Deep frying food is not something that I do very often, so I was a little weary of this challenge. However, my experiences as a Daring Baker have prepared me for this. I was ready for cannoli! Bring it on.
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.
I made the dough the night before I made the cannoli. I did not want to buy Marsala wine, so I used an open bottle of red wine that I had. This gave the dough a purple-ish hue that I found a bit strange. The dough was dense and had a weird texture after kneading, but I wrapped it in plastic anyway and let it sit in the fridge overnight.
The next day I rolled it out and fried the shells. You have really got to be tough and put some serious forearm strength into the dough to get it to the perfect thinness needed to make the perfect cannoli. Once you think you’ve got it, your perfect little circles have shrunk to half the original size. This worried me at first, but it was actually easier to cut the circles a little smaller and thicker than you want them to be, and then let the circles rest. After about 10 minutes, roll each circle out making it bigger in diameter and thin enough to fry up nicely. This worked well for me, but I am sure that everyone has their own way of doing this.
I do not have a deep fryer, so I used a deep skillet and filled it with vegetable oil. I heated it to 375° and had to play with the heat level quite a bit to keep it there. My oil fluctuated between 355° and 380° throughout the process. I fried my cannoli one at a time because I did not feel like monitoring more than one at a time. Too much pressure. I wanted them to be as good as they could be, and in order to acheive this I gave each cannoli its deserved individualized attention. Despite my efforts, a few of my cannoli came off of their forms and became a sort of sopapilla type thing. These still turned out to be quite delicious, just not as pretty.
I made two fillings for the cannoli.
One was a semi-traditional filling with ricotta cheese with the ends dipped in mini chocolate chips. I found a few recipes that incorporated cream cheese in the filling and thought this would be a good way to tone down the ricotta texture and still maintain the flavor. This one was the best. I wish I had used this filling in all of the shells.
The second filling was a chocolate pastry cream. I dipped the ends in toffee pieces. I imagined this combination being incredibly delicious. My instincts were not exactly right on this one. The pastry cream wasn’t quite thick enough and did not pipe as beautifully and smooth as the ricotta filling. Well, mistakes can make us better I suppose.
I was so pleased with these. Adorable crispy shells filled with luscious creamy filling. The contrasting textures are wonderful. I love the way the shells audibly crunch when you take the first bite and the crumbling pastry demands that you eat with your mouth over your plate so the remnants don’t make their way to your shirt or the floor. Messy food is terrific.
The dough can be made a day before. The fillings can be made the day before. The shells can even be made a day before, but DO NOT fill these until you are ready to serve them. Just one night in the fridge rendered my left over cannoli soggy and just not too tasty.
This was a fun challenge and I am glad that I didn’t let fear of deep frying keep me from making this delectable treat. If you’re looking for something quick and easy, look elsewhere. If you want something special to serve at a dinner party or dessert buffet to awe your guests, then this is perfect.
- 2 cups (250 grams/8.82 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Fill the Cannoli
- 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.
- 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.
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 C powdered sugar, sifted
- 7 1/2 oz whole milk ricotta, drained
- 1/4 t vanilla
- light pinch of cinnamon
- mini chocolate chips for garnish
- Drain ricotta in a cheesecloth lined strainer for 2 – 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Beat the cream cheese to soften. Add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Blend in drained ricotta until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Fold in vanilla, cinnamon. Chill.