Leave the gun, take the CannoliClemenza
Cannoli (the singular is cannolo) are one of the best-known and loved desserts in the Sicilian tradition. They are ricotta-filled tube-shaped shells of pastry dough made of flour, eggs, sugar, and butter. The shells are shaped into hollow tubes with a metal cannoli mold. The filling is made of ricotta and confectioner’s sugar.
According to a legend, the cannoli originated from “Kalt El Nissa” (in Arabic “Castle of Women”), the modern town of Caltanissetta, where the Saracen emirs had their harems during the Arab rule in Sicily.
It is said that the amir’s concubines, to pass the time, would dedicate themselves to the preparation of pastries, including cannoli.
According to another source, the cannoli was first prepared in a convent near Caltanissetta. It was there, on the occasion of Carnival, that the sisters invented a tubular pastry stuffed with ricotta cream, chocolate chips, and chopped almonds.
The cannolis have become a rite for the Sicilians. Usually associated with the carnival period, they are on tables for all occasions: Sunday family meals, birthdays, or religious holidays.
If you ask a Sicilian where to find the best cannoli, you’ll be sure to get an answer. In Syracuse, you will be told, for example, the Pasticceria Rizzo, the Café Marciante, the Bar Leonardi, or the Laboratorio Neri.
To enjoy delicious cannoli, it is important to stuff them just a few minutes before eating. Otherwise the ricotta filling can make the shell soggy and ruin its characteristic crispness. Strictly speaking, it is important to choose sheep ricotta for the filling.
This dessert is perfect to enjoy while walking, but it has also grown popular with foodies as a breakfast treat. Some people like to decorate the ends with chocolate, minced pistachios or candied fruit. You should try them all to decide which is your favorite.
I'll try to simplify the process of how to make Italian cannoli and give you a good summary since the recipe below is super thorough.
Start by making the filling. I like to use the stand mixer to get it light and fluffy. The filling needs to chill for at least a couple of hours or overnight before it gets stuffed into the shells. Next, you'll make the dough for the shells. This dough will need to be kneaded for about 10 minutes. You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer with a dough hook. You'll want to wrap the dough and let it rest for about an hour, refrigerated until you're ready to make the shells. The dough must be rolled out extremely thin. The thinner the dough, the crisper, and the lighter the shells will cook.
To cook the shells, you must first wrap the dough around cannoli tubes. Then, you'll deep fry the dough while wrapped around the tubes for only about a minute. Once they're removed from the oil and cool enough to handle, you'll slide the tube out and repeat, repeat, repeat. This is why it's best to make the shells with a friend. Now you can finally fill the shells with the cream filling. Add as many chocolate chips and nuts to the filling and then dip the ends in the chocolate to make them extra pretty.
For the Cannoli Cream
Put the flour, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons lard, vinegar, an egg, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Mix on low-medium speed until well-combined, approximately 10 minutes. (There is no need to stop the motor to scrape the sides because this dough will pull together into a ball when it’s ready.)
Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours, to soften the dough and make it less elastic.
Lightly coat the dough with flour and roll it through a pasta machine set to the thickest setting (usually number 1). If you do not have a pasta machine, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out as thin as possible on a lightly floured surface, to no more than 1/8-inch thick.
Using a four-inch, round cookie cutter (or the mouth of a four-inch bowl), punch circles out of the dough. Working with one circle at a time, grasp the circles at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions and gently pull into an oval five-inches long. (If you plan to make a lot of cannoli, you can also bend a round cookie cutter into an oval shape by pressing on it on two sides.) Gather up the excess dough, knead it together, roll it out and cut ovals again. You should have 10 ovals.
Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl. Fill a wide, deep, heavy pot two-thirds full of oil (the pot should be wide and/or deep enough to hold four cannoli shells without crowding or touching) and set over medium-high heat. Heat the oil to 180°C. Line a large plate or platter with paper towels.
Wrap one oval lengthwise around a 6-inch long, 3/4-to 1-inch-diameter wooden dowel. Be very careful to wrap it loosely, leaving a little space between the dowel and the pastry dough so that, when fried, the inside will be cooked as well. Use a pastry brush to paint one end of the shell with egg. Pull the egg-brushed-end over the opposite-end, and press them together, sealing the shell around the dowel. (To speed the egg-washing process, you can do as we do at Carlo’s and arrange the shells in overlapping fashion, then brush egg wash on the “lips”.) Repeat with two more dowels and shells.
Carefully lower the dowels into the oil and fry the shells until golden-brown, turning them with a slotted spoon as they fry, approximately 10 minutes. Use the spoon to carefully remove the dowels from the lard and transfer them to the paper towel-lined plate to cool.
When the shells are cool enough to touch, for approximately 10 minutes, pull the dowels out.
Repeat shaping, frying, and cooling for two more batches, frying three more in the second batch, and four in the last, until all shells have been fried and removed from the dowels.
To make the cannoli cream, put the ricotta, sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a hand mixer.) Paddle on low to medium speed until the sugar is completely dissolved, 2-3 minutes. The best way to tell if it’s dissolved is to taste the mixture until you don’t detect any graininess. Take care not to overmix, or the mixture will become soft and runny.
Add the chips and paddle just until evenly distributed, approximately 30 seconds. Stop to keep from breaking up the chips. (Note: You can make the cream ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.)
When ready to fill and serve the cannoli, put the cannoli cream in a pastry bag fitted with the #7 plain tip. Carefully insert the tip halfway into one shell and pipe the cream in, pulling the tip out to fill all the way to the end. Insert the tip in the other side of the shell, to the center and pipe and pull again to ensure the shell is completely filled from end to end. Repeat with the remaining shells.
Dust the finished cannoli with powdered sugar and serve.