Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge (My Very First) for November '09: Cannoli!

Did I tell you that I recently joined the Daring Bakers? Well I did, and this month I took part in my first challenge recipe--cannoli!

Just in case you're reading this and you're unfamiliar with this group, allow me to enlighten you: The Daring Bakers are comprised of hundreds (if not thousands?) of home bakers throughout the world who take on a common recipe "challenge" each month. They make the recipe, photograph their results, and post their results online. The recipes selected are typically inherently tricky and potentially rather involved, so they are indeed challenging. The new challenge recipe for each month is revealed to members at the very beginning of any given month, and they are required to keep it under their hat until the 27th of each month. On the 27th, it's kosher for all members to post their results. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

Here's the official low-down on the November challenge, directly from the Daring Bakers site . . .

"The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book."

* * * *

All of the photos in this post are from my cannoli preparation experience, which took place just a couple of hours ago. (I think my house is going to smell like frying oil for at least a week.) I followed the recipe closely for the shells, but I haven't yet made the traditional filling that includes ricotta cheese. I just filled a few of the shells with whipped cream that I sweetened with confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and a dash of cinnamon, and I dipped one in mini-chocolate chips and another one in chopped peanuts.

It was a fun recipe to prepare, and a very unusual one for me. I have extremely little experience with deep frying and I don't honestly want to become an expert at it (far too fraught with danger, if you know what I mean!) but it all went swimmingly. I thought the recipe and instructions provided were very accurate. The dough, just as we were all warned, was hard to roll out--very springy and stretchy--but once rolled out it was easy to roll it onto the metal cannoli forms, and the finished cannoli were actually pretty easy to slide off of the forms.

The recipes below, with specific instructions and notes, have been copied in their entirety directly from the Daring Bakers site, just fyi (their words, not mine!).

* * * *

Lidisano’s Cannoli

Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
Prep time:
Dough – 2 hours and 10-20 minutes, including resting time, and depending on whether you do it by hand or machine.
Filling – 5-10 minutes plus chilling time (about 2 hours or more)
Frying – 1-2 minutes per cannoli
Assemble – 20–30 minutes


2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2. Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

- Dough must be stiff and well kneaded

- Rolling the dough to paper thinness, using either a rolling pin or pasta machine, is very important. If the dough is not rolled thin enough, it will not blister, and good cannoli should have a blistered surface.

- Initially, this dough is VERY stubborn, but keep rolling, it eventually gives in. Before cutting the shapes, let the dough rest a bit, covered, as it tends to spring back into a smaller shapes once cut. Then again, you can also roll circles larger after they’re cut, and/or into ovals, which gives you more space for filling.

- Your basic set of round cutters usually doesn’t contain a 5-inch cutter. Try a plastic container top, bowl etc, or just roll each circle to 5 inches. There will always be something in your kitchen that’s round and 5-inches if you want large cannoli.

- Oil should be at least 3 inches deep and hot – 360°F-375°F, or you’ll end up with greasy shells. I prefer 350°F - 360°F because I felt the shells darkened too quickly at 375°F.

- If using the cannoli forms, when you drop the dough on the form into the oil, they tend to sink to the bottom, resulting in one side darkening more. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to gently lift and roll them while frying.

- DO NOT crowd the pan. Cannoli should be fried 2-4 at a time, depending on the width of your saucepan or deep fryer. Turn them once, and lift them out gently with a slotted spoon/wire skimmer and tongs. Just use a wire strainer or slotted spoon for flat cannoli shapes.

- When the cannoli turns light brown - uniform in color, watch it closely or remove it. If it’s already a deep brown when you remove it, you might end up with a really dark or slightly burnt shell.

- Depending on how much scrap you have left after cutting out all of your cannoli shapes, you can either fry them up and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar for a crispy treat, or let the scraps rest under plastic wrap and a towel, then re-roll and cut more cannoli shapes.

- Push forms out of cannoli very gently, being careful not to break the shells as they are very delicate. DO NOT let the cannoli cool on the form, or you may never get it off without it breaking. Try to take it off while still hot. Hold it with a cloth in the center, and push the form out with a butter knife or the back of a spoon.

- When adding the confectioner’s sugar to the filling..TASTE. You may like it sweeter than what the recipe calls for, or less sweet, so add in increments.

- Fill cannoli right before serving! If you fill them an hour or so prior, you’ll end up with soggy cannoli shells.

- If you want to prepare the shells ahead of time, store them in an airtight container, then re-crisp in a 350°F (176 °C) oven for a few minutes, before filling.

(If you'd like to comment on this post or read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Pontch said...

Congratulation on your very first challenge
Your canooli looks beautiful !!

Marysol said...

Jane, they look mouthwatering!

I haven't had a cannoli in years, and it's a good thing, because I could never just stop at one.

I joined DB once and I partook in a challenge, you guessed it, once. Just not enough hours in a day for me. But, I enjoy seeing the delicious results of all its members.

Allison said...

Congrats on your first Daring Bakers challenge Jane! The shells look great. My apartment smelled like frying oil for several days after too...but it was well worth it.

jenniew3478 said...

Audax said...

Welcome to the DBers and congrats on your fabulous result. They look delicious and well done on this challenge and I hope you enjoy the other challenges as much. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

Wic said...

congratulations not only to your first challenge also to this delicious looking cannoli.

Jenny said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers, and congrats on your first challenge. Looks like you nailed it - your cannoli looks great! I like the pictures of the process of making them. See you again in the December challenge!

natalie said...

these look delicious and they look perfect! really well done. I love these.

charlie said...

holy cannoli!! I like cherry scones :D

Unknown said...

You're a DBer too huh? Congrats! I hope to join soon! The cannoli looks great, it's always been on my to-do list!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What beautiful cannoli! They look really tempting. Great job!



dollydoesdesserts said...

Hey this is a great! Your shells are beautiful.

Lisa said...

Jane..welcome to Daring Bakers and congrats on a first challenge amazingly executed! Your cannoli are abolsute perfection (fantastic shells( and your photos are sharp and clear! Thanks so much for deep frying with me this month!

Art and Appetite said...

Jane, oh my! This is pure perfection! I'm speechless.

Sara said...

Welcome to Daring Bakers! These look super delicious....congrats on a successful first challenge!! :-D Yum. :)

Jessica - The Novice Chef said...

These are stunning! I love all the photos! You make it look so easy!

Jessica said...

Wow! I had my first cannoli in New York a few years ago and fell in love with them. It would be nice to attempt this recipe and bring some NY memories back.

PS: Great job with your first DB challenge!

Jane said...

Hi Pontch, Thanks very much! I had a lot of fun working on them.

:) Jane

Hi there Marysol--
You're telling me! By the end of the same day that I'd made all the cannoli shells, I had decided to throw all of the unfilled ones away. They were simply too tempting to have around. Out they went!
:) Jane

Hello Allison!
Many thanks. I was happy with the way they turned out, for a first timer. I now have a ton of used oil, though, and I'm not sure what to do with it. Keep it? Re-use it? And if not, how the heck does one discard this stuff? I can't believe how much oil is required to reach 3" in a big pan. Yikes!

Jane :O

Hello there Audax,
Thanks very much for that warm note! I greatly appreciate it and look forward to many more challenges.


Hi Wic,
Thanks for the encouragement! Very nice of you.

To Jenny -- Thanks very much! I'm so glad I finally decided to join.

Hi Natalie,
Many thanks for those nice comments and for visiting!
:) Jane

Hi Charlie--
I know about your love for cherry scones! I'll make you some soon!
Mom (aka Jane)

Greetings Avanika,
They were a fun recipe to try and I'm glad I made them. I never would have considered making them myself if they weren't "required"!!
;) Jane

Hi Rosa,
You are a baker extraordinaire so I am flattered by your compliment! Many thanks!
:) Jane

Hello Dolly (couldn't resist saying that!),
Thanks very much for stopping by and for those nice words.

Dear Lisa--
You are kind of the "founder of the feast" as far as all of those cannoli that were produced around the world in November!! Makes you pretty powerful! ;)
Thanks for such detailed and explicit instructions; they made it a million times easier than it might have been to prepare them.
Keep on baking,

Hi Art & Appetite,
Thank you so much. Talk about "speechless", that cake you posted just recently truly is a work of art! Fantastic!

To Sara, NoviceChef, and Jessica--

Thanks very much for the kind encouragement and welcome. I'm about to go check and see if the new recipe for December has been posted. I hope I can remember to keep my mouth shut about whatever it is until the "reveal" date! :)


Hanaâ said...

Congrats on your successful cannoli. You did such a great job! They look great. The right shade of brown-ness and I love the blisters all over. I bet they tasted delicious, even with sweetened whipped cream. Ever tried making your own ricotta cheese? It's super easy. Let me know if you're interested and I'll send you my favorite recipe.

I never had cannoli before. I should try them sometime. Restaurants sometimes use lard in their dough so I don't order them.

How do you like the Daring Bakers so far? I've been contemplating joining the group for over a year.

Btw, I made Pumpkin Cheesecake from Rose's new book and it was D-licious, some of the best I've had. If you have time (or leftover pumpkin puree sitting around), I highly recommend it. Check out my latest post to see pictures of it.

Sheltie Girl said...

Congratulations on finishing your first Daring Baker's challenge! Welcome to the group!

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Y said...

Hooray for joining the DB group, and congrats on completing your first challenge. Looks like you're off to a great start :)

BitterSweet said...

Your cannoli look fantastic, just perfect! You're certainly off to a great start as a Daring Baker. :)

Malar Gandhi said...


I know, you're a Great cook and I adore you blog.

I am hosting an Event in my site about Kitchen Mishaps!

Please check it out:

Would you like to participate?

I will greatly appreciate your contribution.

Malar Gandhi

The Scootabaker said...

wow! bravo on the patience to make cannolis! Frying ANYTHING scares me. Yours look sooooo good!