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.
Well isn't this fitting. 7 weeks since I was parlo-ing Italiano on Italian soil, and I'm making Cannoli for a Daring Bakers challenge. Who could resist these pistachio speckled tubes? Cannoli (cannolo for one) are common Italian treats originating from Sicily. While there can be variations in filling and forms, some seeming more like a butterhorn from other parts of Europe, traditionally they consist of a dough flavoured with cinnamon and a splash of Marsala wine which gives a lovely complex flavour. The dough is rolled thin, cut into circles and wrapped around tubular forms of metal or more old school, wood, and deep fried. The creamy filling is made of sweetened fresh ricotta cheese, sometimes mascarpone and flavoured commonly with cinnamon and candied orange zest.
This was perhaps my first attempt at a real deep fry operation and it
went smooth as that vat of bubbling oil on the stove. With the
exception of that spat of oil that hit me squarely in the corner of the
eye, literally moments from when I said aloud "look at that, not one
burn". But I've come out of this challenge with all my skin cells, no
burn victim here and these crispy beauties convinced me that sometimes it is okay to fry. It's no big surprise that the homemade version of cannoli shells are superior to the readily available ones in Italian supermarkets, but I was still surprised at how superior. A lovely amount of crunch and all the right flavours came through. Dough scraps were dutifully cut, fried, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar for the perfect waste not want not snack.
Sweetened ricotta filling is the norm here, and I was happy to follow tradition. This type of basic filling is ripe for
improvisating, but I've learnt that the Italians like their foods as they are, so I've
stuck with the traditional flavours. I don't have these often enough to get bored with tradition. For a dessert filled with such simple and few ingredients, the
quality of each one really does shine through, so I knew from the
beginning that this was the time for a batch of homemade ricotta. Made
from whole raw milk it is the stuff of dairy dreams and begs to be used
in desserts that let it become a star. I've been wanting to share my homemade ricotta story with you for awhile, so this seemed to perfect time to introduce it. Yes I am one of "those" people - those that make cheese, and am happy to admit it. A whole post could be written about this ricotta, as others have, but I'll save that for another day.
With just the right amount leftover in my fridge I combined the ricotta with cinnamon and cardamon and plenty of candied grapefruit and orange zest that I'd recently made in preparation for Christmas baking season.
The shells are prettily dressed, patisserie style, with a dipping of chocolate and pistachios and its that green contrast against the cream which really gets you eating with you eyes. I'm thankful to have a fantastic middle eastern grocer in my neighborhood for the freshest pistachios in town.
Shortly before serving the filling is piped into shells to preserve their crunch. Simple, lovely, molto delizioso!
For recipe and instructions head over here.