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!*

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