It may sound odd, but I don’t really like cannoli. It’s fried dough filled with sweet cheese, and yes, I’ve had authentic cannoli, but eating them never moved me in any way. So when I found out this month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was to make cannoli, I thought to myself, “Eh. I suppose I could make a batch for Thanksgiving dinner.” And that is what I did. I made a batch for the Thanksgiving dinner I shared with my college roommates last Saturday. Those who like cannoli said they tasted great, so I will take their word for it. I enjoyed the chocolate-hazelnut flavor combination though it’s not a traditional way to make cannoli.
Special thanks to my Italian co-worker who lent me her cannoli tubes that were only used once. I’m glad to have put more mileage on the tubes, but I doubt I will ever have a need for them again. Make cannoli from scratch? Check. Now I’ll be moving on to more enjoyable recipes.
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.
adapted from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen and The Sopranos Family Cookbook
makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
Chocolate Cannoli Shells
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
approximately 1/2 cup sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg white
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
1/4 cup melted dark chocolate for garnish
confectioners’ sugar for garnish
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer using the dough hook, 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. 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 for the first batch only. Roll a dough oval from the long side around each tube and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. 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 degrees F 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
2 lbs ricotta cheese, strained
1 2/3 cups confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons hazelnut praline paste
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 hazelnut praline paste until well mixed. Chill until firm. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Cover and keep refrigerated).
Assembling the Cannoli
1. Press or dip cannoli shells in melted chocolate and let dry before filling.
2. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip (or use a Ziploc bag as substitution) with the ricotta cream. If using a Ziploc 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.
3. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.