Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Cannoli

So I was invited to a friend's house for Christmas dinner and, of course, being connected to the bakery I tend to be the "Go To" person for the dessert action.
I know, Weird right? ;)

Anyhow, my dessert mission this time should I choose to accept is...
to make Cannoli.

I've heard people wax poetic about Cannoli,
I've even tried one made locally once, I'll just say it was...ummmm...
(yeah, that's one way to describe it.)

At any rate, I decided to give it a whirl.
I read various cookbooks for some general recipes, looked up some stuff online (I like to research things beforehand so I have a general outline in my head of how it's supposed to work.),
then I took a deep breath and took the plunge.

It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be.
Here's a general overview of my
" Cannoli Journey"

*What? I know it's not like jumping out of an airplane or anything but there was trepidation, wonder, and excitement involved and if that doesn't make a journey, I don't know what does...
plus, it's tasty.*

Okay, first things first.
Have an extremely healthy respect for the extremely hot oil that you will be using to deep fry with because it's
Extremely Hot!

So be careful heating it up and be very careful
when letting it cool down.

Otherwise, you may be getting a visit from the Fire Department which is not really a good thing...hmmmm, unless the firemen...
(wait, wait-politically correct term would be fire persons?)
unless the fire persons are extremely hot themselves.
No, no-still really not a good thing if they have to show up regardless of how cute they may be.
[I used my cast iron Dutch oven to cook in]

Here's the link to the recipe that I generally followed.

As usual, I changed a couple of things like adding a little cardamom and cinnamon into the dough. I also used a little whole wheat flour 'cause I'm wild and crazy like that sometimes.

I was surprised at how very similar it was to making fresh pasta, right down to using the pasta machine to roll out the dough.
[I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised as it is an Italian recipe but I was.]

You can buy the stainless steel tubes at various kitchen specialty stores or order them online. It really helps to have at least 8 or more to make things go faster.

When I rolled out the dough, I cut it into squares rather than circles because it was less work; I didn't need to find a round cutter or make a template-I just trimmed the edges and cut perfectly equal squares...
[well, mostly even squares, (okay, okay-yeesh) actually rectangles if you really want to be technical about it.]

Also, I rolled and cut the dough all at once, laying the squares on a sheet tray between layers of parchment paper so I wouldn't have to stop halfway through to make another batch of shells.

Here's what they look like rolled up. Use a little bit of egg white just as you start to roll and just as you fold that last end over so that the dough will seal to itself and not unravel when you put it in the oil.

Then, gently drop in two or three tubes at a time into the fryer.

*Keep an eye on the oil temperature so it doesn't cool down too much other wise the shells will get soggy and absorb oil rather than be crisp and tasty-and if the oil's too hot?
Well, then you are heading into charcoal territory.

Let the shells cook for a couple of minutes, until they are a light golden brown,
then pull them out quickly using tongs.
The shells slid right off of the tubes for me but you might need a tea towel or something to gently pull them off so have one handy.
[Always think Mise en Place, ALWAYS!]

Set the shells on a rack to drain, dry, and cool off and repeat the process until you have enough shells for whatever your event may be.

Taaaaaa Daaaaaa!Aren't they beeeeeauuuuutiful?

I have to admit I was pretty pleased with myself at this point.
"That's some nice looking Cannoli shells you got there."
(okay, so I'm talking to myself like someone from the Godfather movie
but they were nice!)
[and Close Up...because again, I am pleased with how they turned out]
So, at this point, the shells can be kept in a sealed container or covered with plastic wrap for at least a couple of days before you need to use them.

Just remember don't fill them until just before you plan to serve them
or you'll end up with soggy crust
and a soggy Cannoli is a sad, sad thing.
(although still tasty)
If you have all of the time in the world (not me), you can coat the inside of the
Cannoli shells with chocolate which will provide a moisture barrier once it sets up.

For the filling, I made one similar to the recipe in the link but I used some fresh lemon and orange zest rather than the candied citron and added a touch more sugar.

Important tip: If the ricotta you are using isn't the particular type of ricotta deemed the "perfect Cannoli ricotta" by several foodie types out there then let the ricotta that you are using drain overnight, it will help the texture (this will also help with desoggification ;).

Here are the Cannoli that I filled with the ricotta mixture.
I also made a mocha cream cheese filling which worked quite well.
I know, I know-it's not "traditional" but really, you can mess around with all sorts of flavors that you like and most of the spreadable/soft cheeses will work nicely.
You could even use (gasp) a whipped cream filling if you wish.

Here's a close up of the mocha action.
After you get them filled (using a pastry bag makes it very simple btw), you can chop up some dark chocolate, roasted unsalted pistachios (or nuts of your choice), or anything else you might want to dip the Cannolis in to add that final touch.
Plain or adorned, they are tasty.

Mine turned out pretty well I guess,
one of the guests at the dinner said that these reminded her of the ones that her Italian grandmother used to make.
*Yay! & Whew!*

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dreaming while at work...

Paperwork, paperwork, and...

[insert much put upon sigh here]

more paperwork.

[eyes getting heavy, soooooo sleepy]

{dream sequence commencing in 3, 2, 1}

Ahhhhhhh, how relaxing.
Warm sun.
Toasty sand.
Waves gently rolling ashore, palm trees swaying in the breeze.
Sapphire waters lazily lapping at my toes.

The perfect kind of day to chill out and relax.
(very possibly with a Mojito)
[happy sigh]

baaa dum
"wait, did you..?"
"nah, I'm just hearing things..."

baaaaaa dumm
baaaaaa dumm

"Wait, I heard something...I swear"

baduh baduh baduh
baduh baduh baduh baduh baduh baduh baduh baduh baduh
(jaws theme... in theory at least)

"Hmmmm, doesn't that one wave seem a Leeeeettle Taller than the others?
And slightly grey?
That's not normal right? Is it?"
"Oh God! It hurts!"

[Time to head somewhere else for this dream sequence me thinks...]

Somewhere inland perhaps, far far away from warm, sunny beaches and large, carnivorous fish.

Where the snow falls gently...
Evergreen trees are always festively decorated for the season.
Candy canes are 1.524m tall (5ft)
and you can share with many friends.
Many, many friends.
Far, far, far away.
Adorable snowmen adorn the landscape.

Yes, here's just the ticket.
Building a Snowman while the snowflakes fall and not a care in the world.
baaa dum
"wait, did you..?"
"nah, I'm just hearing things..."

baaaaaa dumm
baaaaaa dumm

"Wait, I heard something...I swear"

baduh baduh baduh
baduh baduh baduh baduh baduh baduh baduh baduh baduh

Um, there seems to be something a little different about these snowmen.
Um, I think I'll be backing away now.

"Did...did you just see them move?"


and on that note and just because I like it,
here's a randomly cool
and slightly pointy wreath from the
Festival of Trees.
(with appropriate music I think)
Oooohhhhh, Spikey ;)

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bakers are secretly Masochists

I have come to the conclusion that anyone in the baking field tends to have some masochistic tendencies about them.

Definition of Masochist:
The deriving of pleasure, or the tendency to derive pleasure, from being humiliated or mistreated, either by another or by oneself.

2. A willingness or tendency to subject oneself to unpleasant or trying experiences.

Not technically a part of the definition but should be.
Bakery version:

Working during the holiday season when everyone around you seems to go that one little extra step towards being certifiable.

(and that's just your fellow employees, everyone else seems to jump over that step and head straight for the cliff version-cliff notes hehehehehehe)

3b. Also applies to having to work on gorgeous summer days and during extremely hot weather.

Early hours start flowing into very long days, especially once the holidays really get going...and vacation during holidays?

Not even remotely going to happen.

On the "making lemonade" side of things bakery wise, if you ever want a free sauna in the work place-work at a bakery.

On hot days, standing next to even hotter ovens can make you feel that you are visiting the Sahara or possibly the Gobi desert but if being a member of the Polar Bear club is more your thing then head into the walk in freezer while it's freezing outside and you can get a head start towards hiking on a the Antarctic.

There needs to be a new holiday sometime in January just for the bakers, retail workers, restaurant staff, and others who work during the holidays.

A time when all of the banks and federal offices have to stay open and there may be a tropical location with a fruity drink sporting a little umbrella in the baker's future.

Who's with me?

Let's start a revolution, dessert style.

Yeah, forget dreaming of sugar plums dancing-I'm dreaming of a Mojito and a sandy beach-oh, or a Mojito and relaxing in a meadow...or a Mojito while sitting in front of a cozy fire at a ski lodge.
(pretty much Mojito and anything works, though beverage choice is optional-hot chocolate works well in certain situations too ;)

(think White Christmas tune )
"I'mmmmmmm dreaming of a sunny beach"

Monday, December 6, 2010

Festival of Trees

Here are some of the sights from the Providence Festival of Trees where we entered a Gingerbread house in a competition.

Think trees, lots and lots of trees ;)

There were red ones and blue ones,
black ones and green ones.
Big ones and small ones and even some Seuss ones.

Marzipan mice around a tree, all of them seem to really be focused on peppermint on top, I mean realllllllllly focused.

This tree and layout had a Japanese theme, it was a little over the top for me-I probably would have just done the cranes and lights and left everything else off but this was a competition after all.

Here's more of this layout.

Someone has a sense of humor.
The other bears are enjoying the picnic.

Something for all of those Twilight fans.
The tree is actually black.

I love that a lot of these trees didn't have a traditional tree toppers on them. I especially like the use of the branches on this one.

Here's some more of our Gingerbread competition. This one actually had cupcakes in the oven-soooooooo cute.

Bubblegum for the flooring.

This tree had ornaments made from Legos!

Here's another Gingerbread layout.

Here's a front view of our house.

"Up on the roof top..."

Um, Houston we have a problem.

One of the busier trees at the Festival.
The pinwheel things kept making me think of the hypnotizing swirly things you see in old movies.

and then I saw this one...

Very, very busy tree.
Verrrrrrrrryyyyyy, verrrrryyyyy busy.

A little interior kitchen action.

This is beyond cool. All I can say is "WOW".

and here's video of the reason I think it's sooooo cool...besides the black and white bare branch thing going on here.

Some of Santa's helpers?
Or could it be two members of our Gingerbread decorating team.

"but I heard them exclaim, 'ere they drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!" "Clement Clarke Moore

If I had the space, I would so have this at home.