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.
Leona and Lisa's kitchen appliances, Betty's amazingly gorgeous tea cake stand and the blowtorch that A got me (he knows me far too well). (Don't worry Karen, I'll be using your present very soon!) It was very exciting to use the blowtorch for the first time, the whole idea for these was inspired by the amazing brulee tarts that they sell at Bourke St Bakery. That crunchy toffeed top cracks nicely and gives way to a creamy ricotta, vanilla and fresh cherry filling. It's the start of cherry season in Australia, one of my favourite fruits. It always reminds me of Christmas, a very Aussie Christmas.
Luck was on my side it seems, I walked into my local grocers to be greeted with the sad sight of a half empty tray of dead looking cherries. I was staring at it despondently when one of the guys working there goes to me "if you wait here for a minute, I'll go get you a fresh new batch!". How nice is that?! So before he even put it on the shelf, he opened up a huge bag of delicious cherries and let me have first pick. I decided to get more than I needed so I could eat plenty of them as I was baking (err, deep frying I mean).
The filling was simple, but delicious. I upped the amount of vanilla, and made sure there were lots of cherries throughout. It was hard to torch the tops of the cups without burning the edges of the cannoli, so unfortunately they got even uglier. But we ate them quickly, before the cups got soggy and they tasted brilliant. The cherry, vanilla and ricotta combination is a winner and I would love to use it in a tart. The caramelised, crunchy tops were heaven, I will have to restrain from torching every single thing I bake from now on haha!
In an effort to hide some of the ugliness, I topped these cups with vanilla persian fairy floss, I hve two huge bags of it after my Mum bought me some when she saw it in a random gourmet store. I don't really think it made it any less ugly, but it was a good way to use up some of the fairy floss :)
I would definitely like to try some traditional cannoli tubes sometime in the future, but foolishly attempting these cups was a fun experience. Thank you so much for being such an awesome host Lisa Michele! It was great seeing all the help and support you were giving on the DB forums :)
(Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli)
For the cannoli shells:
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
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
For my cherry ricotta filling:
500g ricotta cheese, drained
80g confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract/paste or the beans from two vanilla beans
1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, diced
Optional: Vanilla pashmak, extra fresh cherries
I have adjusted the recipe to how show how I made my silly cups, but if you want the original method, check Lisa Michele's blog for her DB post.
1. 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.
(I kept it a circle for the cannoli cups), rolling it larger and thinner if it's shrunk a little. Dock the centre of the dough, the area that will be used as the base of the cup, so that it doesn't balloon up when you place it in the hot oil
(I used my stainless steel cookie cutters) (You only have to do this once). I used my hand to gentlywrap a dough circle around the bottom of the cookie cutter.
8. 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.