Sunday, March 2, 2014

Your Favorite Series: Grandma's Cannoli

John from MI

I tossed around whether or not to share this recipe because it is considered what we would call a 'family secret, ' but I live for the idea of sharing from my kitchen to yours.  Plus, I shared this recipe with Sandy Gluck a couple years ago; I was curious to see if it was going to end up in Martha Stewart Living or Everyday Food.

Being from a Sicilian family, I was never a stranger to good, comforting food.  The holidays were always big events with emphasis on the desserts!  Everyone always looked forward to Grandmas cannolis!  This has been in her family for generations, so I guess it could be considered an heirloom recipe.  Grandma taught my mother and her sisters how to make these delectable treats, and my mother taught me and my sister.  Each year, just before all the major holiday baking, we spend an entire day making hundreds of shells.  We make cannolis to serve during Thanksgiving and Christmas, when company comes over, when we go to visit friends and family we bring cannolis, as well as share them with co-workers.  We also freeze a couple dozen shells so we have them ready for Easter. 

Making the shells is just like making fresh pasta; as a matter of fact, we always use a pasta machine (the hand crank kind) to roll the dough, as it rolls the dough perfectly thin for the shells. 

The recipe does call for frying the shells in lard.  That is what my grandmother used, and insisted they be fried in the traditional manner!  We still use lard today.  Of course, one could use vegetable shortening, but Grandma wouldn't approve!!  The recipe makes about 2 dozen cannolis. 

Cannoli Shells: 

1 3/4 C All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tbl Sugar
1  Egg slightly beaten
2 Tbl firm, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1/4 C Dry white wine
1 Egg white, slightly beaten
Lard for deep frying
Cannoli forms (found in kitchen or baking supply stores)

Heat at least 3-4 inches of lard in a heavy pot or deep fryer to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, salt and sugar onto a large counter surface.  Make a well in the center;  In the well place eggs and butter.  With a fork, slowly work the egg into the flour, from center out, until all the flour is moistened.  Add wine, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough begins to cling and hold together.  You may not use all the wine.  Using your hands, form dough into a ball.  Cover with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll dough out to 1/16" thick.  Using a 3 1/2" round cutter, cut circles in the dough.  Wrap the dough circle, loosely, around a cannoli form, sealing the edge together with a little egg white. 

Fry the shells, 2 or 3 at a time, for about 1 minute or until lightly golden.  Using tongs, remove from the fat to drain on paper towels.  Cool 5-10 seconds then carefully slip the shell off of the form.  Repeat with the rest of the dough circles.  Cool completely before filling. 

Cannoli Filling:

The filling is very simple like making pudding.  It's more of a Sicilian style and does not contain Ricotta cheese or candied fruits which is more northern Italian style. 

1 quart Half and Half
1C Sugar
1/2C plus 1Tbl Cornstarch
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Hershey Bar chopped into tiny pieces

Combine all ingredients, except the vanilla in a heavy sauce pan.  Slowly heat until boiling, whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has thickened.  Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla.  Transfer to a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the filling to prevent a skin from forming.  Cool, then refrigerate until chilled. 

When chilled, remove the cinnamon stick, then pass the filling through a food mill use the disc with larger holes.  Alternately, you can beat the filling with a mixer.  Fold in the chopped chocolate.  Cover, and keep refrigerated until ready to fill the shells.  Fill the shells just prior to serving. 

To Fill and Serve Cannolis:

Place filling in a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, or use a small spoon.  Fill the desired number of cannolis through each end.  Dips ends of cannoli in ground almonds to light coat the exposed filling.  Place on a large, rimmed baking sheet.  When the desired number of Cannoli are filled, lightly sift confectioners sugar over the top and serve. 

They are addicting!

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