I love Cannoli, it doesn't matter how you make them, I love them!
It has to be the best known Italian pastry ever, especially in southern Italy!
My first experience with Cannoli would have to begin as a child, my father had a bakery in South Chicago where I have early memories of eating frozen Cannoli!
They were like rich creamy ice cream cones to me with lots of crunchy pistachios on each one! These Cannoli were the real thing they had diced Citron and Candied fruit. They were made with Rose Water, chocolate and real pistachios on the ends not green colored almonds!
Flashback - My father teaching me how to make Cannoli filling telling about the most important thing being that you're ricotta cheese is drained well and run through a food mill so it's smooth!
He also shared with me his secret that he had, which was using oil of cinnamon. He explained to me as if this was a secret flavor and If I told anyone I would be betraying a family secret!
The way he would put it into the Cannoli filling was by dipping a toothpick into the oil of cinnamon and then flicking it into the mix.
He would then take a dollop of the ricotta cheese and put it on top of the oil of cinnamon and make sure it was incorporated into the mix and not just sticking on the sides of the bowl.
It was as if this was the magic secret ingredient that he put in and only he knew about it.
Well least that was my impression is young man.
The recipe I'm giving you here for the Cannoli shells uses Marsala wine which will give it a little bit of sweetness and wine flavor to the shell. My grandfather Salera used red wine vinegar and ammonium carbonate this would help in the leavening and flakiness of the shells.
This recipe uses more common ingredients found in your kitchen. If you choose to use red wine vinegar instead of the marsala wine your Cannoli shells will be little tart in flavor but have a very reddish brown color.
I recommend making your Cannoli shells in advance putting them in a sealed container in a dry place and or in the freezer so when you need them you can fill them as needed like they do in the pastry shops. As far as the Cannoli filling, it may certainly keep it in the refrigerator and freezer as well.
I've searched on the Internet and found a few videos showing how Cannoli are made, frankly if you haven't made them before they can be a little tricky. Especially when you're trying to make the shells, it's always helpful to have a little visual aid. See Cook-Italian TV
The image seen above is from a Sicilian bakery, they are true authentic Cannolis. In this instance the baker took the Cannoli shells and lined them with dark melted chocolate so the filled Cannoli would not get soggy. They then dip the edges of the Cannoli shell into chopped pistachios and use the decorative maraschino cherry as well.
Cannoli (Recipe) print version
For the filling
1 1/2 cups cold water
3 1/2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon or small drop of oil of cinnamon
1 oz wt candied citron
1 oz wt candied orange peel
1 oz wt mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp rose water
The cannoli pastry shell
12 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
three extra-large eggs
4 tablespoons sweet butter
about 1/2 cup marsala wine or if you prefer red wine vinegar
greased Cannoli shell molds
Also for later
about 1 quart vegetable oil
4 tablespoons sweet butter
about 1/3 cup confectioners sugar for on top of the Cannoli
Chopped toasted pistachios for the edges
Halved Maraschino Cherries for the ends
Prepare the filling first mix the water and 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar in a heavy sauce pan until it is a heavy syrup about 30 minutes
Place the ricotta cheese in a bowl and when you're syrup is ready drizzle it into the bowl and mix very well with a spoon. Add the rest of the confectioners' sugar and the cinnamon or cinnamon oil and mix well. Now put this mixture into the refrigerator for about two hours.
Your candied fruit should be in small pieces so be sure is cut it in small bits. Now remove your ricotta cheese mixture from the refrigerator and press the mixture through a strainer into a bowl or you may use a food mill using the smallest disk. This will give your ricotta cheese a very smooth consistency.
Now add the superfine sugar your rose water and candied fruit and chocolate and mix it all together, very well. Place this mixture into the refrigerator.
Now that that's out of the way it's time to prepare your shells. As if you were making pasta, place your flour on your wooden board or counter and make a well in the flour. Add two egg yolks and one whole egg and the butter into the middle of the well and add your Marsala or red wine vinegar. Save your egg whites for later use.
Mix everything in the center of the well and blended thoroughly, just like making pasta incorporating all the flour little by little scraping the flour into the center. Then kneed the dough until it's smooth and elastic. This will take about 10 minutes. Let the Cannoli dough rest. Wrap it in a towel or plastic wrap. Leave it to cool place or the bottom shelf of your refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Now it's time to make your Cannoli
Using a rolling pin roll out a rectangular layer of dough on your floured table. It should be about no more than 1/8 inch thick.
Using a wavy pasta cutter, cut a strip of dough, this should be little bit less in length of your cannoli shell molds. These are metal molds that you're going to buy to make a Cannoli. Now you have these long rectangular strips you need to cut them in squares.
Here is where the egg whites come in, beat those egg whites with a fork for about a minute, this is going to be your glue. Turn your Cannoli dough squares on an angle to resemble a diamond. Place your cannoli mold at one end and roll up. On the opposite end\edge of the dough use a pastry brush and brush the edge the diamond at the end point so when you roll the pastry over it seals your cannoli shell. Once you have all your cannoli shells prepared you may now fry them.
Heat the oil and the butter over medium heat until the butter is completely melted. You want the oil butter mixture to come to 375° any hotter than that and you will have bitter tasting Cannoli shells. If you don't have a deep fryer you may use and cast iron or other suitable pan that will fit enough oil to fry Cannoli shells.
Fry your Cannoli shells golden brown all over up to three minutes fry time. After all are golden brown, remove them and place them onto a paper lined plate to absorbed the excess fat. When the cannoli shells are cooled to room temperature gently pressed the mold together and pull the Cannoli mold out from the fried pastry, be careful not to put a death grip on the shel or they will shatter in your hand!
Now if you haven't eaten all the Cannoli filling by yourself my now you should have some left over to be able to fill some of these crisp fresh Cannoli shells. If you want your Cannoli to look like the ones in the picture takes some semi-sweet chocolate melt it in a double boiler and then when melted coat the inside of the shells. When filled, dip the edges of the Cannoli into chopped toasted pistachios.
If you have a pastry bag great! Filled your shells with the Cannoli filling. Pipe full those beautiful Cannoli shells that you just made. If you don't have a pastry bag, you may use a small spoon and gently spoon in the filling at both ends. You may then proceed to arrange them onto a beautiful hand made Italian platter and dust with a blanket of powdered sugar on top. Now, gaze upon them in anticipation before enjoying every single bite!
I think you figured out by now that I love Cannoli Pastry.