Here’s a fun fact: did you know that cannoli is plural, and canolo is the singular term? Most people know these delicious ricotta cream-filled fried pastry shells simply as cannoli, perhaps because it’s so hard to limit yourself to just one!
WHAT MAKES A GOOD CANNOLI?
Cannoli are popular in Italian bakeries all over the world. In general, you can tell if a bakery is worthwhile if it only displays the shells. Cannoli should be “filled to order” so that the shells don’t get soggy before it’s time to snack.
Making cannoli at home can seem daunting, mostly because of the fried shells. But armed with the right equipment and a little time, making cannoli is easy at all. This recipe breaks it down into easy steps.
HOW TO MAKE CANNOLI
Makes 10 approximately 5″ long cannoli
FOR THE SHELLS:
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons Marsala (or white vinegar)
- 2-3 tablespoons cold water
- Enough oil to fill a large skillet 2″ deep, for frying
FOR THE FILLING
- 15 ounces (1 container) whole milk ricotta cheese, chilled
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips
- Optional: crushed pistachios, additional chocolate chips or candied citrus, for garnish
- Powdered sugar, for dusting the finished cannoli
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, salt, olive oil, egg and vinegar. Mix briefly, then add the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is cohesive (you may not use all the water).
Mix for 3-5 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and has become smooth and elastic.
Form the dough into a disc and cover it with plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight. This resting period will help the dough roll out more easily later on.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 1/8″ thickness. The round of dough will be a bit bigger than a rolled-out pie crust.
Using a 4″ round cutter (or the rim of a drinking glass or ramekin), cut out circles from the dough. Gather and re-roll the scraps to get a few more cutouts. You should be able to get about ten 4″ cutouts.
One at a time, form each circle of dough into an oval shape. Either stretching by hand or using your rolling pin for help, stretch the dough slightly up and down so that it becomes a 5″ long oval.
Pour the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, so that it is at least 2″ deep. Heat the oil until it registers between 350-375 F on an instant-read thermometer; adjust the heat as needed to keep it within these temperature zones as you fry.
Wrap the dough portions around cannoli forms or short wooden dowels. Really press the edges together, forming a seal. You can use an egg wash if the dough seems to have trouble sticking together.
Place the dough portions, seam side down, into the hot oil. If it’s your first time doing this, you might want to fry the first few units one at a time. Once you get used to the process, you can fry a few shells at a time.
Fry until golden on the seam side, then flip using tongs and fry the second side to match. This won’t take more than a few minutes, but rather than timing it, keep an eye on the oil temperature and the visual of the shells.
Gently remove from the hot oil, let the excess oil drip off, and then transfer to a wire rack. Let cool slightly before removing the forms. Continue frying all of the shells until done. Let cool to room temperature.
Make the cream filling. Strain excess liquid from the ricotta. Place the ricotta, powdered sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.