown and fluffy, I pull them out of the oven and remove them from the pan. I place them into a container that goes into the fridge to cool. When they have cooled just enough that the pins are not hot, I slide the cream horn shells off of the pins and pile them in a bowl. I do not let them cool all the way before taking them off the clothes pins because I have found they crumble and are harder to remove without breaking. The cream horn shells are now ready for the icing and will sit until I have all of my shells made.
For the icing, I use an electric mixer to incorporate the ingredients together. I was reminded of the correct order of the ingredients when my confectioner sugar exploded onto my counter. LOL. So let my mess be your tip to avoid making a mess in your own kitchen. Start by mixing your two sticks of butter and 2/3 cups Crisco in your mixer on low. As they begin to mix together, then add in your 4 tablespoons of plain flour and then your 2 tablespoons of vanilla to the mixture. Now, you will start to add in your confectioner sugar slowly--otherwise you will end up with the mess I made shown below. As you incorporate the whole bag of confectioner sugar, you might find it is too dry in which case you can add a tablespoon of water to the mixture at a time. Sometimes, I also add extra vanilla after I taste it just to ramp up the flavor. You want the icing to be thick, but not too thick that you won't be able to pipe it into the cream horns. Once it's that consistency, you're ready to fill the shells with that creamy goodness.
As you fill the cream horns, pipe the icing into one side. Then place the tip inside the cream horn and pipe it until it fills it all the way through. The decorating tip I use creates a star on the ends of the cream horns, which makes for a nice finishing touch. I then keep piping until they're all full and place them in the fridge to enjoy for days. These are perfect for a special gift or to take to your Holiday parties. Once you try them though, you might just find that keeping them to yourself is more than understandable, too. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do and that this becomes a Holiday tradition of your own. Happy Holidays!
1 Box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets
Flour for Rolling
3-4 Egg Whites
Vegetable Oil Spray
1 Bag Confectioner Sugar
⅔ Cups Crisco
2 Sticks Butter
2 Tablespoons Vanilla
4 Tablespoons Plain Flour
Water - As Needed
Clothes Pins (Old Fashioned Wooden Ones)
Cake Decorating Bag and Tip