HOLY CANNOLI, REDUX!
So, I’ve made them before and I’ll make them again, the Italian Cannoli, that delightful little tube of crispy, flaky, delicious pastry filled with luscious, sweet cream, flavored as you like, often studded with chopped chocolate or nuts or candied fruit. My first try at Cannoli was a roaring success, so I was delighted to discover that Cannoli was this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge. I would have the chance to try a new and improved filling and enjoy this wonderful Italian specialty once again.
As you know, I fly over a hop, skip and a jump to London today for a foodie weekend!It’s Food Blogger Connect! Food, fun and party with a conference thrown in and, boy, am I excited. I leave my men to fend for themselves and Marty to sniff around the house looking for mom, a confused, quizzical Boston look plastered onto his tiny head, bat ears on the alert, but quickly forgetting about me until I show back up on the doorstep Monday evening. Yup, you heard right, Monday evening. Mowie of Mowielicious, is graciously putting up with me… I mean putting me up for the weekend and what a weekend! Other than Food Blogger Connect all of Saturday where I’ll be meeting and spending time with some fabulous food bloggers and wonderful friends, where I’ll be speaking about writing for a food blog and finding your voice alongside Jeanne, whose own food blog Cook Sister! is a showcase of wonderful food and fabulous writing, as well as learning great tips and advice from other successful bloggers such as Meeta of What’s For Lunch, Honey? and Kang of London Eater, we’ll be spending as much time as we can discovering the secret, hidden food delights to be found in cosmopolitan London! Ok, ok, in other words, we’ll be eating our way through London, most likely stampeding our way through this great city, elbowing unsuspecting citizens and astonished tourists out of the way in our quest to eat all weekend! And just anything won’t do: we want to savor the best food, the best pastries to be found and all in the best of company!
And now my cannoli. No time to lose, I’m packed and have one foot out the door (“JP, let go of my coat! I promise I’ll come back! Let go!”) so no time to wax eloquent about cannoli, no time to glorify with seductive, passion-inspiring words the delicate texture of the shell, so flakey and tender with just an adult hint of chocolate and wine, no time to eulogize the smooth, luxurious, sensual creamy filling, chocolaty rich and oh so divine, bursting with flavor in each sexy, luscious mouthful. No time to extol the cool, elegant pistachio sauce, scoop up a spoonful with each bite of cannolo and savor the combination of pistachio and chocolate mingling intriguingly on the tongue, the nutty sweetness of one off-setting and highlighting the deep chocolate richness of the other. No, no, no, don’t ask for I haven’t got the time, I really must dash, must make sure I have everything I need as I brush crumbs from the front of my jacket and dab away the chocolate mascarpone cream that somehow found it’s way smeared across my cheek. Must check for ticket and passport, where are my presentation notes? Gift for Papoose? How in the world did my suitcase ever get so heavy? A last, breathless kiss, a warm Boston nuzzle in that soft spot behind his ear, and off I go!
This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was chosen by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives and she had all of us jumping up and down with joy. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book. How great are Cannoli? We were required to follow the recipe Lisa Michele presented to us for the shells but the filling was up to us. As I have said, I made Cannoli for the first time a while back and though we all gobbled them down and thought they were fabulous, we felt that the traditional ricotta cheese filling was a bit heavy, a bit too cheesy. So this time I decided to make a cream using mascarpone that I lightened with lots of whipped cream and flavored with, of course, chocolate. To lighten it up, I made and served it with a Pistachio Cream Sauce, a pistachio-infused pastry cream lightened, again, with whipped cream. Perfect!
Lisa Michelle’s recipe
2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 Tbs (28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 tsp (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 tsp (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 Tbs (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand *
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk) **
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
* I used white wine.
** the white is used to seal the dough around the shell
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor or (as I did, by hand), combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.
Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.
In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.
Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly. (Don’t forget that the shells continue to brown once removed from the hot oil, so don’t leave them in past the 2 minutes thinking that they are underdone).
Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes (I slightly twist as I pull) with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in more dough. Allow the shells to completely cook before filling with cold cream.
CHOCOLATE MASCARPONE CREAM
This would also be wonderful used to frost a cake
10 oz (300 g) mascarpone
3.5 oz (100 g) bitter or semisweet chocolate, chopped
Chopped chocolate, mini-chocolate chips, chopped pistachio nuts, or any chopped candied fruit you like to fold in. (optional)
1 – 2 cups (250 – 500 ml) heavy cream
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs Amaretto or more to taste
Melt the chocolate and allow to cool.
Beat the heavy cream with an electric beater, gradually adding the sugar as you beat, until stiff peaks form.
Beat the mascarpone until light, fluffy and creamy. Beat in the Amaretto.
Working quickly, fold the chocolate and the chopped chocolate into the mascarpone until blended. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mascarpone until blended and smooth. Add the extra cup of whipped cream beaten until stiff if you want a lighter cream. Fold in any other nuts or candied fruit as you like. If not filling the shells right away, cover the cream with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator.
PISTACHIO CREAM SAUCE
Without the addition of whipped cream, this is a fabulous pastry cream
2 ½ oz (70 g) green, unsalted pistachio nuts
1 Tbs Amaretto or kirsch (optional)
3 egg yolks (save the whites for your Mac Attack macarons!)
3 oz (85 g) sugar
2 Tbs (25 g) cornstarch
1 1/3 cups (300 ml) milk
2/3 – 1 cup (150 – 250 ml) heavy cream, depending on how light you like it
Grind the pistachios as finely as you can, into a paste if possible, mine were fine dust. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the cornstarch until smooth. In a medium-small pan over medium heat, heat the milk until it comes to the boil. Carefully pour some of the milk onto the egg yolk/cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from cooking, then whisk in all the hot milk. Pour this back into the pan and return to a medium-low heat and, stirring constantly, bring just to the boil. Once the cream comes to the boil, allow to continue boiling, whisking, for one minute.
Immediately remove from the heat and pour into a heat-proof bowl. Cover the pistachio cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic down onto the surface of the cream to keep a skin from forming and refrigerate until cool.
Once cool, remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator, beat or whisk until cream, then fold in the ground pistachios.
Before serving, whip the heavy cream until soft peak form, or just a bit more. Fold into the pistachio cream. Add as much whipped cream as you like until desired consistency, thicker or thinner. Serve chilled.
To fill the shells:
Using a pastry bag fitted with a wide tube, pipe in the mascarpone cream, filling each shell. The easiest way is to have someone hold the shell upright for you (here is where kids come in handy).
You can also dip or brush the ends of the shells with egg white and coat with ground or finely chopped pistachios before carefully filling with the chocolate mascarpone cream.
Serve with the Pistachio Cream Sauce. Dust with a fine powdering of icing/confectioner’s sugar or cocoa powder.