One of the most popular of all Italian desserts in the United States, cannoli are now seen on the mainland of Italy, as well as their native Sicily.
Originally, the wealthy families of Palermo sent cannoli as gifts to friends at carnival time. Sweetened ricotta cheese is the traditional cannoli filling but
there are variations using vanilla or chocolate pastry cream. Cannoli shells are traditionally fried but we are also providing you with a baked version.
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Traditional Cannoli Shells
(Makes about 18)
3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons shortening
2 eggs, well beaten
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons cold water
1 egg white, slightly beaten
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Sift together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cut shortening in with a pastry blender until the pieces are the size of small peas. Stir in eggs. Blend in the vinegar and cold water. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add additional flour, if needed, to get a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Set out 6 aluminum cannoli tubes. Heat oil in a deep saucepan to 360 degrees F. Cut an oval shaped pattern from cardboard about 6x4-inches.
Roll chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.
Place the cardboard pattern on dough and cut out as many as will fit on the dough. Wrap dough loosely around tubes slightly overlapping opposite ends.
Seal ends by brushing with egg white and pressing together. Fry only as many shells as will float uncrowded in the hot oil. Fry until light golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Remove cannoli shells to paper towels to drain. Cool slightly and remove the tubes. Cool shells completely. Continue forming and frying cannoli shells.
Using a pastry bag or a small spoon, fill the shells with the filling from both ends. Do not fill the shells until up to an hour before serving, as the filling will make the shells soggy. Sprinkle ends with reserved chopped pistachio nuts and dust with confectioners sugar.
Baked Cannoli Shells
These elegant pastry tubes of caramelized, baked puff pastry are a bit less rich than the traditional. They are more appropriately filled with pastry cream, but you can use the ricotta filling as well. You will need 12 metal tubes for baking these.
One sheet of puff pastry dough
1/3 cup sugar
Butter 12 metal cannoli tubes.
Spread the dough on a slightly floured surface and roll it to measure 12 x 12-inches. Use a pastry wheel to cut it into 12 strips, each 1 x 12-inches. Lightly brush the surface of the dough with water.
Pick up one of the dough strips and turn it so that the dry side is facing up. Place the end of a tube at the left side of the strip and roll the tube so that the dough rolls up on it in a spiral fashion. Do not roll too tightly or stretch the dough or the baked pastry will be impossible to remove from the tube. The dough will not cover the entire length of the tube. Also be sure that the beginning and end of the strip are on the same side of the tube. Having the seam underneath during baking will prevent them from unraveling.
Place the dough wrapped tubes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle them with the sugar. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is dry and well caramelized. Remove the pastry shells from the tubes immediately. Grip the pastry in one hand, protected with a clean towel or paper towel and pull out the tube with tongs. Cool the cannoli shells on a rack before filling. Store the shells in an airtight container at room temperature. Fill the cannoli no more than an hour before serving or the pastry will become soggy.
Traditional Ricotta Cannoli Filling
4-1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or candied fruit
1/2 cup pistachio nuts,coarsely chopped
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Combine ricotta, sugar, and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
Stir in chocolate chips or candied fruit.
After filling the cannoli shells, dip the ends in chopped pistachios.
Dust the top of the cannolis with confectioners' sugar.
Alternate Ricotta Filling:
4 cups ricotta cheese and 1/2 cup cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 - 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped chocolate or candied fruit, if desired
Pastry Cream Cannoli Filling
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil with 1/4 cup of sugar. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with the salt and remaining sugar. Sift the flour over the egg mixture and whisk it in until smooth. When the milk boils, slowly whisk one-third of it into the egg mixture. Then slowly add the egg mixture to the milk in the saucepan. You must follow these steps to gradually raise the temperature of the eggs. If you add them all at once to the hot milk they will curdle.
Return the saucepan to a medium heat and again bring to a boil, whisking continually. The mixture should begin to thicken. Allow it to boil for another minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in the vanilla and cinnamon. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and press plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours.
Pastry Cream Variations
Add the grated zest of one orange to the cold milk and sugar.
Add the grated zest of one lemon to the cold milk and sugar.
Add 4 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate to the hot pastry cream as it comes off the heat. Stir in and allow to sit for 2 minutes, then whisk it in until smooth.
Add 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder to the cold milk and sugar.
Add 2 tablespoons rum or your favorite liqueur to the hot pastry cream as it comes off the heat.
Pistachio Cannoli Filling:
3/4 cup shelled pistachios
3/4 cup sugar, divided
5 egg yolks
1-3/4 cups milk
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
Fill a small saucepan with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Put the pistachios in the water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove the skins from the nuts.
Put the pistachios in a food processor with 1/2 cup of the sugar.
Process to a powder.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar.
Add the pistachio mixture and blend well.
Put the milk and lemon zest in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of the hot milk to the bowl with the pistachio mixture. Stir to blend. Add the remaining hot milk and blend well. Transfer the entire mixture back to the saucepan over medium heat.
In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 of water with the cornstarch until smooth.
Add the cornstarch mixture to the saucepan and stir until thickened.
Add the vanilla and stir until completely blended. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the filling.
Refrigerate until cold.
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