Cannoli

Ah, Cannoli.  A staple of Italian sweets, and one of my favorite desserts--I've loved these treats from the moment I tried one.  Since I started baking, I've made loads of desserts, but didn't really think I had the skill level to dive into a sweet as sophisticated as cannoli.

One of my co-workers is Italian, and after I mentioned my desire to give them a try, he offered to give me his mother's recipe.  Authentic cannoli!  How could I resist?
His mother makes the filling herself, but uses a bread maker to make the dough for the shell. He sent me the recipe, which was simpler than I expected, and provided me with an alternate choice for the shell dough.

To get started on the dough for the shells, I sifted together the flour, sugar and salt.


I diced the butter into small pieces to make it easier to blend into the flour.


I used my hands to work the butter into the flour mixture until only very small pieces remained.  This method reminded me of when I made pie crust from scratch, since I followed the same technique to blend the butter into the flour.


The end result was a sandy consistency.


I added one egg yolk and white wine and then mixed the dough with my hands and formed it into a ball.  Instead of the dry wine the recipe called for, I used a sweeter Chardonnay.  I set aside the egg white so I could use it later on the shells, then  flattened the dough and wrapped it with saran wrap.  Then, I set it in the fridge to rest for a 15 minutes or so.


To cut out the shells, I removed the dough, divided it into quarters, and rolled it out on a floured board until it was about 1/8" thick.  I got out my biscuit cutter to make the cutting process easy.


I used the biscuit cutter to cut circles out of the rolled out dough, leaving as little space as possible between the circles.  I rolled up the leftover dough and reused it to get the most out of it.


I stacked all the circles up, then got the canola oil ready for frying.


Before frying the shells, I needed to make sure they kept their form. I took some tin foil and folded it to make it a thick strip, then rolled it up and wrapped the cannoli shell around it. I used the leftover egg white and brushed some on with a pastry brush to seal the shell closed.


I set them aside as I folded them, since they fry very quickly.


Once the canola oil was heated up, I got ready to dip in a few shells at at time.  I used a dutch oven as my fryer since it is heavy and deep.  Using a strainer spoon, I added the cannoli shells to the oil, fried them for 2-3 minutes, then removed them and set them on a plate lined with a paper towel.


For the filling, I used a whisk to mix the ricotta until it was creamy.


I sifted the powdered sugar and cinnamon into the ricotta and blended it.  In a stand mixing bowl, I beat the heavy cream for about 2 minutes, until it was thick and fluffy, like it gets for Whipped Cream.  I added the ricotta mixture and vanilla, then folded the two together.  Then, I stirred in the chocolate chips and placed the filling in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  I actually used regular chocolate chips and cut them into quarters since I didn't have any mini ones on hand.  My friend's recipe called for some lemon zest and semi sweet chocolate chips, however I elected to use milk chocolate and skipped the lemon zest.


Finally for the last step--filling the cannoli shells!  I put the filling into a pastry bag, and pumped it into each shell until both ends were full.


And up close and personal, the finished cannoli:


These were so sweet!  The filling was unbelievable--I could have eaten it by itself.  But injected into those little fried shells?  Perfection was found.  I decided not to add powdered sugar to the outside of the shell because the filling made these sweet enough.  Of course I brought some into work to share, and everyone loved them, especially my recipe-providing friend.  I was sure to share them with my family, too, and they really gave rave reviews.  I filled them all at once rather than just before serving since that would have been quite a hassle, and they didn't start to soften until about 4 days after I put them together.  I will absolutely make these again, and am so proud I was able to conquer the cannoli!

Cannoli Recipe

Ingredients:

For the shells:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup white wine

For the filling:
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup mini milk chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

For the shells: In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt.  Cube the butter into small pieces.  Use your hands to work the butter into the flour until the mixture is a sandy consistency.  Add the egg yolk and wine and mix into a smooth dough, setting the egg white aside. Lay out a piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface and place the dough in the center. Wrap the plastic loosely around it and flatten the dough.  Place in the fridge to rest for 10-15 minutes.  To roll and fry the shells, heat the canola oil to 360 degrees F in a deep, heavy pan. Sprinkle some flour on a flat surface.

Divide the dough into quarters, then use a rolling pin to roll it out until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Use biscuit cutters or a small bowl with a 3-to-4-inch diameter to cut rounds out of the dough.  Fold a piece of tin foil, then roll into a circular mold about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap each circle around one of the molds. Brush some egg white on the edge before overlapping the dough to seal it shut. Use a pair of tongs or a straining spoon to place the cannoli shell in the canola oil.  Fry 4-5 at a time for for 2 or 3 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove from oil and set aside to cool. Repeat with all of the circles.

For the filling, whisk the ricotta until smooth, then sift in the powdered sugar and cinnamon and mix to combine. In a stand mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream until thick and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the cream into the ricotta mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To fill the cannoli, use a pastry bag without a tip to pipe the ricotta into the cannoli shells. Fill the cannoli shells from both ends so the cream runs through the whole shell.

Makes about 24 cannoli.

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