Sunday, November 29, 2009

Daring Bakers' Cannoli

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.
Once again i'm doing everything at the last minute: studying at the last minute, doing the challenge at the last minute, and even posting at the last minute (and still late). So this is going to be a super quick update since i'm running out of study time for the upcoming Neurology finals. Arghhh! This month for the Daring Bakers' challenge we were to make Cannolis. I have never heard of them until our host gave us a brief description about it: "The cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy amalgamation of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts." With no idea how these should taste, i decided to stick to the original recipe provided by Lisa Michele instead of going crazy with variations. The biggest problem i had were finding replacements for the frying Cannoli tubes... i saw other daring bakers using sawed off broom-sticks, cannenoli pasta shells, and crumpled aluminum baking pans. I was so lazy that even those simplified-to-the-max replacements seemed too much of a hassle to prepare. Instead of using their suggestions, i went ahead and used... my stainless-steel Ikea can opener! Yep, after searching through all my cooking utensils, the round handles on the can opener were just the perfect size for the cannoli tubes, LOL. But hey, they worked magically! Frying them one by one in my little metal cup took about an hour but at least i saved myself some money with this ghetto little trick! The cannoli shells turned out great but i wasn't a big fan of this dessert itself... i thought the ricotta filling tasted a bit odd with the combination of chocolate chips and orange zest. If i ever make this again (or more like, if i ever buy myself some cannoli tubes), i'll probably use mascarpone cheese instead and leave out the orange zest. I only ate 2 cannolis and had JLo finish the rest. Yay for unpicky boyfriends!

Cannoli Shells
  • 2 cups (250 grams/8.82 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
  • 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
  • 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)
  • 1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
  • Confectioners' sugar

  1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt [picture 1]. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough [picture 2]. 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 [picture 3]. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight [picture 4].
  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 [picture 5].
  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, uhh, 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 [picture 6].
  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 [picture 7]. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly [picture 8].
  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 [picture 9].
Cannoli Filling:
  • 2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 2/3 cups cup (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

  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 with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight [picture 1].
  2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy [picture 2]. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth [picture 3]. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts [picture 4]. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated) [picture 5].
  1. 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.
  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 drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.


  1. Wonderful series of photos and the use of the stainless-steel Ikea can opener is brilliant and the cannoli shells are so well blistered well done and hope you found/buy a cannoli filling you like. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  2. ANG..I love that you used a stainles steel can opener as your cannoli forms, so much so, I linked to it in my blog entry! Even though you didn't love the ricotta filling, your cannoli turned out awesome, and I don't blame JLo for scarfing them down! Thanks for deep frying with me this month!

  3. LOL YOUR CAN OPENER IS A GENIUS! :D Lovely work there =P

  4. Wow, look at you, making ghetto cannoli! Great job working with what you had on hand! And the shells look fantastic, really well-made and pretty! I definitely recommend a mascarpone-based filling, though (you don't even have to make the cannoli again - just find something crispy, fried and neutral-tasting, and slather the filling on it!).

  5. This is so cool!! I love how you used the can opener! Your cannoli look great, too!

  6. oh wow! what a creative way of forming the cannoli! they look great by the way :)

  7. Such a great idea! They looks like the perfect forms =D. Gorgeous cannoli as well!

  8. Absolutely brilliant idea to use the can that is a true Daring Baker, thinking out of the box :) The cannoli look great!

  9. Oh I looove your improvised cannoli forms. Great idea. Fabulous job with the challenge.

  10. You are a genius! Can opener --- don't worry, your neurology finals will be SIMPLE! :P All the best on your studies, and well done on your challenge.
    p/s: I was TWO days late on my challenge this month! :P

  11. I like your McGyver tube form from bottle opener! Very creative! And it surely shape beautiful cannoli. And look at the blisters, wow...

    Sawadee from Thailand,

  12. Very clever with the can opener :)
    Your cannolis looks great!

  13. Ha ha ha, I love your McGyvering spirit. Great job:)

  14. You did a wonderful job on your cannoli! I love your choices in fillings too.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  15. very creative way to make the cannoli. They look so pretty and delicious. Well done!