Sicilian Cannoli Filled with Ricotta Cheese
Cannoli derive their name from “canna” (cane or reed) because of their tubular shape, and because in the past, before the introduction of the metal tubes, they were shaped around a reed section. They represent the Sicilian dessert par excellence.
Typically part of the festivities for carnival (mardi gras), cannoli were sent in the past by the dozen as a present to friends. They are now available all year round in pastry shops all around Italy and wherever Sicilians have settled. Cannoli are among the most magnificent Sicilian pastries. The fried wafers are traditionally filled with ricotta cheese sweetened with powdered sugar, with the addition of candied fruit, pistachios, and chocolate chips.
makes about 26
for the cannoli
2 cups (280 g) flour
1 oz (30 g) sugar
1 teaspoon chocolate powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 oz (30 g) butter, melted
1 cup (230 cc) dry Marsala wine
1 oz (30 g) butter, for brushing
1 egg white
for the filling
1 – 1/2 lbs (700 g) ricotta cheese, drained
1 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/2 lb (225 g) powdered sugar
4 oz (115 g) candied fruit, finely diced
2 oz (60 g) bittersweet chocolate, diced
2 oz (60 g) powdered sugar, for dusting
To make cannoli, you need the metal tubes sold for this purpose. Pieces of cane can also be used, approximately 3/4 inch in diameter and 6 inches long (2 cm in diameter, 15 cm long).
Preparing the cannoli shells
In food processor fitted with a metal blade, or by hand in a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, chocolate powder, salt, butter, and enough Marsala wine to obtain a firm and sticky dough.
Transfer to a lightly floured work surface . . . .
. . . . and knead the dough lightly, adding some flour, a little at the time, until a smooth dough is obtained.
Shape the dough in a ball, place it on a dish, cover it with plastic wrap, and set it aside for about 1 hour.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead again for a few minutes. Place the dough back on the plate, cover it with plastic wrap, and set it aside for 1 more hour again.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface again and cut it into 3 pieces.
Pass each piece through the pasta machine, starting with the widest number. Repeat the step until number 5 on the dial is reached and thin smooth pasta sheets are obtained. Keep the pasta dough and sheets covered with plastic wrap at all times while working to prevent the dough from drying out too much.
Cut the dough into 4 x 4 inch (10 x 10 cm) squares.
Lightly butter the metal tubes.
Wrap the squares around the tubes or cane diagonally. Don't press the dough against the tubes too much. Otherwise it will be difficult to remove them afterward.
Wet the overlapping part with the egg white and press on the edges to stick them together.
Bring the oil to frying temperature in a saucepan. Fry the cannoli a few at a time until golden brown.
Remove them from the pan and briefly transfer them onto paper towels on a large plate to drain the excess oil.
Remove the cannoli shells from the tubes while they are still warm. Repeat the step of forming the cannoli and frying until all the dough is used.
It is best to fill the cannoli shortly before serving. If the cannoli are filled too long in advance, the ricotta filling may wet the shells, and the cannoli might become soft and soggy. One way to avoid this problem is to brush the inside of the cannoli with chocolate. Once the chocolate is solidified, it will insulate the shells from the filling
Filling the cannoli
Combine the ricotta cheese, vanilla, and powdered sugar in a bowl. Reserve 2 pieces of candied fruit per cannoli for decoration. Combine the candied fruit and chocolate dice with the cheese filling.
Using a pastry bag or a small spoon, fill the cannoli with the cheese mixture, and garnish the ends with pieces of candied fruit.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.