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.
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
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
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
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.