I love Cannoli. The creamy not-too-sweet filling, the crispy shell….It's one of my favorite pastry/desserty foods. And unless you go to a good bakery, the stuff you find (or at least the stuff I've found) is kind of…well, it's not good.
My kids wanted to know what Cannoli was, actually, though I know they've had it before. They were watching an episode of Curious George, and apparently Curious George loves Cannoli, and lucky for him, there's a restaurant owner in town who will make some for him at any time. Fortunate little monkey.
So I told the kids I'd bring home some cannoli, but neither one of the two big grocery stores had any, and the smaller, better grocery chain actually DID have some – mini cannoli – some of the shells dipped in chocolate, some not – so I brought some home one day and the kids and I each had one after lunch.
Alex decided he didn't like cannoli at all. And I'm not surprised – he's got a thing about certain textures, especially if they're at all white. (Like mayo, sour cream, cream cheese, mashed potatoes, and – cannoli filling.) Julia kind of liked it but abandoned the small thing instead of finishing it. Of course, they both had the ones with chocolate dipped shells and colored sugary dots on the ends instead of chocolate chips or pistachios, so I thought that might be it. But I had one of the plain ones – and I didn't like that either. I don't know what the filling was made of, but it just didn't taste right.
So I thought – dammit – I'll make my own!
I went online and found some cannoli recipes – which included recipes for the shells. I know you can buy the shells, but if I was gonna do this, I was gonna do it all the way. And I actually have a set of metal cannoli tubes, so why not?
I found a Mario Batali recipe that sounded good, but actually, there must have been a typo in the instructions for the dough for the shell because it didn't come together as a dough should. So I messed around with it and was moderately successful. I didn't exactly make his filling, either. I modified it based on what I thought the kids would like – so no candied fruit in there.
And you know what?
They came out pretty good. My husband loved them. So did Julia. Alex? Not really. It's still a texture thing with the filling.
Like I mentioned, you'll need a set of metal cannoli tubes.
Or can also buy cannoli shells if you'd prefer.
For the dough, you will need the following:
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 T cold, unsalted butter
12-14 T marsala wine. (Or more – the humidity or lack of it will affect how much wine you need, so add it bit by bit.)
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, sugar and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl.
Add in the butter in small pieces, and cut it in as you would if you were making a pie crust – either with two knives, or a pastry cutter, or in a mixing bowl or food processor by pulsing again and again until the mixture looks like coarse sand.
You want some small lumps of butter remaining – you don't want it all perfectly combined.
Next, you add in the marsala wine, a little at a time, and continue to pulse until the dough starts to come together if you squeeze it in your hand. Work the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for an hour.
Now for the filling:
2 lbs ricotta cheese
1 cup superfine sugar
2 T vanilla
1/2 cup (or more) tiny chocolate chips
zest of half a lemon
Combine all of these ingredients in a bowl
and mix well.
Now comes the exciting part.
Heat 2 quarts of oil in a pot to 350 degrees F.
Make an egg wash using only the white and a bit of water. Keep nearby.
While the oil is heating, remove the dough from the fridge, cut it into quarters, and roll out one of the quarters of dough on your work surface as thin as you can. Ideally – about 1/16 of an inch thick.
Cut out 4" circles and, with the rolling pin, roll each into an oval shape. Wrap the dough around a cannoli tube, brush one edge with some of the egg wash and overlap with the other edge. Press together a bit so they adhere. Next, flare the dough at the ends of the tubes a bit to help keep them from curling back over the ends of the tubes while frying.
They should look sort of like this.
* (I say "sort of" because the dough ends really should overlap a bit more than they do in this picture.)
Anyway, once the dough has reached temperature, gently place a couple of the cannoli tubes in the oil. They will sink to the bottom.
Now, I was expecting that, just because a lot of foods initially sink to the bottom of the oil and then rise as they cook.
So I also thought it perfectly normal to see this after a minute or so:
And then I realized that the dough had opened (because it wasn't overlapping enough – lesson learned) and the tube was still at the bottom of the oil. The same thing happened with the other one a moment later.
So my first batch of shells looked like this:
Misfits, all of them. Even that one in the back that almost looks okay – isn't.
So – I tried again. And this time I made sure to overlap the ends by about 3/4 of an inch and to seal them well.
I got better as I went along. And fortunately the ones that looked funny still tasted good – that hint of chocolate and hint of cinnamon is wonderful.
Anyway – when you're ready to serve them…
Put some of the filling in a piping bag with a wide round tip or in a zip loc bag with one of the corners cut.
Pipe the cannoli filling into each shell.
Now pour some mini chocolate chips in a bowl (you do have some left, don't you?) You could also use chopped pistachios.
Press each end of the cannoli in the chocolate chips.
Dust the cannoli with confectioners sugar.