I have the utmost respect for talented chefs who are adept at creating edible food centerpieces for special occasions, such as Thanksgiving. I especially love the look of cornucopias made of bread, but believing they were difficult to construct, or required materials too obscure or expensive to attain, I never attempted to make one -- at least not until now. Armed with recently acquired instructions from food culinarian Peggy Beck, owner of Bluffton's The Joyful Palate Catering & Events, several cans of refrigerated breadsticks and a few supplies that included little more than a file folder, some tape and a roll of heavy duty aluminum foil, I set to work on making my first bread cornucopia. From cone-shaping start, to golden brown finish, the project took the better part of an afternoon to assemble and bake. But, it was fun, and looking at the completed piece was gratifying, even exhilarating. Like all hand-crafted items, I appreciate no two cornucopias will ever be alike, making their uniqueness, charming, and their beautiful practicality, fascinating.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at email@example.com.
Courtesy Peggy Beck, owner, The Joyful Palate Events & Catering, Bluffton, S.C., 843-422-0435
Poster board or a file folder
Stapler or transparent (not invisible) Scotch tape
Heavy-duty aluminum foil
Non-stick cooking spray
1 half-sheet (12 1/2 x 17 1/2 x 1-inch) cookie pan
2 to 3 (11-ounce) tubes refrigerated Pillsbury Thin Pizza Crusts (Kitchen Ade Note: For the purposes of this recipe, I used eight 11-ounce tubes of Pillsbury Breadsticks to make a braided cornucopia measuring approximately 14 inches in length with an opening, at the widest part, of about 6 inches. See instructions for using breadsticks on the bottom of this recipe.)
1 large egg, mixed with 1 tablespoon water (for glazing cornucopia)
Lightly spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. (Alternatively, line cookie sheet with parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat.) Shape poster board or the file folder into a cone, stapling or taping the seams shut. Cover the cone with foil, then stuff the cone with crumpled foil until it is rigid. Bend a tail up (then slightly down) at the back of the cone, using additional foil, as needed. Lightly spray outside of the cone with non-stick cooking spray, then place the cone on the prepared cookie sheet. To make cornucopia with pizza dough: Open and unroll the first can of pizza dough on work surface. Begin by covering the cone with dough. At the opening, braid some dough and gently pinch the braid onto the foundation dough. Add additional leaves or braids to decorate the cone. (Lightly pinch dough onto foundation to keep it into place during baking.) Brush entire surface with the beaten egg mixture. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven or until bread is a rich brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely on cookie sheet on a wire rack. Carefully remove cone when cool or just leave it in if you plan to fill your cornucopia only part way. (If freezing cornucopia, leave the foil in the cone for support. Remove the cone after cornucopia is completely thawed.)
Kitchen Ade Note: To make cornucopia with breadsticks dough: Open and unroll first tube of breadstick dough on a lightly floured work surface or silicone baking mat. (Keep remaining tubes of breadsticks refrigerated.) Separate breadsticks and roll dough to a length that will wrap around the cone. If strips are too short, patch and pinch with additional strips of dough. Beginning at the tip of the cone, spiral-wrap cone with slightly overlapping strips. Using three strips of dough each, fashion a braid to run down the center of the cone and another one for the opening. Lightly press on braid to affix to cone, making sure to pinch endings closed. Brush all surfaces, including the opening of the cornucopia with the egg glaze. Bake in a preheated 375 degree in the bottom third of the oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating pan every 15 minutes. (Keep an eye on the tail, braids and opening of the cornucopia. If they are browning too much, cover them with foil.) Remove cornucopia from oven and place pan (with cornucopia), on a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, carefully remove cone and foil. (An X-acto knife comes in handy for removing foil from around the cornucopia's opening.) Fill as desired, or freeze well-padded and packed cornucopia for future use, up to 1 month.
Golden: Brush with beaten egg and water before baking. (One tablespoon water for each large egg.)
Overall brown color: Brush with milk before baking.
Shiny: Brush with beaten egg white and water before baking. (One teaspoon water for each large egg white.)
Hard: Brush with water halfway through baking.
Crisp: Do not brush.
Soft: Brush with butter after baking.
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