Friday, November 27, 2009

A Taste of Sicily - Ricotta Cappuccino Cannoli

...An extraordinary Italian dessert composed of delicate, crisp, tube-shaped pastry shells infused with Marsala, filled with sweet, creamy ricotta cheese, embracing miniature chocolate morsels and candied orange peel, and dusted ever so softly with powdered sugar. Close your eyes, envision yourself at a picturesque Italian caf√©, and indulge your craving...

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.

Cannoli originated in Sicily and are an essential part of Sicilian cuisine. Cannoli were historically prepared as a treat during Carnevale season, possibly as a fertility symbol.  They consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta cheese (or alternatively, but less traditionally, sweetened Mascarpone) blended with some combination of vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, Marsala wine, or other flavorings. Some chefs add chocolate chips. Sometimes, cannoli can be found with the shells dipped in chocolate, in addition to being stuffed with filling.

The following is the recipe Lisa Michele provided for the Challenge.

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 (I used unsalted butter) 
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 (I used Marsala)

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)

Garnish:  1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests; Confectioners' sugar for dusting over cannoli

Cannoli Filling

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cups (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

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 refridgerator 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 oiled). 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.

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.

Directions for the 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, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, or food processor, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Add confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla, and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and fold in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm. The filling can be made up to 24 hours in advance.  Store the filling in a pastry bag, or in a covered bowl, in the refrigerator, until ready to fill the shells.

Assembling the Cannoli:

1.  Just prior to serving, 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.

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 a drizzle of melted chocolate if desired.

I recommend watching Maria Batali's video series prior to making cannoli for the first time.  I've also made Mario's Cannoli de Ricotta recipe (posted here), with excellent recults.

Making Cannoli Dough, by Mario Batali
Forming and Frying Cannoli Shells, by Mario Batali
Filling Cannoli, by Mario Batali

I adapted Giada De Laurentiss' Ricotta Cappuccino recipe for my filling.  The texture is smooth and creamy and the hint of espresso is wonderful.

Ricotta Cappuccino
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 (12 oz) containers ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch cocoa powder

Place the sugar in a food processor. Cut the vanilla bean open lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and place them in the food processor with the sugar. Run the machine to make vanilla sugar.

Place the ricotta and espresso powder in the food processor. Blend for about 30 seconds. Stop the machine to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add cinnamon and cocoa powder.  Blend for another 30 seconds. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag and pipe into prepared cannoli shells.  Drizzle cannoli with melted chocolate (I melted a Dark Chocolate-Orange bar)

I'll leave you with this poem I came across...

How to eat a Cannoli
by Ray Brown

Cannoli won second place
for the dessert with the worst eating design
second only to a hot dipped, thin-coated,
chocolate covered soft vanilla ice cream cone
on an August summer’s day.

I understand why
they have to see through both ends of the shell
when filling it up -
but why would anyone design a dessert
which, when you bite on one end,
you lose 25% of the equivalent of the dessert out the other?

Now a Hot Dog.
There’s a functional cylindrical type food.
The dog tucked cozily in the bun.
When you chew on one end you do not loose
mustard, relish and onions out the other.
Compare that to a Big Mac.
Bite at any one point and you have drippings drama
around all of the edges.

The cannoli’s problem would be almost tolerable
if you were losing just mayonnaise, ketchup or mustard
or that messy combination of goo that
soothes your hamburger taste buds.
But cannoli filling is Italian health food
the whole cow’s milk ricotta cheese
dark milk chocolate chips
(and whatever else is in there)
the sweet nectar of life.

I ate dinner once with an American
who thought he’d solve the problem with a knife and a fork
attempting to daintily cut through the shell
in order to pick up pieces.
Cutting through a cannoli shell!
“gat outa here”!

If they wanted you to break the shells apart
they would have crushed them up for you
and sprinkled them on top of the filling
and served them to you with a plastic spoon
in one of those paper cups for pansies.

There is only one way to eat cannoli.
Bite on one end
and as far as the other end goes -


Lauren said...

I'm melting staring at your photos. They're simply gorgeous! And the cannoli are stunning. Fabulous job =D.

Wic said...

stunning cannoli. the shells look perfect, blistered and crispy. amazing work.

Audax said...

Wonderful step by step photos and the final cannoli are so delicious sounding beautiful photos. Cheers form Audax in Australia.

Shirley said...

They came out thin and gorgeous!

Lisa said...

Oh Denise..those are simply stunning cannoli, and I love the chocolate drizzles on top. Great choice for a filling too! OH, nd perfect, perfect blistery shells! You kicked some major cannoli booty, if there is such a thing! Thanks so much for deep frying with me this month!

Vegan Von Vittle said...

OMG! They look delicious! I love the chocolate drizzled on top :)

Anonymous said...

Great job. The cappucino filling sound really good.

Mikaela Stoner said...

This looks soooooo good! I can't wait to make it, I was searching Ricotta cheese and your post came up as the first link! Your pictures of cannoli are mouth watering!