Cannoli (Daring Bakers Challenge November 2009)

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.

My first experience with cannoli took place in Sardinia earlier on this year. I was drawn by their appearance but wasn’t too impressed by the taste, although to be fair I don’t think the 35C heat helped; the ricotta cheese filling was warm and sickly.

I had mixed feelings when I found out that cannoli was this months DB challenge. I’m not a bit fan of deep fried food, but I thought I’d push myself out of my comfort zone. To my surprise I really enjoyed making these. I experimented on making a tricolour style cannoli (like the stripy pasta you get from posh delis). However, the dough turned dark when fried so you couldn’t really see the different colours (brown from carob & green from matcha). I didn’t have any tubes to hand so stamped out heart shaped cookies and rolled them which formed mini bite-sized cannoli.

stacked cannoli

I made gluten-free cannoli using the recipe from Annmarie’s Great-grandmother Martino’s Cannoli, GF Style which worked well. I’d never used alcohol in cookie dough and was surprised how the port wine added a lovely subtle flavour & aroma to the cannoli. I flavoured my filling with rose & violet infused cream cheese, and for my lazier attempt – nutella and peanut butter with pistachio.

Rose & Violet ricotta cheese filled  Cannoli

Nutella & peanut butter Cannoli

Equipment:
Cannoli forms/tubes – optional, but recommended if making traditional shaped cannoli.
Deep, heavy saucepan, enough to hold at least 2-3-inches of oil or deep fryer
Deep fat frying thermometer. although the bread cube or bit of dough test will work fine.
Metal tongs
Brass or wire skimmer OR large slotted spoon
Pastry bag with large star or plain tip, but a snipped ziplock bag, butter knife or teaspoon will work fine.
Cooling rack
Paper bags or paper towels
Pastry Brush
Cheesecloth
Sieve or fine wire mesh strainer
Electric 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/machine
Pastry or cutting board
Round 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 hand
Plastic Wrap/Clingfilm
Tea towels or just cloth towels

Required: Must make cannoli dough and shells. If you don’t have or do not want to purchase cannoli forms, which I would never ask of any of you, you could simply cut out circles, squares, or any shapes you want and stack them with the filling of your choice to make stacked cannoli’s aka Cannolipoleons (directions below). If desired, you can channel MacGuyver and fashion something heat proof to get traditional shaped cannoli (6-8 inch sawed off lengths of a wooden broom stick or cane, sanded down and oiled, is THE authentic cannoli form!), or non-traditional shapes such as creating a form to make bowls, or even using cream horns if you happen to have them. Mini cannoli would be great too, and I’ve provided links to retailers of cannoli forms of all sizes.

Also, for those who don’t like to cook or bake with alcohol – grape juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, apple juice..any sweet juice of a fruit, especially ones used in or to make wine, can be substituted. Just add a little more vinegar to insure you get enough acid to relax the dough
6-8 inch long by 3/4 to 1 inch circumference cannoli forms aka your basic cannoli form size

Lidisano’s Cannoli
Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
Prep time:
Dough – 2 hours and 10-20 minutes, including resting time, and depending on whether you do it by hand or machine.
Filling – 5-10 minutes plus chilling time (about 2 hours or more)
Frying – 1-2 minutes per cannoli
Assemble – 20–30 minutes

RECIPE NOTE: THE EQUIVALENTS FROM THIS RECIPE WERE PREPARED USING THIS CONVERSION SITE: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/index.asp.

CANNOLI SHELLS
2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 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 garnish
Confectioners’ sugar

CANNOLI FILLING
2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 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.

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.

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.
For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 – 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

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.

TIPS AND NOTES:
– Dough must be stiff and well kneaded

– Rolling the dough to paper thinness, using either a rolling pin or pasta machine, is very important. If the dough is not rolled thin enough, it will not blister, and good cannoli should have a blistered surface.

– Initially, this dough is VERY stubborn, but keep rolling, it eventually gives in. Before cutting the shapes, let the dough rest a bit, covered, as it tends to spring back into a smaller shapes once cut. Then again, you can also roll circles larger after they’re cut, and/or into ovals, which gives you more space for filling.

– Your basic set of round cutters usually doesn’t contain a 5-inch cutter. Try a plastic container top, bowl etc, or just roll each circle to 5 inches. There will always be something in your kitchen that’s round and 5-inches if you want large cannoli.

– Oil should be at least 3 inches deep and hot – 360°F-375°F, or you’ll end up with greasy shells. I prefer 350°F – 360°F because I felt the shells darkened too quickly at 375°F.

– If using the cannoli forms, when you drop the dough on the form into the oil, they tend to sink to the bottom, resulting in one side darkening more. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to gently lift and roll them while frying.

– DO NOT crowd the pan. Cannoli should be fried 2-4 at a time, depending on the width of your saucepan or deep fryer. Turn them once, and lift them out gently with a slotted spoon/wire skimmer and tongs. Just use a wire strainer or slotted spoon for flat cannoli shapes.

– When the cannoli turns light brown – uniform in color, watch it closely or remove it. If it’s already a deep brown when you remove it, you might end up with a really dark or slightly burnt shell.

– Depending on how much scrap you have left after cutting out all of your cannoli shapes, you can either fry them up and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar for a crispy treat, or let the scraps rest under plastic wrap and a towel, then re-roll and cut more cannoli shapes.

– Push forms out of cannoli very gently, being careful not to break the shells as they are very delicate. DO NOT let the cannoli cool on the form, or you may never get it off without it breaking. Try to take it off while still hot. Hold it with a cloth in the center, and push the form out with a butter knife or the back of a spoon.

– When adding the confectioner’s sugar to the filling..TASTE. You may like it sweeter than what the recipe calls for, or less sweet, so add in increments.

– Fill cannoli right before serving! If you fill them an hour or so prior, you’ll end up with soggy cannoli shells.

– If you want to prepare the shells ahead of time, store them in an airtight container, then re-crisp in a 350°F (176 °C) oven for a few minutes, before filling.

– Practice makes perfect. My first batch of shells came out less than spectacular, and that’s an understatement. As you go along, you’ll see what will make them more aesthetically pleasing, and adjust accordingly when rolling. My next several batches turned out great. Don’t give up!!

Annmarie’s Great-grandmother Martino’s Cannoli, GF Style
makes about 24-35 shells, depending on size

2 cups fine-ground brown rice flour (we used Bob’s Red Mill, which is still a bit gritty but you couldn’t tell in the final product)

2/3 cup potato starch flour

1/3 cup tapioca flour

1/2 tsp xanthum gum

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

3 tbsp shortening

1/2 cup port wine

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp water

1 egg yolk, beaten

metal cannoli tubes

1-2 liters oil suitable for deep frying (we used canola oil and needed 1 liter for my little fryer

  1. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  2. Add shortening, and add the liquid in 1/4 cup increments, mixing with a fork until dough starts to come together–it will look a lot like wet sand. We alternated liquids–for example 1/4 cup wine, then 1/4 water, then wine, etc. You may not have to add all the liquid.
  3. Dump the wet sand-like dough onto a clean counter and knead for 15 minutes or until it comes together as a nice smooth ball of dough. It shouldn’t be too sticky, but a little springy and a bit like fresh Play-Doh. Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.You will want your oil at 350°F by the time you have a few shells shaped, so plan accordingly.
  4. Shape approx 1.5 inch balls of dough; keep maybe six out at a time and leave the rest wrapped up in the refrigerator until needed. You don’t want the dough to dry out. We even kept the few on the counter between plastic wrap too.
  5. Between two small sheets of plastic wrap, roll out a ball of dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut off the sides to form roughly a 2 inch square, give or take 1/2 inch. Turn the square so that it looks like a diamond, with the point closest to you the bottom corner.
  6. Your goal is to wrap the dough around the tube so that the top and bottom corners meet at the top of the tube. Here’s how to do it: peel off the top layer of plastic wrap and lay the cannoli tube across the bottom corner. Using the bottom layer of plastic wrap, roll the dough up and around the tube until the corner is at the top of the tube and the tube is laying from side corner to side corner. Peel back the bottom layer of plastic wrap; the dough should still be up on the tube. using the plastic wrap under the top corner, lift it up onto the tube and press the two corners of dough together. Dab a little beaten egg yolk on the seam to hold it together.
  7. Fry dough on the tubes until crisp, golden brown, and blistered. Drain on paper towel until cool; remove tubes and re-use. Do NOT rinse tubes in water until you are completely finished frying shells.
  8. Fill with cannoli filling and serve immediately, or wrap double airtight and let sit at room temperature for no more than 24 hours before using.
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6 responses to “Cannoli (Daring Bakers Challenge November 2009)

  1. Your filling rose & violet infused cream cheese, and nutella and peanut butter with pistachio sound so great especially the 1st one. And your final cannoli look delicious and so well blistered and great you like them when made at home. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  2. You know..it’s funny..I don’t ‘flip’ over cannoli either, but for some reason, about once every few months, I want one..LOL In this case, I had way too many cannoli..thank god for people who do love them! That said, your cannoli turned out beautiful. I LOVE the peanut butter and chocolate ones! The rose and violet look gorgeous, but I just can’t eat food that smells like flowers..tastes like baby! LOL Regardless, amazing job..love that you blew off the trepidation and dove in head first..definitely paid off! Thank you so much for deep frying with me this month!

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