The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.
Cannoli are known as Italian-American pastries, although the origin of Cannoli dates back to Sicily, specifically Palermo, where it was prepared during Carnevale season, and according to lore, as a symbol of fertility. The Cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy amalgamation of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts. Although not traditional, mascarpone cheese is also widely used, and in fact, makes for an even creamier filling when substituted for part of the ricotta, or by itself. However, Cannoli can also be filled with pastry creams, mousses, whipped cream, ice cream etc. You could also add your choice of herbs, zests or spices to the dough, if desired. Marsala is the traditional wine used in Cannoli dough, but any red or white wine will work fine, as it’s not only added for flavor or color, but to relax the gluten in the dough since it can be a stiff dough to work with.
I started on my Cannoli on the reveal date itself. It was such a breeze – I think one of the easiest of the DB challenges. The shells were tasty and different. The flavour of the Cinnamon and red wine was just right. I made only half the portion given and made mini Cannoli. They were a big hit with my family and disappeared in no time. They don’t say ‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention’ for nothing. I searched high and low but just could’nt find Cannoli forms anywhere…. Not to be outdone, I found two old wooden hangers. Used a saw and I had my home-made Cannoli Tubes ready. Ta.dah !!!
The recipe below for those interested.
Equipment:Cannoli forms/tubes - optional, but recommended if making traditional shaped Cannoli. Dried cannelloni pasta tubes work just as well!Deep, heavy saucepan, enough to hold at least 2-3-inches of oil or deep fryerDeep fat frying thermometer. although the bread cube or bit of dough test will work fine.Metal tongsBrass or wire skimmer OR large slotted spoonPastry bag with large star or plain tip, but a snipped ziplock bag, butter knife or teaspoon will work fine.Cooling rackPaper bags or paper towelsPastry BrushCheeseclothSieve or fine wire mesh strainerElectric Mixer, stand or hand, optional, as mixing the filling with a spoon is fine.Food Processor or Stand Mixer – also optional, since you can make the dough by hand, although it takes more time.Rolling pin and/or Pasta roller/machinePastry or cutting boardRound cutters - The dough can also be cut into squares and rolled around the cannoli tube prior to frying. If making a stacked cannoli, any shaped cutter is fine, as well as a sharp knife.Mixing bowl and wooden spoon if mixing filling by handPlastic Wrap/ClingfilmTea towels or just cloth towels
CANNOLI SHELLS2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegarApproximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnishConfectioners' sugar
Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).
CANNOLI FILLING2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios
Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.
DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS:1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.
3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.
4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.
. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.
8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.
DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING:1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.
2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).
ASSEMBLE THE CANNOLI:1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.
2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.