Happy Chocolate Monday! Today’s recipe is from the wonderful Joanna at Cairns Manor. She is a “domestic goddess” who loves to write about her life, gardening, and of course cooking. When I saw this recipe on Jo’s blog, I knew it would be the perfect Secret Recipe (see below) for this month! Not only is it an Italian dessert that my husband loves, but it is a recipe passed down through their family, continuing their food heritage with each generation.
Last December Jo learned how to make Italian cannoli with a recipe from her husband’s Sicilian Aunt Mary. Mary made these cannoli every Christmas along with other traditional Italian cookies. With her mother-in-law Eileen beside her, Jo made her very first cannoli using the wooden molds Aunt Mary cut from her broom handle!
Cannoli are a classic Italian dessert made with a lightly sweetened ricotta or mascarpone cheese filling piped into a crispy pastry shell. The singular cannolo means little tube in Italian. Made with mascarpone in Italy, cannoli originated in Sicily, near Palermo. When Italians immigrated to the United States in the early 1900’s mascarpone was hard to find but ricotta was readily available so they used it instead, creating the American version most of us know today. Mini chocolate chips, chopped pistachios, or candied fruit peels are traditional additions to the filling.
While I urge you to make your own cannoli shells, I realize that it may be too much work for some of you. You can find good cannoli shells at Italian markets and some gourmet grocery stores. You may be able to talk the chef at your local bakery into making some for you too. Given enough lead time, most are happy to help you out. If you cannot find them locally, you can order them online from PastryChef.com or CannoliByMail.com. If you do buy the shells already made, these are a snap to put together quickly!
If you don’t already own cannoli forms, you will need to buy them. There really is no substitute, unless you want to get a 1-inch diameter wooden dowel and cut your own. Ateco sells a good set of four. I suggest you buy at least 8 so you can have 4 cooking while you are rolling the rest. If you are making these for a large party, you probably want to buy more and invite a friend or two over to help you.
Because this is Chocolate Monday I am also including a recipe for a chocolate mousse filling. Making some with the original filling and some with the chocolate would be fun – serve one of each to everyone. And for an extra chocolate touch, you can use ganache to decorate the plates or drizzle over the tops of the cannoli. If you want to get extra fancy you can fill one end of each shell with the plain filling and the other end with the chocolate!
If you want a real chocolate treat, once the shells are fried, dip them in the warm ganache and then set them aside to harden. Once cooled, fill with your choice of the traditional ricotta filling or the chocolate mousse. Sprinkling the tops with a little powdered sugar shaken through a wire sieve makes any dessert extra special.
Many people dip the ends of the filled cannoli in more garnishes. This is totally optional, but can be a lot of fun. Think of all the different garnishes you could use! I love chocolate jimmies and they are perfect for a Chocolate Monday offering. Have a wonderful day and make sure you have a little chocolate in there somewhere!!
Once a month I will be highlighting a recipe from another blog. I belong to a fun group of bloggers called The Secret Recipe Club. Each month we are sent the name of a member’s blog and we can choose any recipe from it, sort of like a Secret Santa. We don’t reveal which blog we were given or what we are making from it. Then on a specific day we all post our recipes. It is fun to see which recipe was chosen and how other people have interpreted or improved my recipes. If you are interested in joining and have a fair number of recipes on your blog, click here for more information.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Draining the ricotta before mixing will help reduce the amount of liquid in the cheese. As soon as you fill the fried shells they will start absorbing moisture from the cheese. Don’t fill them until just before serving and have your chosen garnishes in small bowls so you can quickly dip the ends as desired. You might want to set up an assembly line of sorts, especially if you are using two different fillings.
I like to use a variety of garnishes so the platter piled high with these treats is extra special!
- Shells (or you can use store-bought)
- 1-3/4 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp butter, diced into small pieces
- 1/4 cup Sauterns or other sweet white dessert wine
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- Organic canola oil for frying
- Traditional Filling
- 2 lb whole milk ricotta, drained in a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer
- 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 4 tsp vanilla
- Dash of almond extract, optional
- Optional Garnishes
- 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or chocolate jimmies
- 1/4 cup candied orange peel or citron, chopped finely
- 1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped finely
- For the Shells: Combine the dry ingredients on a nice clean, flat surface and form a well. In the center of the well drop in the egg and butter. Using a fork, blend the egg and butter into the dry ingredients a little at a time until just combined, then begin adding the wine, 1 tbsp at a time, mixing until the dough just begins to form. Shape into a ball and allow to rest for 1 hour. (This gives the gluten in the dough time to relax so it won’t be as difficult to roll out.) Dough can be made up to 1 day ahead and kept wrapped tightly in plastic in the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature about 30 minutes before rolling out.
- After dough has rested, cut into 2 pieces and work with half at a time. Using a large rolling pin, roll one piece out on lightly floured surface to about 1/16″ thick and using a round cutter, cut into 3-1/2 inch circles, rerolling the scraps until done. After all the dough is cut into circles, roll them slightly into an oval shape. If you have a smaller rolling pin, it will be easier to roll the smaller pieces with. As you roll each one, transfer it to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Lightly oil the cannoli forms. Place an oval in front of you with the long edge facing you, and set a cannoli form in the center. Wrap the dough around the form, overlapping slightly at the top. Do not stretch the dough or wrap too tightly. Using your finger, place a little of the egg white between the overlapping pieces of dough, pressing to seal.
- In a large heavy pot, heat oil to 350°F. (use a candy or instant-ready thermometer for accuracy). Working with one at a time, carefully place a dough-wrapped mold into the hot oil. Use metal tongs to turn them over so both sides are equally cooked. Cook for about 45 seconds or until golden brown. You can cook more than one at a time as long as they float un-crowded in the oil. Add them about 30 seconds apart.
- Using tongs or a wire spider, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. While still hot clamp one end of the mold with the tongs and tip upright so the shell can slip off the form. Shake or very gently wiggle the shell as needed (wear an oven mitt to protect your hand). Let drain and cool on the paper towels.
- Cool cannoli molds before reusing. You can fry the shells up to 2 days in advance. Place them on paper towels in an airtight container, placing more paper towels between layers. Store at room temperature.
- For the Filling: Once the ricotta is very dry, squeeze out any excess moisture by twisting the push the ricotta through the wire sieve with a rubber spatula. This creates a much smoother consistency. Place the ricotta in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, vanilla, and almond extract (if using) and mix just to combine. Fold in your choice of the chocolate chips, orange peel or pistachios.
- Assembly: Pipe or spoon the filling into the cooled cannoli shells, leveling off the filling at the edges of the shells. Dip the ends of the cannoli in the chocolate chips or pistachios and serve immediately.
- 1 quart (32 oz) whole milk ricotta
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Set ricotta in a cheesecloth-lined colander or wire sieve. Let drain for about 20 minutes. Then gather the cheesecloth up and twisting the ends until tight, squeeze out any excess liquid.
- While cheese is draining, in a small saucepan melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
- In a food processor, blend the ricotta, sugar, melted chocolate, and vanilla until smooth.
- Chill until firm. When ready to fill the cannoli shells, transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Place tip into one end of the shell and fill halfway. Turn shell around and finish filling from the other end.
- Yield: about 4 cups
- 12 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp light corn syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Place chopped chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Place a wire sieve over the bowl and set aside.
- In a saucepan bring cream and corn syrup to just below a boil over medium-high heat, stirring regularly. Pour hot cream through the wire sieve onto the chocolate. Discard any solids in the sieve. Stir chocolate and cream until smooth and creamy. Mix in the vanilla.
- Dip one end of cooked cannoli shells in warm chocolate, letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Set on a silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet until firm. Fill as desired and serve immediately.
- If using for drizzling, let cool to room temperature, transfer to a squeeze bottle and drizzle over cooled and filled cannoli as desired. You can also draw a squiggle on each plate before topping with two cannoli each. Refrigerate any unused ganache.
- Yield: about 3 cups