Ok, I’ll level with you. The little birds nest creation above looks nothing like what this month’s Daring Bakers challenge is meant to look like. This creation was born out of the need to improvise; part inspiration and desperation alike.
This is in fact meant to be a reasonably well known Italian pastry. Can you guess what this month’s challenge is meant to be?
Cannoli. Image shamefully stolen from the wonderful host for this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives.
Believe me, I tried making it look something along these lines. Without possessing, or the willingness to possess, unitaskers such that I see cannoli forms as, some creativity was in order.
Now, creativity isn’t exactly a bad thing. You could take the creativity even further (albeit with words this time), by saying that this was a deconstruction or reinvention of the cannoli. I’ve probably just offended a lot of Italians and cannoli lovers alike. However, one thing I can say is that, whatever this may be called, it uses the ingredients for making the cannoli as outlined by this month’s host. It also doesn’t taste too bad either :)
Ok, being somewhat late to release this post (I won’t go into the reasons here), I’ll keep this as streamlined as possible. The main recipe as prescribed by this month’s host will be listed in full at the end of this post. What I’ll incorporate below are my variations that have deviated from the original recipe.
Lemon Mascapone Eggs in Toffee Nest
There are instructions below for to create a stack from the cannoli recipe rather than the traditional tubes. In the instructions it states:
If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying.
Though I can understand that this would be desirable for creating flat discs of cannoli pastry. However, in my case, I used the ballooning effect to my advantage.
Once you get to the stage when you start cutting out rounds from the dough, rather than getting the recommended sized cutter, I went with one of the smallest ones I had in my arsenal (about 2cm or approx. 1 inch in diameter). These small rounds were left as flat discs when inserted into the deep fryer.
They should puff up to an egg-like shape, creating an air pocket within. As only on side of the egg is ever in contact with the oil, I used a ladle to constantly pour the fryer oil over the top side of the egg for even cooking. I found that trying to turn the egg over to the other side was nigh on impossible.
Once the eggs have turned a golden brown, remove them from the fryer and place onto a rack to drain any excess oil.
The filling is a very simple lemon mascapone. The steps are pretty straight forward.
Firstly, place the contents of the mascapone into a mixing bowl. Incorporate either castor or icing sugar to taste to the mascapone and mix with either a whisk or a spoon until the sugar is fully integrated.
Once you’re happy with the level of sweetness, now incorporate enough lemon juice to taste. The mixture should end up like the consistency of lightly whipped cream or room temperature butter.
Place the filling into the fridge to chill, which will firm up its texture.
Once the filling has been chilled, using either the finest piping bag attachment you have or a syringe plunger (without the needle part), poke a small hole into the egg and pipe in the filling until the egg is just about full. You’ll find that with the egg, that the shell is thin on one side, which should make penetration easy. Otherwise, you can create a hole using a skewer or the pointy end of a pairing knife. Just make sure to take care and not stab yourself whilst doing so!
For the nest, I simply followed the steps outlined in the following recipe from the Taste website. I found that this method was a little random, creating fine strands (desired) and dark clumps alike (undesired). Anyways, once you’ve accumulated enough toffee strands, shape to form the nest for the eggs.
That’s it for my portion of the post. I wish I had more time to better flesh out this post and incorporate more step-by-step images. Anyhow, as promised, the recipe for the intended method of making cannoli is listed below. Thanks again to this month’s Daring Bakers challenge host for their selection.
Cannoli forms/tubes – optional, but recommended if making traditional shaped cannoli. Dried cannelloni pasta tubes work just as well!
Deep, heavy saucepan, enough to hold at least 2-3-inches of oil or deep fryer
Deep fat frying thermometer. although the bread cube or bit of dough test will work fine.
Brass or wire skimmer OR large slotted spoon
Pastry bag with large star or plain tip, but a snipped ziplock bag, butter knife or teaspoon will work fine.
Paper bags or paper towels
Sieve or fine wire mesh strainer
Electric Mixer, stand or hand, optional, as mixing the filling with a spoon is fine.
Food Processor or Stand Mixer – also optional, since you can make the dough by hand, although it takes more time.
Rolling pin and/or Pasta roller/machine
Pastry or cutting board
Round cutters – The dough can also be cut into squares and rolled around the cannoli tube prior to frying. If making a stacked cannoli, any shaped cutter is fine, as well as a sharp knife.
Mixing bowl and wooden spoon if mixing filling by hand
Tea towels or just cloth towels
Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
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
RECIPE NOTE: THE EQUIVALENTS FROM THIS RECIPE WERE PREPARED USING THIS CONVERSION SITE: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/index.asp.
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
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.
DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS:
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, oiled..lol). 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.
DIRECTIONS FOR 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).
ASSEMBLE THE CANNOLI:
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.
1/2 cup (123 grams/4.34 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1/2 cup (113 grams/4.04 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (122.5 grams/4.32 ounces) canned pumpkin, drained like ricotta
3/4 cup (75 grams/2.65 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (approx. 1.7 grams/approx. 0.06 ounces) pumpkin pie spice (taste)
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 2 grams/approx. 0.08 ounces) pure vanilla extract
6-8 cannoli shells
1. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta and mascarpone until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl, cover and chill until it firms up a bit. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).
2. Fill the shells as directed above. I dipped the ends of the shells in caramelized sugar and rolled them in toasted, chopped pecans.
TIPS AND NOTES:
– 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.
– Practice makes perfect. My first batch of shells came out less than spectacular, and that’s an understatement. As you go along, you’ll see what will make them more aesthetically pleasing, and adjust accordingly when rolling. My next several batches turned out great. Don’t give up!!