Friday 27 November 2009

Daring Bakers November 09 Challenge: Chestnut Ricotta Filled Cannoli

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. 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.

Cannoli are known as Italian-American pastries, although the origin of cannoli dates back to Sicily, specifically Palermo, where it was prepared during Carnevale season, and according to lore, as a symbol of fertility. The cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell that is faintly flavoured with an interesting combination of cocoa powder, cinnamon and Marsala wine. Once fried they are filled with a creamy sweetened ricotta cheese and usually accompanied by chocolate, candied fruit and/or nuts. However, there is no reason why cannoli can’t also be filled with pastry creams, mousses, whipped cream, ice cream. Wine may sound an off ingredient to add to a dough but it is not only added for flavour, but also to relax the gluten in the dough which makes it easier to work with.

We were allowed to flavour our ricotta filling any way we wished and I decided to add chestnut puree to mine, as I love the flavour of chestnuts and they feel suitable festive for this time of year. The chestnut ricotta turned out very light and plesently creamy. It a very fresh young cheese meaning it wasn’t too rich which was ideal when paired with the fried dough. The chestnut flavour tasted wonderful against the faintly cinnamon cocoa flavoured dough and I also topped the cannoli with a few dark chocolate chips to finish.
Once the cannoli dough is made and rested it is rolled out until very thin before squares or circles are cut out and rolled around special cannoli moulds and then deep fried. I didn’t have any cannoli moulds, nor could I find any in the two kitchen shops I visited. I decided to try improvising my own by using the middle thick cardboard tube from the end of my clingfilm. It seemed the right sort of size and very study and I was able to get four good tubes from it. I felt quite pleased with my ingenuity and hoped it would work. I wrapped my dough around the tubes and dropped them into the hot oil. They dropped to the bottom of the pan then rose to the surface and started to sizzle – hurrah it worked – or so I thought. The dough stayed around the tubes for about 5 seconds before suddenly puffing up and springing free from the tubes into weirdly shaped blobs. Well darn. Strangely enough they also puffed up and became hollow, like very fragile fried profiterole shells. I’ve no idea why this happened but it did offer me a solution of how to fill my cannoli so it wasn’t a total loss.

I also fried the offcuts in little strips which I sandwiched together with more of the chestnut ricotta. These worked really well as they were easier to eat than my cannoli puffs. I enjoyed this challenge as I have never made…well attempted to make my own cannoli before. Both the cannoli shells and the chestnut ricotta filling were delicious. I’ll give it another go when I find some proper cannoli moulds. Thanks Lisa for choosing such a fun challenge. Click here to see Lisa’s perfect looking cannoli and for a list of other Daring Bakers.

Chestnut Ricotta Filled Cannoli
Cannoli Dough
250g plain flour
28g caster sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
60ml sweet Marsala (or any white wine)
1 egg white
2 litres vegetable oil or any neutral oil for frying

Ricotta Filling
500g ricotta cheese, drained
50g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g chestnut puree
35g dark chocolate chips

Method – Cannoli
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, 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 very 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 (that will fit around your moulds). 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 oiled). 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 190C 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.
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 cloth and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven glove 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 the dough.

For the Ricotta Filling
Line a sieve with a cheesecloth or sheet of kitchen roll. Place the ricotta in the sieve, over a bowl, and cover with a saucer. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Once drained, beat the ricotta until smooth and creamy (mine didn’t go smooth, but it was creamy). Beat in the icing sugar, vanilla and chestnut puree and mix until smooth. Cover and chill until required.

To Assemble
Fill a pastry bag with the ricotta cream. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.
Press or dip the ends of the cannoli in the chocolate chips. Dust with a little extra icing sugar and serve straight away.
Leftover cannoli can be kept in an airtight container lined with kitchen roll. Do not fill the cannoli until required or else they will go soft.
Makes 22-24 cannoli
NOTE: The canolli shells can also be baked at 220C for 7-10 minutes until golden. However, they won’t be as nicely blistered compared to if they had been fried.


Nora said...

Ingenious attempt to make the moulds! I didn't even try - just made stacked ones. Yours still turned out rather well though, it looks like. :D

Monica H said...

They may not be typical in shape but I bet they were delicious. I'm eat them without complaint. I bet they would be awesome folded into some ice cream too!

BTW, Congratulations on your graduation!

Snooky doodle said...

ha I really like the puffed ones with ricotta filling. really nice.I say it s a discovery :)

Gigi said...

love your attempt at cannoli tubes ...genius! They still came out delicious looking and I know the filling was divine.

Elle said...

That was a good experiment for frying the cannoli. The puffed ones actually look great, but perhaps hard to eat. Love the chestnut flavor for the ricotta.

Anonymous said...

ooh yum! These look fantastic - I like the last shot the best - looks great :)

Audax said...

That last photo is perfection well done and the 'hot dog' cannoli is a wonderful idea also. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

James said...

Love the look of you cannoli. Never had chesnuts before in a sweet or pudding, only savory. Now I need to try it.

chow and chatter said...

looks great love the filling

Anonymous said... made open face cannoli! I love when an accident turns into something genius! They look beautiful,,and that chestnut ricotta filling sounds so delicious. I love chestnut it's a must try for me :) Thank you so much for deep frying with me this month!

The Caked Crusader said...

I like chestnut too - it's very underused. I am going to force myself to use it this year!

Shame your moulds didn't work - top marks for effort though! They still look great and I bet they tasted fab

Simon said...

Nice idea with the pockets. I'd taken a similar route but went smaller scale to create little mascapone-filled eggs.

Nice idea with the improvised forms. Shame it didn't work out.

Sheltie Girl said...

Great shapes! I love your puffy ones that are filled like donuts.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

creampuff said...

I admire your ingenuity for sure! I'm glad you stuck with it and they look lovely with the little chips!