Cannoli is a dessert that originated in Italy. As a Canadian girl through and through, I actually hadn’t heard of cannoli except for in movies and TV. However, one of my best friends is Italian, and as such, her family has introduced me to a whole whack of Italian delicacies. Her sister is getting married at the end of the month, and her mother asked if I could make a bunch of cannoli for the dessert table.
Simply put, cannoli is a fried dough filled with a sweetened ricotta cream. Now, if that doesn’t sound appealing, please don’t just close the page! I, myself, am not a cheese fan. I like it on very few (and very specific) items, and I was hesitant about the filling being mostly ricotta cheese. However, even if you aren’t a fan of ricotta, I promise these will tickle your tastebuds.
The process is quite involved, and it did take me about 3 hours from start to finish to make these cannolis by myself. Still, do not let that deter you! I also had the help of pasta rollers to get the dough to that perfect thickness (which is almost paper thin!), and a countertop deep fryer, so I didn’t have to use a deep pan to fry.
Also, to help everyone out, I will be posting step-by-step pictures and instructions to help you out. The only thing I caution you is this – look around now for Marsala wine if you plan on making these anytime soon. It was extremely hard for me to find, and cannoli is very specific. Marsala wine is an Italian cooking wine, and it is what gives the dough its unique flavour. Totally worth it!
Yield: 3 dozen cannoli shells, approx. 1½ dozen worth cannoli filling
3 c. flour
¼ c. sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. shortening
1 egg yolk
½ c. sweet Marsala wine
1 tbsp. white vinegar
2 tbsp. water
1 egg white
1 quart oil for frying, or as needed
1 32 oz. container ricotta cheese
½ c. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. orange extract
½ tsp. triple sec
Chocolate chips (mini or regular – optional)
Chopped pistachios (optional)
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut in the shortening until it is in pieces no larger than peas. Make a well in the center, and pour in the egg, egg yolk, Marsala wine, vinegar and water. Mix with a fork until the dough becomes stiff, then finish it by hand, kneading on a clean surface. Add a bit more water if needed to incorporate all of the dry ingredients. Knead for about 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
This is the dough after the refrigeration and before dividing and rolling. Divide the chilled dough into thirds, and flatten each one just enough to get through a pasta roller attachment. Roll the dough through the pasta rollers, progressively through each setting. I found my dough to be thin enough after going through setting 5.
Dust the dough lightly with flour to keep the dough from sticking together, and layer until all dough is rolled and thin enough.
Place the sheet of dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a form, large glass, or bowl, cut out circles 4-5 inches in diameter. Roll the dough around cannoli tubes, sealing the edges with a bit of egg white.
In a countertop deep fryer, or a deep heavy skillet, heat the oil to 375°F. Fry the shells on the tubes a few at a time for 1-2 minutes, until golden, using tongs to turn as needed. Carefully remove using the tongs, and place on a cooling rack set over paper towels.
Cool just long enough that you can handle the tubes, then carefully twist the tube to remove the shell. Wipe off the tubes, and use them for more shells. Cooled shells can be placed in an airtight container. Only fill them immediately or up to 1 hour before serving.
To make the filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the ricotta cheese, icing sugar, vanilla, orange extract, and triple sec. Whip until light and smooth. Use a pastry bag to pipe into the shells, filling from the centre to one end, then doing the same from the other side. Dust with icing sugar and place chocolate chips and pistachios on the ends for garnish when serving.