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.
After much dilly dallying, I finally decided to give the Cannolis a try. I have had rather a nice afternoon, the day after Thanksgiving, preparing them. My comments on my efforts:
The dough:Tricky - easy to make but took a lot of arm muscle to roll the dough paper thin. Finally I changed rolling pins and used one of those pins that go convex in the middle - it seemed to help. Boiling the oil - fine but had to keep on checking the candy thermometer to retain an even 370 degrees F deep fry temp; so it was a bit frustrating with lots of stop/starting. The frying job - not as messy as I thought it would be. In fact I enjoyed watching them sizzle and only got one minor burn on my left forefinger! My first batch was way too dark, almost like tree bark; my second batch came out much better, obviously with less cooking time. The finished product - difficult to get the blisters - only managed some rudimentary blisters. The filling - just lazy bones. I decided on strawberry icecream with some cake sprinkles.
All in all, I am very pleased I did brave the challenge, but I don't think I will make cannoli again; my fancy is to return to the Italian Bakery on 60th St. in Brooklyn, and order a double expresso and a large, crunchy vanilla cannoli and I won't feel too guilty.
The dough recipe: CANNOLI SHELLS 2 cups (250 grams/8.82 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
DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS: 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.
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, oiled..lol). 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.