The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.
My problem is that I tend to leave things to the last-minute. Unfortunately my daring baker’s challenge was no exception. From the day that Lisa revealed the challenge, procrastination took the better of me, until it was the weekend before the reveal date. The conditions of the weekend allocated for the DBC couldn’t be any worse. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the average temperature of Sunday was 41 degrees Celsius (106 F). Essentially what that meant was I’d have to make something that I’ve never made before, then deep-frying it and filling it, all on the second hottest day ever recorded in November here in Sydney, Australia. That will teach me not to leave things to the last-minute again.
My first experience which soon developed to an obsession (yes I know, another one) with Cannoli started precisely 4 years ago. It was 4 years ago, that I started a new job at a shop which was directly opposite to a beautiful Italian patisserie. Each morning, my request would be a ricotta filled cannoli with a medium cappuccino. I can remember how the cannoli tasted, with its crispy shell encasing an airy mixture of ricotta cheese, doused in a little sprinkle of icing sugar, seems like it was only yesterday. Regrettably, I left that job 2 years ago, and was forced to leave the cannoli behind. Imagine my joy when I found out that this month’s DBC is cannoli, another thing that I absolutely adore eating, but never had the courage to try.
I followed the recipe and instructions as provided by Lisa, and found no problem with it at all. It was quite straight forward and easy to follow, the only downfall is deciding on what delectable fillings to fill the shell with.
The bacon and egg cannoli ?
For this challenge, I tried to think outside the ‘shell’ a bit. The result is a mash up of my favourite breakfast combination of bacon and eggs.
- 2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
- Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
- 1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
- Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
- 1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
- Confectioners’ sugar
Note – If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).
Directions for shells
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
- Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.
- Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.
- In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.
- Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.
- Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
- Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.
Initially, I trialled making the cannoli shells using the handle of a metal ladle as the mould. Suprisingly, the cannoli shell came out beautifully, laddened with blisters and bubbles.
However, the true test of the challenge for me was to present it in a way that has caused me many sleepless nights, Bagon and Eggs. For this challenge, I wanted to bring ingredients which are usually reserved for a savoury breakfast to the dessert table.
The “egg” shell:
I didn’t have anything that was round that I could mould the dough over, so once again my Macgyver instinct took hold. Using a block of softened butter, I molded it in to the shape of an egg and placed it back into the freezer. Once solidified, I wrapped the thin piece of dough over the ball of butter and deep fry according to instructions. During the wrapping process, I must have stretched parts of the dough too much, therefore some areas were too thin, thus while frying, the butter started to seep out. Pulling the cannoli ball out of the deep fryer, I was surprised to see a somewhat round cannoli, although damaged by two holes on the top and on the bottom.
The “egg white”
Ever since the first time I made Wolfgang Puck’s creme brulee, I was hooked. The ease of the recipe combined with the creamy consistency and the sweetness of the mixture was just right for me. Upon piping the mixture into the shell, it kind off resembled egg shell with it’s white softly boiled.
The “egg yolk”
Inspired by my recent venture to Pier for their dessert menu and the molecular gastronomic techniques as introduced by Ferran Adria, I wanted to re-create the mango sphere. Sourcing the necessary chemical compounds, Calcium, alginate and Citrate from Simon Johnson, I found out that it would cost me $150 just to make the spheres. I couldn’t justify forking out that amount of money on something I would most likely not use again, so instead let the idea go. I was intrigued by how it would have looked if I did make the mango spheres so I popped an egg yolk on top of the creme brulee mixture. It looked exactly how I had envisioned. I can just imagine using the bacon grissini to break in to the sphere causing the mango nectar to ooze out, forming a thin layer on top of the creme brulee. Aahh If only I could afford all those ingredients.
To assist in incorporating the bacon on to the plate, I employed the help of the grissini. Upon completion of baking the grssini, I painted it with olive oil then sprinkled pre-roasted ground bacon on top.
Overall, I was very pleased with this month’s challenge, despite it looking a little rough, I can affirm that it tasted great. The cannoli was as crispy as should be, the creme brulee was smooth and rich, the raspberries provided the burst of sweet and sour flavour while the bacon grissini served as the perfect dipping stick. Once again, thanks to Lisa for choosing such a fantastic recipe, you’ve helped me rekindle my love affair with the Cannoli.