Week 26 - Strawberries and Cream Filled Cornucopias
Week 26 is the halfway point of my cookbook challenge and I wanted to make something special to mark the occasion. When I was a kid, I enjoyed watching Julia Child's cooking show on PBS. She always made wonderful looking dishes, but to be honest, I've always been a bit intimidated by her cookbooks. At first glance many of her recipes have either unusual ingredients, unfamiliar methods or more steps than I want to deal with. I realize that this is a bit unfair to Julia Child. In reality the goal of her show and books were meant to teach people to cook, not scare them away. I own three Julia Child cookbooks but have never cooked from any of them. For this week I chose the 1979 cookbook "Julia Child & More Company", by Julia Child.
Once I got past some of the intimidating sounding recipes in this cookbook I was pretty impressed with how the information is laid out, with the book being grouped into different meals. In the beginning of each meal section is a list of tools you'll need to create the dishes as well as the timing of the meal, so you'll know what part of the meal to prepare when. To keep things simple, I decided to make only one recipe, rather than a full meal. Because I recently went strawberry picking, I chose the recipe for Strawberries and Cream-filled Hazelnut Cornucopias.
The batter for the cornucopias was simple; made of finely chopped nuts, sugar, butter, salt, cream, egg whites, flour and flavored with dark rum. The original recipe called for hazelnuts but said you could also substitute those for walnuts. Since I was unable to find hazelnuts at my local store, I opted to go with the walnuts. With a spoon, I spread the batter out onto a buttered cookie sheet, about 4 inches in diameter, I then baked those for only about 4 minutes until the edges were browned.
To form the cornucopias, the recipe said to use metal cookie horns or ones made from brown paper. Since I didn't have metal horns I made the paper versions. I would have liked the recipe to include some instructions on how to make the horns to the right size, but after some experimentation I figured out how to make some passable ones. Once the cookies were done baking but were still hot, I wrapped them around the paper horns and allowed them to cool. My first few attempts were not great, but after a few tries I managed to make a number of cornucopias. Once they cooled completely, I removed the horns and they were ready for filling.
For the filling, I whipped heavy cream flavored with dark rum and lightly sweetened with confectioners sugar. Beaten egg whites folded into the cream helped to make it a bit fluffier. I'm not overly comfortable with using raw eggs so I used pasteurized egg whites, which seemed to work just fine. I filled the cornucopias with the whipped cream and served it along with fresh strawberries. The cornucopias were light and crispy and the cream was delicious, but serving the strawberries on the side seemed like a bit of an afterthought.
To incorporate the strawberries more, I decided to chop some up and mix them into the cream. This flavored the cream and turned it a beautiful light pink. The result was much better than the plain cream and really helped with the overall flavor of the dessert.
The cornucopias are best made and served on the same day and the shells filled right before serving. They can get soft pretty easily, so if it is very humid they may not hold up that long. I was able to serve these two nights in a row, but I don't think the shells would have held up much longer than that. However, the filling was even better then next day as it allowed more time for the flavors to be incorporated, so I'd probably make that the day before.
These were fun and easy to make, despite my initial fears. I would make them again, but I'd like to experiment with different nuts for the cornucopias. I think macadamia nuts would be fantastic and if i can find them, I'd love to try the hazelnuts from the original recipe. I would try different filling flavors as well. Peaches, raspberries or cherries would be wonderful and I think chocolate flavored cream would be fantastic to try. Now that I have my first Julia Child recipe under my belt, I'm looking forward to trying some different ones.
Cookbook: "Julia Child & More Company" by Julia Child, published in 1979
Recipe: Strawberries & Cream-Filled Cornucopias
Difficulty: Moderatly easy
Alterations: I substituted walnuts for the hazelnuts and added the chopped strawberries to the cream filling
Results: Very good but they won't keep for very long
Make Again: Yes, but I would like to experiment with the filling and cornucopia shells