Italian cornetto: Legend, history and recipe

What could be better than starting the day with an Italian cornetto?

Widespread from the North to the South of Italy, brioches are famous all over Europe and are part of the traditional Italian breakfast.

When I went to live in Italy in 2013, I had lived in France for a few years. The only thing I knew was the French croissant. I would have never imagined that in Italy the version of the croissant was stuffed! Italians have a sweet tooth, the brioche is filled with Nutella, pastry cream, jam and even honey! That’s why I decided to make an article and share with you the recipe of the traditional Italian pastry cream.

La brioche (1763) by Jean Siméon Chardin. On display at the Musée du Louvre

Here you can find the recipe for pastry cream.

Related article: Italian food: One day eating like an Italian.

In this article, I will tell you the history of the Italian cornetto, also called brioche or croissant in France!

The legend of the croissant

The history of the traditional Italian cornetto

Cornetto, brioche and croissant, what’s the difference?

Italian cornetto recipe

Ingredients for 16 Italian cornetto

How to bake traditional Italian cornetto

Storage and Tips

The legend of the croissant

There is no doubt that the croissant, cornetto or brioche is derived from the Viennese Kipfel, a speciality in the form of a half-moon that is both sweet and salty. However, history is mixed with legend, so it seems to have been created when Vienna suffered the Ottoman siege in 1683. According to this version, it was a baker who raised the alarm, noticing the noises caused by the invaders who were digging an underground tunnel to overcome the city walls. As a reward, he was given the exclusive right to make crescent-shaped sweets to celebrate the Turkish invasion.

The origins of the traditional Italian cornetto

The real and original is the buttered brioche born in Normandy in the 16th century, an adaptation and reinterpretation of the “pâte à brioche” dough of the medieval era. There are numerous versions of the etymological root of the word. One goes back to the word brioche to the word “briochins“, the inhabitants of Saint-Brieuc in Brittany, another to the union of the words “bris” (interruption) and “hocher” (mixing), but the most accredited comes from the verb “brier”, from the ancient Norman “broyer“, i.e. the act of kneading using a wooden roller.

With time, a version of the brioche in France changed its name to ‘croissant’. And in Italy, due to the cultural exchange during the Napoleonic Wars, the brioche began to be baked. Although the Italian brioche kept its name, the recipe did not remain the same.

Cornetto, brioche and croissants, what’s the difference?

The three terms are often used as synonyms for the same breakfast pastry, but they are basically three different products.

  • The first includes among the main ingredients: flour, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, butter and yeast.
  • Then, the second of French origin has practically the same recipe except for the eggs, so it retains more of the aroma and taste of butter.
  • Let’s move on to the brioche, with ingredients that do not differ much from the two previous ones, except perhaps the use of animal fat.

But probably the most notable difference between cornetto or croissant and the brioche is that in the first two, the butter adheres to the dough at the end of the preparation to stratify and obtain the flaky texture of the pastries.

Cornetto in the south, brioche in the north

Although I explained the difference between one and the other, the Italian brioche and cornetto are often taken as synonyms in many places in Italy. So much so, that many people say: in the north you eat brioche and in the south cornetto as if they were the same thing.

However, in the south, there is also another kind of brioche, which consists of a brioche dough like the one eaten in France, which is usually filled with ice cream or granitta or even pastry cream, but the shape is round with a lid covering the filling, as seen in the still life picture above.

So if you go to Milan, you order a brioche with a coffee when you want a stuffed French cornetto or croissant. And if you go to the south of Italy, you order a cornetto with a coffee, but if you order a brioche with a coffee, you get something completely different. So pay attention!

Lest’s go to the recipe

Attention! This recipe is intended to be made with a bread machine or a planetarium. If you do not have one, you must calculate the double time of kneading or until you obtain the consistency described in the recipe.

With this recipe, you can prepare excellent cornetto, which will have nothing to envy to any Italian bar!

  • Medium difficulty
  • Economic cost
  • Preparation time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Rest time 12 hours
  • Cooking time 17 minutes
  • Portions 16 cornetti
  • Cooking method Oven

Ingredients for 16 Italian cornetto

For the dough:
  • 500 g of strong flour
  • 250 ml of water
  • 50 g of butter
  • 20 g fresh brewer’s yeast
  • 10 g salt up to
  • 60 g ground sugar
  • 50 ml whole milk
For the flaky:
  • 250 g of butter
  • For the surface:
  • 1 egg
  • 2 spoons
  • Milk q.b.
  • Ground sugar or icing sugar
For the filling:
  • Jam or nutella or cream

How to bake Italian cornetto

  1. Take the butter out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Break up the brewer’s yeast and melt it in water.
  3. Pour the sifted flour, the yeast dissolved in water into the bowl of the planetary mixer and start kneading with the hook, at minimum speed.
  4. Add the soft butter, one piece at a time. This step is essential: before adding a second piece of butter, wait until the first piece has been well absorbed by the dough.
  5. Knead until the dough is shiny and homogeneous.
  6. Add the sugar, milk and salt and knead at medium speed, until it is completely mixed.
  7. It will take about 25-30 minutes in total.
  8. Put the dough in a bowl, cover it with a film and put it at the bottom of the refrigerator, the coldest one, for 12 hours.
After 12 hours…
  1. Take the butter needed for the flaky pastry and leave it at room temperature until it has reached a temperature of 14/15 degrees. This will take about an hour.
  2. Prepare the butter for the puff pastry. Place the butter between two sheets of baking paper and, using the roller, spread it out in a rectangle measuring about 25 centimetres by 20 centimetres, about 3 millimetres thick (to make the task easier, draw the rectangle directly on the baking paper).
  3. During this step the butter should maintain the consistency of the modelling clay; if it becomes too soft, put it back in the fridge for a few minutes and then continue.
  4. Fold the edges of the paper to form a packet. Put the butter back in the fridge, just enough time to stretch the dough.
  5. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured baking sheet. Flatten it slightly with your hands, then roll it out into a rectangle measuring about 50 centimetres by 22 centimetres, about 3 millimetres thick.
  6. Place the sheet of butter on the short bottom of the dough, taking care to leave 1 cm free on the side: the butter should occupy approximately the lower 2/3 of the rectangle of the dough.
  7. Fold the upper part of the dough over the butter and overlap the remaining dough.
  8. Press the edges of the dough with your fingers to seal the butter sheet inside the dough.
  9. Wrap the dough in baking paper and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
How to make the flaky?
  1. Take the dough from the fridge and proceed with the first round of three folds. They are not difficult but you have to pay attention and always leave the opening of the dough block on the right side.
  2. Place the dough block in front of you, with the open side on the right. Tap with the roller to distribute the butter evenly and spread the dough in a rectangle with the short side in front of you, at a thickness of 1 cm.
  3. Fold the lower part of the dough towards the centre, then the upper part.
  4. Turn the dough 90 degrees, always with the open side to the right. Cover it with film and put it on a tray in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.
  5. The first fold has been made.
  6. After 40 minutes, take the brick out of the fridge and make two more rounds of folds, following the steps and rest times indicated above. After each fold, put it back in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.
How to assemble the cornetti?
  1. Once we get here, we can make the Italian cornetto!
  2. Take the dough and spread it on the lightly floured baking board (do not exaggerate with the flour).
  3. You will have to spread the dough only lengthways and obtain a rectangle of about 55 cm by 25 cm, about 3 millimetres thick (long, narrow rectangle).
  4. Using a pastry cutter wheel or a smooth blade knife, make rectangles of dough with a short side of 8 centimetres; then, from each rectangle, make 2 isosceles triangles.
  5. Make a cut of approximately 1 cm in the centre of the base of each triangle and form the croissants by rolling the dough over itself, starting at the base and ending at the tip. The more turns you can make, the more beautiful your croissants will be.
  6. Finish the croissants and place them on a baking tray covered with baking paper, leaving the tip under the croissant: this way the shape will be maintained both during the rise and during baking.
Levitation and cooking
  1. Lift and bake the inflated croissants: let the croissants rise up on the baking tray covered with baking paper, covered with a film so that the surface does not dry out. Careful! The aluminium foil must not be in contact with the dough, otherwise, when they are lifted, the dough will stick to the aluminium foil with a disastrous result for the yeast.
  2. Let it rise until the volume doubles; this will take about 3 hours. Brush the inflated croissants with beaten egg yolk together with the milk; sprinkle them with icing sugar (or cane sugar) and bake them at 220 degrees (static mode) for 5 minutes, then lower to 190 degrees and bake them for another 12 minutes.
  3. Take it out of the oven and let it cool on a grill.

The brioches are ready to be enjoyed: sprinkle them with icing sugar or stuff them and serve!

italian cornetto breakfast


Store the brioches in an airtight container or under a glass bell for 4 days.

You can freeze the brioches after the second leavening and then thaw them and let them rise in the oven off (with the light on) for one night, then bake them in the morning!


  • The dough for the Italian cornettto can also be kneaded by hand. The important thing is to incorporate the butter at the end and very slowly.
  • Once cooked, the Italian cornetto can be filled with both sweet and savoury ingredients.
  • The Italian cornetto can be eaten fresh, simply sprinkled with icing sugar, or filled with the classic pastry cream, Nutella or jam.

What do you think about this recipe? How do you like your cornetto? Stuffed with pastry cream, Nutella, honey, jam? Or just a little sugar on top?

Let me know in the comments!


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1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for this highly informative article, Isabella! I love to eat (almost as much as breathing…it’s that important. Haha), and I’m always looking for new dishes/recipes to try. I love croissants (such buttery, flaky goodness), but I’ve never tried a stuffed croissant before-I’m instantly excited! I love jam and honey, and the thought of both is making me salivate like Snoopy from Charlie Brown. Haha Great read! God bless you!

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