Discover more from Backstory Serial
Dalla cucina di Isabella
Cannoli, or cannoli Siciliani (they were first made in Sicily in the 9th century) are very simple fried tubes most typically filled with a creamy ricotta mixture, dusted with confectioners’ sugar, and garnished with chocolate chips or crushed pistachio nuts.
The recipe for the dough is quite simple, but it’s a bit involved and requires some equipment people might not already have on hand—like cannoli molds and a candy thermometer. The difference between pre-made and home-made cannoli shells makes it worth the extra effort.
Ingredients for Shells
2 cups Italian 00 or all-purpose flour (unbleached), plus some for rolling
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus some for dusting
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold)
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup Marsala or dry white wine
32 ounces canola or sunflower oil
Ingredients for Ricotta Filling
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese [place in a strainer and put the strainer in a bowl in the refrigerator for at least an hour to remove excess liquid]
1/2 cup + ¼ cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional) + chocolate chips for garnish
Crushed pistachio nuts for garnish (optional)
1 lemon for zesting (optional)
3- or 4-inch round cookie cutter
Pastry bag (no tip)
Pasta machine (optional)
Shell Dough Preparation
Sift together the flour, sugar and salt into a medium bowl.
Cut butter into small squares and mix it into the flour with your fingers until it has the consistency of dry crumbs.
Make a well in the mixture and add the egg yolk and the wine. Mix with a fork until the dough thoroughly combined and starting to thicken.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on clean surface for five to seven minutes.
Place dough on a piece of Saran wrap and wrap loosely. Flatten the dough and then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Roll and Fry the Shells
Add vegetable oil to a medium pot. Heat the oil to 360 degrees F. This is important: If the oil isn’t hot enough, the cannoli take longer to fry and will soak up too much oil.
Flour a rolling pin and counter or cutting board and roll out the dough. The dough needs to be very thin—at least 1/8th of an inch but even as thin as a 1/16th of an inch. If you have a pasta maker, definitely use it.
Cut rounds with the cookie cutters and trace with a sharp knife. Wrap each circle of dough around a cannoli mold.
Lightly whisk the egg and use a small amount of the wash to seal the two ends of the dough. Press lightly. This will prevent the ends from unsealing while being fried.
Flare the edges out (fold away from the cannoli mold) so the oil can permeate both sides of the shell.
Hold the edge of the mold with tongs and place the shells in the oil. Fry for two to three minutes, until sufficiently browned. Work in small batches.
Remove shells from the oil. Holding the mold with your tongs, gently grip the shell with a towel; carefully slide it off the mold and place on paper towels or a draining rack.
Set aside to cool.
Repeat with all of the circles. This recipe should yield about 24.
Ricotta Filling Preparation
In a medium bowl, whisk the strained ricotta until smooth.
Sift in ½ of the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon. Blend with ricotta. [You can use granulated sugar if that’s all you have, but confectioners’ (or powdered) sugar is lighter and will blend better.]
In another bowl, add ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar to the heavy cream; whisk (by hand or with an electric mixer) until thick.
Fold the cream into the ricotta mixture.
Add ¼ cup chocolate chips; mix in. (optional)
Zest the peel of ½ a lemon and stir into ricotta mixture. (optional)
Add mixture to a pastry bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
The cannoli Isabella shares with Anastasia were made with Italian pastry cream which is similar to the filling for Boston Crème donuts—but much better. This is a great alternative if 1) you don’t really like ricotta cheese or 2) you bought half and half instead of heavy cream (trust us, it doesn’t work—it’s not thick enough). If you are determined to use the ricotta filling for a more authentic cannoli, you can make the above recipe without the heavy cream.
Unlike the ricotta filling, the pastry cream needs to be refrigerated for at least three hours in order to set so make well in advance of the cannoli shells.
Ingredients for Italian Crema Pasticciera
4 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
½ cup of granulated sugar
1/3 cup of cornstarch
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Italian Crema Pasticciera Preparation
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until just combined.
Add the cornstarch and mix again for another one to two minutes. The final mixture should be smooth.
Pour the milk in a saucepan on a low heat. Stir vanilla extract.
Raise heat to medium and heat milk until small bubbles form on the sides of the saucepan.
Remove milk from heat and a whisk the egg, sugar, and cornstarch mixture, small amounts at a time. Stir continuously.
Put the saucepan back on a low heat. Let simmer for 5 about minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden sppon, until the cream thickens. Using your thermometer, keep the temperature at 185°F to avoid bringing the mixture to a boil. If the cream gets above 185°F, lower heat or remove from stove entirely.
In the cream is thick enough to stick to the back of a wooden spoon, remove from saucepan into a chilled bowl. This will prevent it from cooking further.
Place Saran wrap over the bowl. Press the plastic to the surface of the cream in order to prevent a hard skin from forming. Refrigerate for 3 hours before putting it in a pastry bag.
To Fill the Cannoli
When the cannoli shells are cooled, fill from both sides just.
Dust with the confectioners’ sugar.
Garnish each end with semi-sweet chocolate chips or crushed pistachio.
[Nota bene: Only fill as many cannoli as you need—already assembled cannoli don’t store well. It’s best to store the ingredients separately.
Place cannoli shells in a paper towel-lined airtight container. They’ll stay fresh at room temperature for about a week.
The filling will last for about 4 or 5 days if stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.]
Serve the cannoli as soon as you’ve assembled them. And make sure the lattes are ready!