Recipe: Deconstructed Cannoli for the Holidays


Cannoli, Nacho-Style

Cannoli, Nacho-Style

I love Cannoli and I love Latkes, but most of all I love spontaneous gatherings that spring up when you say “I’m making latkes and cannoli, come over tomorrow for lunch”.  My friends know that I’m not an everything is ready and the silver is polished kind of host(ess). I’m more a come over around this time and help me finish cooking and setting the table kind of gal.  So yesterday I made a few things.  I invited friends for 1pm.  I started cooking at 10am., except for the Cannoli Dough which I made the day before.:  Friends helped roll the cannoli dough, fry latkes and doughnuts, dress the salad and get each other drinks.
If you’re inviting friends who don’t know one another, having them help out together is a better elixir than, well elixirs.

Latke Batter
Cannoli Nachos
Cannoli Filling
Pomegranate Braised Stuffed Eggplant and Zucchini from Janna Gur’s new book Jewish Soul Food (more on that later this week)

Friends brought:
Sparkly Wine
Doughnut Dough
Dulce de Leche
Dandelion Salad with Garlic Dressing

Deconstructed Cannoli – Nacho Style
My longtime Angeli chef and friend, Kathy Ternay, and I made this many times.  When you decide to forego rolling dough around metal tubes and opt instead for flat-ish “chips” of cannoli dough the dessert becomes easier to put together and more fun to eat. The dough seems like a simple thing to make and yet sometimes it doesn’t blister just right during frying.  That blistering is a fundamental part of the cannoli eating experience. Yesterday I used Brooks Headley’s recipe from his new book Fancy Desserts which I believe is a Lidia Bastianich recipe, but I have to say I prefer Kathy’s family recipe.  Her maiden name is Di Gregorio.  She’s half Neapolitan and half Sicilian, first generation who grew up gathering greens and cooking with her step-mother in Cleveland.  All older cannoli dough recipes call for crisco or lard.  Contemporary recipes call for oil or butter. I have to say I’ve had more consistent results with crisco or lard.  What I love best about Kathy’s family recipe is the Marsala.   When paired with the cinnamon in both the dough and the filling it just screams cannoli to me.

I am not a fan of super sweet cannoli filling so I make it for my palate and people seem to eat it up.  The most important part of making the filling is buying the right ricotta.  Wet American types don’t work as well.  I use either Angelo and Franco‘s which you can find at Whole Foods or I go to Bay Cities Italian Deli to buy the ricotta I used at Angeli from Gioia Cheese.  Both are drained, so are drier than the American style ricotta more easily sourced.

Kathy’s Cannoli Dough
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Zest of 1/2 orange
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
2 tbsp vegetable shortening or lard
1 xlg egg yolk
3 to 4 tablespoons Sweet Marsala
Oil for frying

You can make this by hand or in the food processor.
In the processor:  Pulse the flour, cinnamon, sugar and zest together.  Add the shortening and pulse a couple times to mix.  Beat 3 tbsp Marsala and egg together and add it to the dry ingredients while the processor is going.  Add additional tbsp Marsala only if needed to bring dough together. Stop the machine when the dough gathers in a lump.  Finish by kneading it a few times on the counter.  The dough will be stiff.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight and up to 2 days.

By Hand:
Mix the flour, cinnamon, sugar and zest together.  Beat the egg and 3 tbsp. Marsala together. Add it to the dry ingredients.  Add additional tbsp Marsala only if needed to bring dough together.  Mix the dough bringing it together with your hands. Dump the mixture out onto a board and knead it until it comes together like a stiff pasta dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight and up to 2 days.

When you’re ready to fry the dough, remove it from the fridge and divide it in four pieces keeping the ones you’re not using under a towel.  If you have a pasta rolling machine use it to roll out the dough, bringing the number down until the dough is as thick as a quarter.
Cut the dough into strips or triangles or use a cookie cutter or glass to make rounds.  The size will increase by a third upon frying.

Heat the oil to 360 degrees.  Add the pieces of dough to the oil and flip them as necessary to get an even deep golden brown.  Remove to paper towels to drain and cool.  Once cooked the “shells” will last a few days stored in a cookie tin lined with a paper towel.

Cannoli Filling:
I love the texture I get from either beating the ricotta  with a whisk in a mixer or quickly running it in the food processor with the steel blade.  I find that some people get freaked out by the possibility of candied fruit they can’t identify in the cannoli filling.  To avoid this I add the hit of citrus by using zest.  To be honest, the day I made this filling I had some candied oranges in syrup (made from Gabrielle Hamilton’s book Prune)  hanging around so I used some of the orange syrup to flavor the cheese.

1/4 cup – 1/2 cup Sugar, to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Cinnamon, to taste
1 lb Angelo and Franco Ricotta  or Gioia
Zest of 1 small lemon or orange (optional)
1/4 cup Chopped Bittersweet Chocolate of your choice

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together to make cinnamon sugar.
 If I know I’m making cannoli I just make a small bowl of it, use what I need to flavor the ricotta, then use the rest on oatmeal, pancakes or toast.
Put the ricotta in the bowl of the mixer or the processor.  Add the cinnamon sugar and lemon or orange zest.  Beat a medium speed until ricotta smooths out a bit.  Don’t overbeat.  If you’re using a processor beat just until the ricotta is smooth.
You can add the chocolate directly to the bowl of a mixer to mix in at low speed.  But if you’re using a food processor you’ll have to scrape the ricotta into a bowl so you can fold in the chocolate otherwise the chocolate will process through the ricotta, which is ok if you like it that way.
To serve mound the filling on a plate or in a bowl.  Accompany with a bowl of “chips”.




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