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Recipe for Traditional Sicilian Cannoli

Traditional Sicilian cannoli

Traditional Sicilian cannoli

Ah, Sicilian cannoli. The mere mention of these delicious, creamy treats is enough to make any foodie's mouth water. But if you're not familiar with these little bites of heaven, allow me to introduce you to one of the most beloved sweets in all of Italy.

The Sicilian cannoli is a traditional Italian dessert that is typically associated with celebrations and festivals. It is not necessarily a seasonal dish, but it is often served during the winter holidays and at special occasions such as weddings and baptisms.

A Little History Lesson

The origins of the cannoli can be traced back to the 9th and 10th centuries, to the ancient Arab occupation of Sicily, where the dessert was originally made with a sweet filling of cheese and honey, and was originally served to the nobles and the wealthy. Over time, the recipe has evolved to include a variety of fillings such as ricotta, chocolate chips and fruit, and the dessert has become a popular treat throughout Italy and beyond.

But don't let that fancy history fool you; these days, anyone can enjoy a delicious cannolo (or three).

About the Sicilian Cannoli

Now, let's talk about the good stuff. A traditional Sicilian cannolo is made up of a flaky, fried pastry shell filled with a creamy ricotta cheese filling and bits of chocolate, candied fruit, or nuts. Sounds simple—but trust me, the combination of flavors and textures is pure magic.

Here's the catch: These heavenly treats are notoriously difficult to make. It takes a skilled hand to roll out the thin pastry dough, carefully fry it to golden perfection, and then stuff it with the perfect amount of filling. And let's not even get started on the art of decorating the ends of the cannoli with those signature chocolate chips or sprinkles. It's a true labor of love.

But fear not, dear reader! If you're not quite ready to tackle the daunting task of making your own cannoli, there are plenty of bakeries and pastry shops in Sicily (and beyond) that will happily sell you a freshly made batch. Just be prepared to fight off any cannoli-crazed locals—these treats are known to sell out fast!

So the next time you find yourself in Sicily (or, you know, just craving a delicious dessert), be sure to hunt down a batch of cannoli. Your taste buds will thank you.

Ingredients

For the shell:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons red wine
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons marsala wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • vegetable oil, for frying

For the filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup candied orange peel, chopped (optional)
Cannoli shells frying in oil

Cannoli shells frying in oil

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter, red wine, egg yolk, and marsala wine and mix until a dough forms. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. While the dough is chilling, make the filling. In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, confectioners' sugar, chocolate chips, and candied orange peel (if using). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Preheat a deep fryer or fill a large pot with vegetable oil and heat to 375°F (190°C).
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out circles of dough.
  5. Wrap the circles of dough around the barrels of cannoli tubes, pressing the edges together to seal.
  6. Carefully lower the cannoli tubes into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, remove the tubes from the oil and drain on a paper towel.
  7. Once the tubes have cooled slightly, carefully slide them off the tubes and onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Once the cannoli are cool, fill a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip with the ricotta filling. Pipe the filling into the cannoli shells, filling them from both ends.
  9. Serve the cannoli immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

How Can I Prevent Cannoli From Getting Soggy?

Here are a few tricks to prevent cannoli from getting soggy:

  • Use fresh cannoli shells: Make sure to use fresh cannoli shells that have been made recently, as stale shells will absorb more moisture and become soggy.
  • Fill the shells just before serving: Fill the cannoli shells with the filling just before you plan to serve them. This will prevent the shells from absorbing moisture from the filling and becoming soggy.
  • Use a pastry bag to fill the shells: Using a pastry bag to fill the shells will help to prevent the shells from breaking and becoming soggy.
  • Drain the ricotta cheese: If you're using ricotta cheese as the filling, make sure to drain it well before using it. This will help to remove any excess moisture and prevent the shells from becoming soggy.
  • Refrigerate the filled cannoli: Keep the filled cannoli in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This will help to keep the shells crisp and prevent them from becoming soggy.
  • Avoid storing cannoli in airtight containers: If you need to store the cannoli, avoid using airtight containers, as the trapped moisture will make the shells soggy. Instead, place them on a plate or tray and cover with plastic wrap or foil.
  • Use powdered sugar to dry the shells before filling them.

By following these tips, you can help to prevent cannoli from becoming soggy and ensure that they stay crisp and delicious.

Filling cannoli with sweet ricotta from a pastry bag.

Filling cannoli with sweet ricotta from a pastry bag.

What Can I Do With Broken Cannoli Shells?

  • Use them as crumbs: Crush the broken shells into fine crumbs and use them as a topping for ice cream or other desserts.
  • Use them in a trifle: Layer the broken shells, along with a sweetened cream or custard, fruit, and whipped cream, in a trifle bowl.
  • Use them in a cheesecake crust: Mix the broken shells with butter and sugar and press the mixture into the bottom of a springform pan to make a crust for a cheesecake.
  • Use them in a bread pudding: Mix the broken shells with eggs, milk, and sugar, and bake to make a delicious bread pudding.
  • Use them in a cannoli dip: Mix crushed shells with a sweetened cream cheese, mini chocolate chips, and vanilla extract and serve with fruit, graham crackers or cookies.

These are just a few ideas, but there are many other ways you can use broken cannoli shells. The key is to be creative and think outside the box.

Are Cannoli Supposed to Be Crunchy or Soft?

Cannoli are traditionally supposed to be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The pastry shell, which is made of a deep-fried dough, should be crispy and flaky, while the filling should be creamy and smooth. The contrast between the crunchy shell and the soft filling is an important part of the overall texture and taste of the dessert.

However, depending on the recipe or the way it is made, cannoli can vary in texture. For example, if the cannoli shells are not deep-fried long enough, they may not be as crispy as they should be. If the shells are made with an egg-based dough, they tend to be more delicate and softer.

Also, if the cannoli shells are stored improperly, they can become soggy and lose their crunchiness. In this case, the texture of the cannoli would be softer overall.

Buon Appetito!

Sicilian cannoli are the ultimate dessert for anyone who loves to indulge in a little bit of sweet, creamy, and crunchy heaven. Whether you're a fan of traditional fillings like ricotta or looking to branch out and try something a little more adventurous, like chocolate or pistachio, there's a cannoli out there for every taste bud. Just be warned: once you pop, you can't stop! So if you're feeling adventurous (and hungry), grab a few cannoli and let the good times roll. Buon appetito!

© 2023 Sandra Cooks