Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sicilian Cannoli (is there any other kind?)

Ok, it's about time for another recipe. Something happens when you don't have a job. You (or at least I) would think that you'd have a lot more time for other stuff, like posting on your foodblog, but I've found that along with the laziness that not working provides, there's also a loss of motivation. I keep waiting until I start working, figure things out, get back into a routine and start cooking regular meals, rather than eating whatever I want, whenever I want, to start back into my routine of writing recipes and posting. This is just another negative effect of the economy. Boooo bad economy.

Despite my slump, I have cooked a thing or two, so I'll start with one that I had been wanting to make for a while. It may or may not have something to do with my strong fascination with Sicily, although I've never been. I had a trip planned about half a year ago and was thwarted by someone else. I'm sure I'll make it there someday, but in the meantime, I decided to try cannoli. I could say cannolis, but if you speak Italian, you'd know that wasn't technically correct. One thing I will say up front is that I'm not a huge fan of them or anything, but I like trying new things. And who knows, maybe the homemade ones would turn out 100 times better than any store bought ones I'd ever had. Which is another point. In the south, we don't eat cannoli so much. We got more pies here. So I’m not so familiar with them either. What I do know is I absolutely hate the ones with those little gummied fruit things in the ricotta. Hate it. Which is an advantage to making my own, I could alter the recipe as I saw fit. I googled around and found 2 recipes I liked. Then went and bought the cannoli rings after much deliberation. Seriously, you'd think there'd be something lying around the house that you could wrap some cannoli dough around and fry it, to avoid having to buy rings which can only be used for cannoli. But you'd be wrong. On the back of the cannoli ring package, they also give you a recipe, so I came up with my own tailored version between the three.

Oh, and I think the important part is the dough. Mine came out tasting good, because there was cinnamon in it, but it was so elasticy that after frying it was a bit thick and I wish I had rolled it thinner (although I tried and sometimes it would break and a hole would form), and then it would make for crispier cannoli shells. Better luck next time. The filling is the easy part, and I didn't measure, just taste-tested my ricotta, powdered sugar, orange zest, and vanilla mixture. And one last thing: there's no point denying the fact I'm a chocolate addict, but I do occasionally branch out to other sweets (I love cheesecake, crème brulee, that kind of stuff) but the best bite of cannoli was the very edge that I had dipped in chocolate, and I kind of wished I could dip the whole shell in it. Might have to experiment with that next time too.


2 c flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp shortening
2 Tbsp sweet Marsala wine
1 egg, separated

powdered sugar
grated orange zest
vanilla extract

finely chopped pistachios

melted chocolate (at least 60%)

oil for frying

Mix together all dry ingredients in a bowl, then add shortening and using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers, blend until in crumbs. Add the wine and the egg yolk and mix until a dough forms. Turn it onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5-7 minutes. Cover in plastic wrap and let stand for one hour at room temperature.
In a deep fryer, heat oil. On a floured surface, pinch off rounds of the dough and with a rolling pin, roll out into a five inch diameter round, making it as thin as you can. Wrap around the cannoli ring (unless you were lucky enough to find some other household object that would serve), brushing the egg white on the seam to close. What I found was that if you brush it all over and fry it, the shell comes back looking very crispy, with thin bubbles on it. Experiment and see which way you like better, but I think it’s necessary just to seal it at least. Drop the ring into the hot oil, and get a plate with paper towels ready. I think it took 1-2 minutes to fry, until it got deep brown, so when it’s done using tongs remove from oil. Try and slip the shells off the ring soon after they get out of the oil, using a hot pad to hold the metal. Keep pinching off and rolling dough until all the cannoli are done.
When they’re nice and cool, melt the chocolate in a bowl and dip the shell edges in the chocolate. Line on a sheet of parchment and let chocolate set. Mix together ricotta, powdered sugar, orange zest, and a touch of vanilla extract to your liking. You’ll probably need to pipe this into the shells, otherwise it could get messy trying to fill them. So get your pastry bag and when the chocolate’s dry, fill your cannoli shell. The final step is to dip the ricotta edges in the pistachio pieces and then you’re ready to eat. Mangia!