How appropropriate that my first Daring Bakers' Challenge is cannoli. Having recently returned from Sicily and much sampling, sampling, and sampling (you get the idea) of cannoli, I was thrilled to see them as the November Daring Bakers Challenge. It also gave me a chance to use my new cannoli forms, a gift from my Roman friend Stefania.
For those that are unfamiliar with the Daring Bakers, it's a group of bakers who bake the exact same recipe each month and share the results. Many in the group, numbering in the thousands, have a blog and share their experience via their blogs.
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: As Compiled by Artie Bucco by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone. She also added her own modifications and changes.
I used the same filling that I used for the Cassatelle alla Siciliana because I prefer chocolate in the ricotta cream instead of candied fruit. I think current day Sicilians aren't big fans of the candied fruit either because the cannoli I found throughout the island had only ricotta cream, and some had chocolate in the cream, but no candied fruit.
This was the second time I made cannoli. The other was many years ago with my grandmother's recipe. It was before I had ever been to Sicily, so I had only store-bought mushy cannoli to compare. My new standards are quite a bit higher, but these were delicious. I was really pleased with the filling. I drained the ricotta in a cheese cloth overnight. I am still searching for a sheep's milk ricotta that isn't too grassy tasting, so I used a cow's milk ricotta from Trader Joe's instead.
The shells were crunchy and just sweet enough and extremely close to those in Sicily (they use lard, strutto in Italian, there). I would have liked the shells to have more blisters, but I need to practice a bit more with the dough. Here are a few things that help to get the blistery outer shell. The dough should be as thin as possible. I used my pasta machine to roll out the dough, which made it extremely easy. I found that the shells blistered better when the oil temperature was 375 degrees F and the dough was loosely wrapped around the cannoli forms.
You can find the filling recipe I used here. Below is the recipe the Daring Bakers used that Lisa Michele adapted for us. By the way, the name ‘Lidisano’ (the recipe name) is a combination of Lidia, Lisa and Sopranos. Thanks again Lisa Michele! And, grazie mille Stefania for the Italian cannoli forms!
Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
RECIPE NOTE: THE EQUIVALENTS FROM THIS RECIPE WERE PREPARED USING THIS CONVERSION SITE
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 egg white
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS:
- 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.
Pasta Machine method:
- Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through
- Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.
- Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.
ASSEMBLE 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.