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Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: 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.

Gosh, I have the Soprano's cookbook but I didn't even bother to consult it and just used the recipe as posted in the The Daring Baker's forum. Anyway, YUM! I never deep fry anything - except a turkey here and there, and in fact I think it would be bad news for me to own a deep fryer, but these cannoli are proof that fried foods are as fantastic as ever. I have probably only had real cannoli once or twice, luckily I work with an Italian-American and he's brought in homemade delights before... and as soon as I put together this easy-to-assemble dough, the smell of the Marsala and cinnamon and cocoa really smelled exactly what a cannoli should smell like.

After refrigerating the dough overnight, it was time to start making the cannoli tubes! I rolled out the dough into to parts and used a 3-4in biscuit cutter which resulted in "small/medium" sized cannoli. The dough kept shrinking back on me but I tried to roll out the circles as thin as I could and wrap them around my brand new cannoli metal shape forms. I picked those up at the cake supply store by my house for only $4, wahoo! More kitchen utensils!

I didn't quite have 3 inches of oil but that was way too much for my 2-at-a-time cannoli cooking method. My Le Creuset worked out just fine for this task and I used metal tongs to place and remove the cannoli as they were frying. They only took a minute or two to brown up. I would've preferred the dough to be a little lighter so that I could enjoy that golden crispy glow a little bit more, as these probably look "burnt".. but just check out the color of my raw dough and know that I cooked them until crispy and that was it. :)

I only deep fried the tip of my middle finger for a moment.. yeoow.... but other than that, no injuries. I also didn't heed the recipe which said "wait for the cannoli forms to cool down before rolling another circle on".. I was too impatient and just went with it. I only had a few of my cannoli bust open due to a fault egg-white seam breaking, which those turned into puffy discs which were great taste testers for my fillings!

Let's talk about these killer fillings. First, I made half of Lisa's posted recipe using this wonderful mascarpone cheese which I picked up from a great market - Colasanti's in Milford. Oh it was soo creamy and sweet before I even added any sugar or flavoring, and you wouldn't believe it was cheese after this filling was complete. I skipped the candied orange peel and nuts since I didn't run into any at the store plus The Husband probably wouldn't like it, and just used chopped chocolate chunks. With the cinnamon and creaminess of the mascarpone, it was just such a wonderful filling. This was leagues ahead of that pesky "Pastry Cream" I made for the vols-au-vent Daring Bakers challenge... that pastry filling was pretty much just vanilla pudding. Now this mascarpone cannoli filling was so light and airy, my mom even had to ask me if I had whipped cream in there - nope! It was a perfect filling which I think would go wonderfully in cakes, doughnuts, and other pastries. Yum!! See the recipes below! To even top this awesome filling, I did dip a few of my cannoli into melted chocolate chips and roll them into chopped nuts.. that was SO good!

Second, and I hope I don't get Tony Soprano's mother to roll over in her grave, but.. I came up with a savory cannoli filling that was very unorthodox... I was thinking "hmm deep fried shell.... and.. .. how about mexican?? " I whipped up some refried beans and cheese and squirted that into the fried crispy shells. Topped with even more cheese and popped into the oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes, and these little puppies were delicious! These would be great with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and/or cilantro and they would make a very unusual and tasty appetizer. I had a little concern wondering what the marsala-cinnamon-chocolate dough would be like with beans, but have no fear - it was delightful.

So this was an extremely fun challenge - something totally off the wall for me that I would never have tried, and successes all around with both of my fillings. I was happy to be able to share these with my brother and sister-in-law who were up from South Carolina visiting us in Michigan. It's always nice to be able to share Daring Baker challenge goodies with friends and family and I think they picked a good weekend to visit!

Lidisano’s Cannoli

Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli

Prep time:
Dough – 2 hours and 10-20 minutes, including resting time, and depending on whether you do it by hand or machine.
Filling – 5-10 minutes plus chilling time (about 2 hours or more)
Frying – 1-2 minutes per cannoli
Assemble – 20–30 minutes


2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (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)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish

Confectioners' sugar

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

. 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.

2 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.

3 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, 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

8. 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 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.

9. 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.


1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. 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.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.


  1. Both variations look fab - I am especially loving the refried beans and cheese version - kind of like a taco - yum!

  2. I love how you made both a sweet and a savory version, both sound delicious. I have a lot of leftover cannoli, so I'll definitely try some savory version - I'll probably steal yours :)
    Great job!

  3. When I saw your savory Mexican cannoli filling at the DK forum, I was in bliss (no title of your blog 'pun' intended lol)..and couldn't stop drooling! Your sweet cannoli look gorgeous *and ys, mascarpone rocks!*, but those savory ones make me want to beg! You, my dear, have created something so incredibly unique. Thanks for deep frying with me this month, and sorry about your finger!!

  4. Your mascarpone filling is making me crave more cannoli! And that Mexican filling is incredibly creative!

  5. Wow you savoury and sweet and I remember your posting on the forum they looked so delicious well done. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  6. These all sound delicious! How fun to make mexican ones =D.

  7. What a great job you did! The bean filled ones sound delicious.

  8. They were all very tasty, I think I liked the bean ones the best and Andy loved the chocolate dipped ones with nuts, tasted like snickers! We had a really great time, thanks for the yummy treats!