Thursday, November 3, 2011

Curious Cannolis

First, I need to apologize to Joe’s Nana.  (by the way it’s pronounced ‘Nah-Nah’) I fear that she would not approve of the recipe I am about to share with you here.  She takes her cannolis very seriously.  These qualify as being too fussy or new to meet her exacting cannoli standards, and for that I understand.  But I will push on anyways without her blessing and share this recipe anyways.

Oh wait, so you want to know more about how seriously Nana takes her cannolis? Alright, I will indulge you.  I once made cannolis for Joe’s grandparents when we went to visit around Halloween one year.  He said his grandfather liked cannolis, so I thought that would be an excellent surprise to bring along.  Well, that and it gave me an excuse to buy cannoli forms.  What are cannoli forms?  Oh they are just over priced pieces of pipe that you wrap cannoli dough around and then deep fry. 
I made sure to follow a traditional recipe for both the cannoli shells and the filling.  Joe advised me that I should keep the filling in a separate container and only fill them once we were about to eat dessert, otherwise the shells would get soggy. (I’m telling you, these people do not mess around!) 
I managed to keep everything intact through a Halloween party and a short flight – I typically carry food with me as a carry on – doesn’t everyone? 
When I announced what I brought for dessert, Joe’s grandfather was excited but Nana was hesitant.  She told me she needed to taste the cannoli cream before I could serve it.  I opened the ziplock bag and she stuck her finger right in and popped it in her mouth.  She closed her eyes and nodded – it would do.  I am sure she was being nice, but at least it passed.  And she told me she couldn’t stand it when they put in different things like cinnamon into the cream.  She went on to tell me that she would always insist on tasting the cannoli cream before purchasing any cannolis from a new bakery, and that she had told the proprietors no on more than one occasion.  So at least I had passed this test.

However delicious regular cannolis are, I thought I would try something a little different for Halloween this year and perhaps even throughout the Holidays.  Plus, I am super obsessed with pumpkin flavored things this year.  Below is the complete recipe for the cannolis, but if you can find cannoli shells at the store, or if you can buy empty shells from a bakery – do it.  It is not really worth the hassle of frying your own.  I thought that after one greasy form slipped into my pot of oil and sprayed the entire kitchen.  Save yourself the trouble – unless of course you want an excuse to run out and buy cannoli forms.

 Pumpkin Cannolis
As adapted from the recipe inside the cannoli form packaging.

For the Shells
1 ¾ c flour
½ tsp. salt
2 Tb sugar
1 egg
2 Tb butter, cold and cut into small pieces
About ¼ c sweet Marsala
1 egg white, slightly beaten

Vegetable oil for deep frying

For the Filling
2 c ricotta cheese
1 c canned pumpkin
¾ c powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp anise extract
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp all spice
1/3 c mini chocolate chips

For the Shells: Sift the flour, salt and sugar together into a large bowl.  Make a well in the center, add the egg and butter.  Slightly beat the egg, and then with a fork begin to moisten the flour working from the center outward.   Add Marsala one tablespoon at a time, working until the dough comes together (it will still be a bit dry).  Cover and let stand for 15 minutes at room temperature.

Roll out the dough to about 1/16” thick and cut into circles 3 ½” in diameter (or 2 ½” for smaller cannolis).  Then with the rolling pin, make the circles into ovals.  Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot, so there is about 2 – 3” of oil for deep frying. 

Wrap the dough around the cannoli forms, dip your finger into the beaten egg white and wipe it where the dough overlaps each other t seal it.  Then turn out the edges of the dough around the form slightly.  Once the oil reaches 350° begin frying.  Fry each shell for about 1 or 2 minutes until golden brown, remove to a paper towel lined platter and let cool.  Once cool, slide form out of shell and wrap another piece of dough around it.  Repeat until all the shells are fried. 

For the Filling: Blend the ricotta in a food processor or blender until very smooth, add in pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, anise and spices and blend until well combined.  Add chocolate chips and stir to combine.  Place filling in a pastry bag, or a ziplock bag. 

When ready to serve, pipe filling into each shell, dust with powdered sugar and enjoy.

 Makes about 15-18 cannoli shells (with some extra filling).

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