Sicilian Cannoli

I don't know about you, but I truly enjoy eating cannolu *.  I love the crisp shell blanketed around the fresh, soft ricotta.  I would rarely eat these treats, but now that Piccione Pastry opened last year, I've been indulging in cannoli about 3 to 4 times a year.  On a side note, if you haven't visited Piccione's in Delmar be sure to put that on your to-do list.  Mike and I started taking my 11 and a half year old niece there last year, now it's one of her most requested places to go.  She likes Piccione's so much that she said she wants to work there when she is old enough.  

I have never made cannoli before, but for the past few months I've been thinking about trying to do so.  Ever since I kicked around the idea of making cannoli, it seems like everything I read has to do with cannoli.  For instance, one blog that I follow, Sicilian Creative in the Kitchen, did a post on Cannoli back in April.  Then, when I opened up my recent issue of Tastes of Italia magazine, I also saw cannoli!  So, I finally broke down and bought the cannoli forms, which cost about $10 for a set of four at Kitchen Conservatory.  

There were pros and cons to making the cannoli.  Making the dough for the shells and the ricotta filling was an easy task, but frying the shells was messy, smelly, and required focus dealing with the hot oil.  Although, I did enjoy making the shells from scratch and I was able to control the ingredients, which meant they didn't contain lard or saturated fats, I'm not sure if I would decide to fry the shells again.  I never really like how the smell of fried foods permeates the whole house.  The grease spits and splashes everywhere which is a major ordeal when cleaning up.  That said, the shells and the filled cannoli were delicious.  I wish I made more.  And now, I'm on a quest to devise a way to bake cannoli shells vs. fry.  My suggestion to you, if you have an outdoor deep fryer, use that, then that will eliminate the household smell of grease and kitchen cleanup.  Another option, is using premade cannoli shells.  But, I have the feeling that mass produced shells won't be as healthy as the homemade alternative.  

A traditional Sicilian cannolu contains bits of dark chocolate mixed into the ricotta cheese, and the ends are decorated with pieces of candied lemon.  I filled the shells with a star tip, therefore I wasn't able to incorporate the bits of chocolate into the filling because it would clog the tip.  Instead, I garnished the ends with 3 different flavors: chocolate & cherries, candied lemon, and pistachios.  If you want to make it the traditional way, do not use a tip on your pastry bag when filling.  

As always, here's to good food and gladness!

* Cannolu is the singular form of cannoli.  The word "cannoli" means little tubes.

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Ingredients for Sicilian Cannoli

Dough for the shells (makes 2 dozen 3.5 inch long cannoli).  Dough recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

  • 2 cups (270 g) "00" flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (dutch processed preferred i.e. Ghirardelli)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 Marsala wine (sweet not dry)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (+ 48 fluid oz for cooking)
  • 1 egg, beaten

Ricotta Filling and garnish

  • 2 lb ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (reduce or omit the amount of sugar if using cannoli ricotta cheese since it is already sweetened). 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream, beat until stiff peaks form
  • 5 oz of dark chocolate, shaved 
  • candied lemon peel (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, finely chopped (optional)
  • dried cherries, rehydrate in water (optional)

Directions for Sicilian Cannoli

To make the dough for the shells

  1. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt with a fork.  Add Marsala wine, and oil to the dry ingredients.  Use an electric mixer on medium until dough pulls together.
  2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured countertop.  Knead dough until smooth (few minutes).  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest about 30 minutes at room temperature.
  3. After resting the dough, divide into 3 to 4 pieces.  Roll out with a floured rolling pin or pasta machine, until dough is about 2mm thick (about the thickness of a dime).
  4. Use a 3.25 inch round cutter (or drinking glass) to cut out dough.  Wrap dough around the metal cannoli forms.  Brush ends with beaten egg to seal closed.
  5. In a large saucepan, heat 48 oz of canola oil to 380 degrees.  Oil should be at least 4 inches deep in the saucepan.
  6. Using metal tongs, carefully lower cannoli forms into the oil.  Fry until golden brown, should only take about 1 minute.  Transfer to a wire drying rack, place paper towels below to capture drips of oil.  Once cooled, remove metal cannoli form from shell.  Continue steps 3 - 6 until all dough is used.

To make the cannoli filling

  1. In a medium bowl stir together drained ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Fold in whipped cream.

  2. Fold in dark chocolate flakes.  

  3. Transfer filling to a pastry bag or quart sized plastic bag, cut 1/2 inch off one end of bag.

  4. Pipe filling into the cooled cannoli shells.

  5. Garnish ends with candied lemons, shaved chocolate and cherries, or pistachios.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar prior to serving.  Best if eaten the same day.