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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cannoli Twisted

For those of you who have no idea what a Cannoli is......It is this wonderful Italian pastry made with a thin crunchy shell that has its own distinctive taste filled with a slightly sweet ricotta cheese filling with just a smidgen of semi-sweet chocolate chips or pistachios for decoration. If you can get your hands on the right kind of cannoli they are simply delicious. What is the right kind you ask? Well you have to figure that out for yourself. You will find there are no two places that make them alike. Some use different flavorings, some make different shells, my only advice is to taste test until your heart is content. Once you find that golden Cannoli that suits your tastes like no other, you will revisit the bakery often to quell your Cannoli cravings.

In the area where I live we are fortunate to have a large number of Italian decent settle in a nearby city. Wow, did they bring some great recipes with them. Numerous businesses have since come and gone highlighting many of those recipes. However, there are a few that are still in business and making those traditional recipes. Here is a link to order from the bakery that makes my favorite Cannoli:   Florentine's Bakery .They also have a large array of other appetizing and scrumptious tasting goodies that will make your taste buds hurry through dinner just to taste the dessert.

It has taken me several years and attempts to even come close to a copycat recipe. To tell the truth I never really tried too hard because I could just take a trip into the city and buy them. Now that I only work part-time, I have plenty of time on my hands to experiment.

As I stated above, I had tried a few times earlier to make them from scratch with not so great success. It is hard to duplicate the ricotta needed for the recipe. In researching many cannoli recipes I found that many use mascarpone or a mixture of different soft cheeses. Others talk about a drier special made ricotta which is hard to find these days. After several attempts I found that just draining the ricotta overnight wasn't always long enough. Still more of them use different ingredients all together and all this was just for the filling.

Next came the shells. Again, many different recipes, some using similar ingredients while others used different ingredients. Depending on the taste you are looking for. Again, I had attempted in making my own shells a few times. It was a little difficult finding the forms to make the shells, but once I found them they were cheap enough. However, the outcome was not to the success I had hoped for. A little time consuming, a lot of fiddling, and needed to acquire the knack of making the dough, putting it on the form and then manage to find the trick in deep frying them and keeping the dough on the form while doing so. Whew! Let's try some of those already made shells I have seen in a box in numerous stores.

Pre-made boxed Cannoli shells are sold in several stores in the city and in three different brands. Let's do a taste test of the three. Almost comparable to Goldie-locks and three bears, except my hair is graying and with any luck the cannoli shells will taste a heck of a lot better than porridge. Found a box while shopping one day good chance to try my luck at making them again. This attempt turned out okay. The shell tasted fine but the filling was overly sweet.

Let’s go onto to the next attempt using much less sugar. Dilemma! When I went back to the store to get more shells there was a different kind. Attempt number two resulted in failure. Although they were edible I found the filling to be good but the cannoli shell wasn't that great.

Back to the store again to see if I could find the first cannoli shell. What the hell, no such luck. Several stores later, still no such luck. Began to wonder if I had imagined the blue box, after all I had thrown it out and couldn't even remember the name. Thank god for the computer and my great ability to search for items. Yup found them, but before ordering on-line I had one more store in the city to check. This store had three kinds of shells, the two I had tried previously and another one that come in a fancy box labeled gourmet. My curiosity got the better of me. Picked up a box of the ones I had been looking for and a box of gourmet ones to try.

Cannoli shells number one in the blue box turned out to be quite yummy and my personal favorite. They are made by Ferrara.  Box number two, greasy and a little over cooked (sorry Lynne, you were given samples of the second attempt). Box number three tasted okay but not as good as the ones in the blue box.

Dilemma number two. What do I do with all the broken bits from the Cannoli shells? Why not try a deconstructed Cannoli? Works for the chefs on the television, use the same or like ingredients to recreate a new outcome that dazzle's the taste buds and is a feast for the eyes. I think I did pretty well. What do you think?
1 16-oz. container of ricotta, drained 24 hours in a cheese cloth, in sieve over a bowl.
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
mini chocolate chips
Small dark chocolate cups
Broken Cannoli Shells, crushed into crumbs
Fresh Berries of you choice, straw berry, raspberry, black berries
Place cheesecloth into sieve and place sieve over a bowl. Pour ricotta into cheesecloth. Fold over cheesecloth to cover ricotta. Place in refrigerator for minimum of 24 hours. Ricotta needs to be dry in order for recipe to turn out well. If it is not dry, you will need to drain it longer or try squeezing out some of the liquid by twisting the cheese cloth.
When ready to make filling, remove ricotta from refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Place ricotta into mixing bowl. add vanilla, powdered sugar, cinnamon. Mix until incorporated. Batter should be of thick consistency. Stir in couple of tablespoon of mini chocolate chips. Place into ziploc bag or tupper container and place back in the refrigerator until ready to use.
You can pipe or spoon cannoli filling into chocolate cups. Sprinkle cannoli shell crumbs over filling. Pressing them into the filling if you need to. Top with a fresh berry of your choice. Refrigerate until ready serve.

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