Saturday, February 19, 2011
Grand Finale to a Pasta Dinner: Authentic Italian Cannoli
It’s Friday night, and company is coming over tomorrow night. That gives me something to look forward to.
Now it’s certainly been a busy week work-wise. I didn’t have a lot of “free time” this week to cook for a dinner party. About the most I had was just a couple hours late this afternoon. However, I did what I recommended in an earlier post: last Sunday I made up a large pan of lasagna (actually two) and put it in the freezer. That’ll be the main course for tomorrow night. To go with that, I bought some frozen garlic bread and our guests are bringing a tossed green salad and an antipasto/vegetable tray. That’s the main meal.
So when today rolled around, there wasn’t a lot that needed to be done for the dinner party. I could go into the weekend feeling pretty relaxed. The only thing that I had to do today was make a dessert for tomorrow. I was able to focus the couple hours I had available today to cook to make something really creative and special to follow tomorrow night’s pasta dinner. I decided to make a classic Italian pastry: cannolis.
Today I made the shells and the filling. After I cooked the shells, I put them in a plastic storage container. The filling stays in the fridge. Then about an hour before company arrives tomorrow evening, I’ll fill and garnish the cannolis. They’re one of my all-time favorite desserts. You may like them too!
3 cups white pastry flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 T. Crisco
1 large egg, separated (save the egg white for later)
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 T.white vinegar
2-3 T. cold water
Canola oil for frying the shells
In large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut in the Crisco with your hands or pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, beat together the egg, egg yolk, Marsala, vinegar and 2 T. water. Pour this mixture into the center of the flour mixture. Mix the dough until it holds together and forms a large ball. (You may need to sprinkle an extra tablespoon of water over the dough, a few drops at a time, until the dough holds together and is not too dry.) Knead in the large bowl about 10-15 times. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours, to let the dough relax. Then take the dough out and separate it into quarters.
Roll each quarter out with a rolling pin to get it as thin as you can. The dough will be hard to roll, but do the best you can. Next, cut dough into 4-inch wide strips and run through a pastry maker. Start on the thickest setting and keep putting the dough strips through thinner and thinner settings until it has gone through the thinnest setting. By then the dough will be very thin. Place each of these thin sheets onto a floured work surface.
Use a 4-inch diameter bowl as a guide to cut out circles of dough. Take each circle of dough and wrap it around a metal cannoli form. Dust some flour on the top of each dough circle, before you wrap it around the cannoli form (this will make it easier to remove the cooked shells from the forms). Take the egg white you set aside earlier and beat until frothy. Use a few small dabs of egg white to seal the top of the dough circle onto the dough underneath it.
If there are holes in the dough, or if you need to take two smaller pieces of dough “scraps” to patch together a piece big enough to cut out a 4-inch wide circle, you can use the egg white to “glue” these pieces together. (You’ll never be able to tell you did this, once the cannolis are cooked and finished!)
Fry the shells, 2-3 at a time, in medium-hot oil, about 2-3 minutes each, in a deep fryer or heavy skillet, until the shells are golden brown and blistery-looking. Use tongs to turn the shells half-way through the frying process.
When finished, carefully remove the shells from the form. (I usually tap one end of the form to make the cannoli shell slide down to the other end, and then I carefully hold the cannoli with tongs and the tube with a hot pad holder.)
Let the shells drain on paper towels. Store in an airtight container. Fill and garnish the shells 1-2 hours before serving (You can’t do this too far in advance, or the shells will become soggy.).
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
¾ cup mini chocolate chips or chocolate sprinkles
Add about ¼ cup of powdered sugar to the whipping cream and beat until stiff peaks. Fold in the ricotta, the rest of the powdered sugar and the vanilla. Use a pastry bag to fill the cannoli shells with this filling. Dust with additional powdered sugar. Garnish each end of the cannoli with mini chocolate chips or chocolate sprinkles. Buon appetito!