Cannoli Tart

I was browsing through an article of the “50 greatest desserts of all time” and came across a recipe for a cannoli tart. I love cannoli…though they are a great pain in the keister to make sometimes. The recipe seemed simple enough and though I was lacking a tart pan (I just used a regular pie pan, so pardon my very unpretty crust) I decided to have a go at it.

I was excited because I had just purchased a new food processor (I had one of those mini ones for years…and it just got to the point where I had to admit that owning a large one would be ever-so-helpful as my home baking skills increased) and I couldn’t wait to try it. I think I was a little over-zealous in my pulsing technique because my dough didn’t come together as nicely as it did for this blogger (jealous!) but it worked nonetheless.

The best part – it tastes JUST LIKE a cannoli! It was a hit in my office and is a really nice, light dessert that doesn’t feel too decadent after a big meal.

My only amendment to the recipe came from the use of the Amaretto. In hindsight, I would have subbed some almond extract (not too much, perhaps 1/4 tsp) for some of the Amaretto to really boost that almond flavor. I’m including this amendment in the recipe below. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE CRUST:

  • 2 cups Sifted Flour
  • ½ cups Plus 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ⅓ cups Cold Butter
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon Milk

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 2-¼ cups Ricotta
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons Amaretto
  • 1/4 teaspoon Almond extract
  • ½ cups Chocolate Chips Or Chunks

PREP INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350ºF

For the crust:
In a food processor, add flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon and pulse a few times. Add butter, and pulse until butter and flour have formed pea-sized crumbles. Add egg and milk and pulse until a large ball is formed.

Place the dough ball in between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Roll dough out large enough to fit a deep dish pie pan or deep dish tart pan. Grease pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Gently place the dough into pan. Refrigerate while you make your filling and your oven is preheating.

For the filling:
In a food processor or mixer, blend ricotta, egg, sugar, and amaretto until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into crust.

Bake at 350ºF for around 25-35 minutes, or until your crust has slightly browned and the filling has puffed a bit. Serve cold or at room temp sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with chocolate.

Orange Zest Cannoli

Cannoli shells are so easy to make and I can’t believe I ever settled for the store-bought kind in the past. Homemade shells are thinner, crispier and just taste better. If you don’t have a deep fryer – never fear! – just use a dutch oven instead. I hope that the inclusion of some of my hints will help – I know that making my own cannoli shells was always a daunting task in the past, but now that I have done it – I’ll never go back!

You will need some special equipment to do this at home however:

Obviously,  these are my recommendations, but if you find alternative brands that work for you – that’s what you should stock in home!

Here are ingredients for the various stages of the cannoli process (yields about 16 cannoli):

Cannoli Filling:

  • 8 ounces good quality whole milk ricotta, drained overnight in a fine-mesh sieve
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • Finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, for garnish

Cannoli Shells:

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed (hint: I cut each tablespoon into twelve little cubes…makes things easier)
  • 5 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For Frying:

  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

Ricotta
Strain the excess whey from the ricotta by placing it in a fine-mesh sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth over a small bowl. Cover the ricotta with plastic wrap and transfer it to the fridge to drain for 8 hours or overnight.

Cannoli Dough
Add flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt into food processor; pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the Marsala wine and eggs and process until a smooth dough forms. Transfer dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth (about 1 minute). Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

Cannoli Filling
While the dough is chilling in the fridge, place the ricotta, mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and orange zest in a mixing bowl and whisk smooth. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip. Chill filling until ready to pipe into cooled cannoli shells. HINT: if your filling seems too loose, you can add some more powdered sugar or a little bit of cornstarch to thicken it up. Just be careful adding too much more sugar as the sweetness can become overwhelming.

Rolling Cannoli Shells
Use whatever pasta machine you have (whether it be the counter top kind or the KitchenAid attachment like I have). Start with the rollers on the widest setting. Divide the chilled dough into quarters using a bench scraper. Work with 1 piece of dough at a time while keeping the remaining dough wrapped in plastic. Flatten the dough quarter and pass it through the machine. Decrease setting by one notching at a time and pass dough through rollers until dough it about 1/8-inch thick. (Alternatively, you can roll the dough out very thinly with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface if you do not have a pasta machine). HINT: on the KitchenAid pasta roller, I stopped at #5 setting as the dough was plenty thin at that point.

Using a 4-inch round cookie cutter, cut out dough and transfer to a sheet of parchment paper. Working with one dough circle at a time, wrap dough around a cannoli form and brush edges with egg white to seal. Stand the cannoli wrapped forms on end (don’t lay them flat – the egg white will make them stick to everything, including parchment paper.  HINT: the egg white is what causes the bubbles to form on the surface of the cannoli shell. If you want a very smooth cannoli shell, but sure to only brush the seam where the dough ends meet. HINT 2: DO NOT get egg white on the cannoli form. Use it very sparingly. If you get egg white on the form, you will have a very tough time getting the fried shell off the form after frying.

Frying Cannoli Shells
Pour about three inches of oil into medium heavy saucepan (like a dutch oven) and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350F. Work in batches, frying cannoli wrapped forms until light brown and crisp. HINT: I did 1-minute, then flipped the forms and did another minute (for 2 minutes total). Using tongs, carefully transfer cannoli to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.While hot, carefully remove cannoli shell from form and set aside on a wire rack to cool. HINT: never handle the forms with bare hands, use a kitchen towel to grasp an end and the tongs to nudge the shell from the form. Repeat frying procedure with remaining dough.

Assembly
When the shells are cooling, pipe filling into each shell. HINT: I find that piping in from each side results in prettier ends, but you can always pipe from one side and fill until you see the filling on the other side. Garnish ends of each cannoli with chopped chocolate if desired and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.