Cannoli alla Siciliana Recipe 
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Cannoli alla Siciliana

This is a double treat from Sicily: crisp fried pastry and creamy ricotta. Either one could stand on its own, but combined they become cannoli. The pastry was once fried wrapped around pieces of canna (bamboo cane), hence the name. Today we substitute for the cane 1-inch aluminum piping available in Italian or European cookware shops. As for the filling, this recipe calls for the addition of whipped cream to achieve the light texture of the traditional one made with delicate, fresh, Sicilian ricotta.

Cannoli Pastry
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 scant tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soft unsalted butter
1/4 cup white wine
vegetable oil for frying

Cannoli Filling
2 cups ricotta
1 cup whipped heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar (or more if you wish)
2 tablespoons candied fruits, or 3 tablespoons cocoa and 2 tablespoons chocolate bits (jimmies)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Place the flour in a mound on a pastry board or counter. Make a well in the center, and put in the salt, sugar, and dabs of the soft butter. Add the wine, and with a fork start stirring in the center. Keep on until most of the flour has been absorbed, and you have a paste you can work with your hands.

Knead the paste until it is smooth and has picked up almost all the remaining flour. Roll it out no thicker than a noodle, and cut it into 3-1/2 x 3-1/2-inch squares, if you are using 5-inch long, 1-inch diameter cannoli forms. The diagonal of the squares should not be longer than the forms, so adjust the size of the squares to the length of the forms.

Place the cannoli forms diagonally on the squares. Wrap the pastry around the form, 1 corner over the other, and press the corners to hold them together. If the corners don't stick with pressure, moisten a finger with water, apply it to the contact point, and press again.

Pour about 3/4 inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan and heat it to 375F. If you don't have a thermometer, drop a bit of dough in. If it immediately starts to blister and turn a toast color, the temperature is right. Because cannoli cook very fast and swell in size during the process, you may find 3 is a good number to cook at a time. Put them in the hot oil, turning them carefully when one side is done. Remove them as soon as they have become crisp, a uniform toast color, and rather blistered all round. The forms, naturally, get terribly hot: a pointed pliers is the easiest tool with which to lift them out of the pan. Hold the form with the pliers and give a gentle push with a fork to slip the fried cannoli off the form. Drain the cannoli on paper towels. Put the forms aside to cool. When cooled, rewrap, and continue frying until all are done. If you want to work very quickly, have about 18 forms on hand (which is approximately what this recipe makes) all wrapped and ready before you begin frying.

Cannoli, when cooked and left unfilled, will keep crisp a day or so in a tin or a dry place.

If you want to make more than 18 cannoli, the recipe doubles easily using 2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons soft unsalted butter, and 2/3 cup of wine. If you are kneading and rolling on a pasta machine, which is ideal for this particular dough, start at the highest number and bring it down to #3.

Put the ricotta in a bowl and fold in the whipped cream, adding the sugar as you fold. Chop the candied fruits to tiny slivers no bigger than a grain of rice and fold in all but about a teaspoonful. Add the vanilla.

Using a spatula or a broad knife, fill the cannoli first from one end and then from the other. Press the filling gently to make sure the center is full. Scrape each end to smooth out the cream and decorate the ends by dipping them in the remaining candied fruit slivers.

If you want to make the filling chocolate, substitute cocoa for the candied fruits in the cream-ricotta mixture, and decorate with grated chocolate or the chocolate jimmies.

The cannoli should not be filled too long before serving, as that softens the pastry. The filling, however, can be chilled, and both parts of this elegant dessert can be made ahead of time and assembled shortly before the meal.

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