Daring Bakers Challenge: Cannoli

This month I took part in my first Daring Bakers Challenge.  I was so excited to learn that the challenge this month was Cannoli.  When I lived in Boston I lived in the North End, which is the Italian section.  I was surrounded by Italian bakeries filled with delicious pastries that I couldn’t eat because I was gluten free.  Now that I can eat gluten again and make my own cannoli!  This was a great challenge, not too difficult because I have deep fried donuts before and so have experience with the hot oil.  I found the dough a little difficult to work with but once I figured out that I could get it thin enough if I used the pasta machine it was a piece of cake.  I made a full batch of dough but only used half and ended up with 20 shells. The filling is AMAZING!, rich and creamy, definitely better the next day when the candied orange peel had a chance to flavor the cream.  I will definitely be pulling out this recipe from time to time when I get the craving for the North End.

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 SHELLS (This is a half recipe and I got 20 shells)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp unsweetened baking cocoa powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
Approximately 1/4 cup sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand (I used grape juice)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts

Note – If you want 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 cups ricotta cheese, drained
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
2 ounces of finely chopped, candied orange peel

3 tablespoons (approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice (I used semi-sweet chocolate)

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.

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.

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.  (I rolled out the dough as thin as I could and it was still too thick so I then cut circles and used a pasta machine to roll each piece thinner and then cut out my finale circle.)

3. Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes.  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 water on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting water on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal.

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.  (I found that my shells browned very quickly and I only fried them for about 45 seconds to 1 minute.)

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.  (My ricotta was a little too drained but I just added some heavy cream and the filling came out perfect.)  Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate and zest. 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.


3 Responses

  1. Those cannoli shells are superb so well blistered good work and beautiful photos also. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  2. Wow. These are making my mouth water just looking at them. I love love love cannoli and we can’t get them where we live. Sometimes I get lucky and find the shells in the bakery section all premade and ready to fill. Now I might even think about making my own. Great job!

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