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.
My standard Daring Bakers practice is to read through the challenge sometime the day before the reveal is scheduled, then scramble like mad to complete it and put up a post. Which explains why I've been so terribly remiss in posting the challenge results lately. So this month, knowing that Thanksgiving was going to coincide with the reveal date, I checked in to discover the mission at hand early ~ weeks early, in fact. I was very proud of myself for this burst of diligence. I now knew what I was going to do, and what I needed to have on hand to complete the challenge. I confidently chalked it in on the blackboard that hangs above my baker's bench, smug at the room in my schedule.
And so, it was with some chagrin but absolutely no surprise that I found myself on Thanksgiving morning pouring oil into my deep-fryer and rolling out dough for cannoli shells. All I'd managed to do in advance was drain the ricotta for the filling. That morning, I'd gotten up at 7:00 to make the dough, and it was now relaxing in my refrigerator for a few hours while I made an apple-cranberry galette, a pumpkin-sour cream pie, a round of tarts, a pound of buttercream frosting, and some roasted kale. There is nothing quite like multitasking on a holiday morning.
Finally, with nothing remaining but to roll out the dough, I pulled it from the fridge and went to work with my rolling pin. I rolled and rolled and rolled. This dough would. not. budge. Really, it was impressive in its ability to resist my rolling pin. Ultimately, watching the clock tick away the minutes till dinner at my parents' house and keeping an eye on the oil heating in the deep-fryer, I called in my teenage son. Since his upper body strength exceeds mine, he was able to steamroll the dough into submission, and it wasn't much work after that to cut, roll, and form the shells.
I was a little hasty in dropping them into the oil before the egg white had a chance to properly seal the shells shut, and as a result, about half of the shells I drop in opened up and fell free from the forms. I doubt this would have been a problem had I let them rest long enough for the seal to develop. But, last-minute pastry prep being what it is, I didn't have the luxury of time to find out.
For the filling, I went with a pumpkin-ricotta blend, which was smooth and rich without being over-the-top sweet. Next time I'll make my own mascarpone, which I've done in the past and is well worth doing.
I didn't use my piping bag and a fancy tip to fill these, though I probably should have. I would have, in fact, except that my favorite (and most convenient) piping bag was filled with brown sugar-cinnamon whipped cream and I just didn't feel like making the transfer. I used a plastic sandwich bag with the corner snipped off to do the job. To dust with confectioner's sugar, I used my favorite tool for this purpose, a tea-steeping spoon.
Would I make these again? Yes! They're really delicious, and a bit more substantial than the store-bought version. However, I would do a couple of things differently. I'd prep the dough in advance and borrow a pasta roller to sheet it. With this application, thinner is definitely better, and I think a pasta roller would be an effective way to achieve a very thin dough. As they were, I did get the nice blistery crust that is a hallmark of the cannoli pastry, but a thinner dough would have looked nicer in my opinion.
Also, I would let them sit long enough to let that egg-white seal do its thing, and I'd make a bigger batch ~ they go pretty quickly.
Thanks, Lisa Michele, for choosing this challenge! I don't think I'd have made these otherwise, and they were a great repertoire expander.
Lidisano's 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 (I used Pinot Grigio)
- 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 (I used cinnamon sugar)
- Confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 cup (123 grams/4.34 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
- 1/2 cup (113 grams/4.04 ounces) mascarpone cheese (I substituted cream cheese)
- 1/2 cup (122.5 grams/4.32 ounces) canned pumpkin, drained like ricotta
- 3/4 cup (75 grams/2.65 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (approx. 1.7 grams/approx. 0.06 ounces) pumpkin pie spice (taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon (approx. 2 grams/approx. 0.08 ounces) pure vanilla extract
- 6-8 cannoli shells
1. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta and mascarpone until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl, cover and chill until it firms up a bit. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).Directions for Shells:
- 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 fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
- 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.
- Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes at first use. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. (I used the tongs to hold the tube and gently pulled the shell off with a folded paper towel.) Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
- 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.
- 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 Ziploc 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.
- 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.