Chocolate Chunk Cannolis
When B and I lived in Boston, one of our favorite places to get desserts from was Mike’s Pastry, in the North End neighborhood, home of many Italian restaurants and shops. Actually, I shouldn’t say “desserts” — plural — because really, it was mainly cannolis, of the chocolate chip variety (though I did also love their tiramisu.)
Early in our newlywed life together, B surprised me one day with a few metal cannoli forms, and the idea that we should try to make them together at home. Okay! Yes! I am always up for trying to figure out how to reproduce something I’ve eaten and loved in my own kitchen. So one weekend, we made our first attempt, which, as first attempts often go, did not turn out so wonderfully. The filling was delicious, just sweetened ricotta with a little orange zest and vanilla, but we didn’t roll the dough for the shells thinly enough, and then didn’t fry them at a high enough temperature, which resulted in thick, greasy, kind of tough, doughy cannoli shells. Blah.
Our second batch was better; we rolled them as thinly as we possibly could by hand and fried them hotter, but still found they were a little on the thick side. Not terrible, but nowhere near the same league as Mike’s.
dough for the shells
B patting the dough down
rolling the dough through the pasta machine – two pairs of hands helps
we started running out of room to put the cut-out circles of dough
This past weekend, we made another attempt, using my new-ish pasta machine. We knew we could get the dough thinner this way than we’d been able to with hand-rolling them. And ooooooh, they are good. We had a few mishaps on our first few….
keep them loosely rolled around the forms — like this:
not like this:
or else they’ll stick to the forms and you’ll have to pry them off, like this:
…but after we figured out that we needed to keep them loosely rolled around the thin end of the form, and keep the dough protruding out a bit from the end of the form, we were golden. Problem solved.
After the shells were all fried, crispy and light, I piped them full of the ricotta filling, which is just whole milk ricotta (drained overnight to get rid of any excess liquid), sweetened with powdered sugar and flavored with the zest of an orange and some vanilla extract. I had mixed some finely chopped dark chocolate into the ricotta filling (yum), and I sprinkled some additional chopped chocolate and chopped pistachios on the ends of each of the cannolis.
Oh, they’re so tasty! B brought some in to work with him for co-workers, and I saved a few for us and some friends, too. We’re a good team.
that’s four bites of amazing, right there
Chocolate Chunk Cannolis
For the shell dough:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
scant 3/4 cup Marsala wine
2 quarts canola or other flavorless oil, for frying
For the filling:
30 ounces whole milk ricotta, drained overnight in a colander lined with cheesecloth
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup finely chopped chocolate, plus more for sprinkling on the ends of the filled cannolis
chopped pistachios, for sprinkling on the ends of the filled cannolis
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
cannoli forms (can be found at Sur la Table)
a pasta machine or pasta-making attachment for your electric mixer
deep-fat frying thermometer
4-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter (or other round form that can cut 4-inch circles)
The day before you’re going to make the cannolis, drain the ricotta overnight in the refrigerator, either in a fine-mesh seive over a bowl or in a colander lined with cheesecloth — basically, anything so that the excess liquid can drain out of the ricotta.
The next day, mix together the drained ricotta, powdered sugar, vanilla, orange zest, and chocolate chunks. Set aside in the refrigerator.
For the shells: mix together the flour, sugar, and pinch of salt. Mix in the melted butter and Marsala wine, continuing to mix until a dough comes together. Knead the dough by hand for a few minutes until it is smooth and supple, then wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 2-3 hours.
When you’re ready to make the cannolis, start heating your oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat until it comes to 350 degrees F. Divide your shell dough into quarters, and working with a quarter at a time, roll it through the pasta maker a few times on the widest setting, folding it back over on itself after every pass through. This just smooths the dough out a little. Once you have a smooth, flat piece of dough (shouldn’t look shaggy at this point), keep passing it through the machine, cranking down the opening size to be a little narrower each pass through. You can lightly dust it with a little flour if it gets too sticky. My machine goes from 7 to 1, and I found that the dough was thin enough by the time I got to 3. You want it thin, but not so thin that it tears and rips. After this piece of dough is completely rolled and thin, cut it with a 4-inch circular cutter into rounds, and set the rounds aside. Repeat this process with the remaining 3 quarters of dough, and with any scraps leftover after cutting the dough into rounds.
Once your oil is up to temperature, place a cooling rack with a paper towel next to the pot (this is where you’ll put your just-cooked cannoli shells to cool.) Working in batches, wrap the round of dough kind of loosely around the thin end of the cannoli forms, sealing the seam with a little egg white if you like (see picture above). You want to be sure the seam is firmly pressed together, so it doesn’t come undone in the hot oil. Working with metal tongs, transfer the cannoli forms with the dough wrapped around them to the pot, and fry until golden brown….we found this took about 2 minutes. Remove from the oil and cool on the rack, then slide the form out of the shell (you can re-use the forms for the next batch of shells.)
Once all the shells are fried and cooled, pipe the ricotta filling into them with either a pastry bag fitted with a large, wide tip or with a plastic bag that you’ve cut the corner off of. Sprinkle the ends with chopped chocolate and pistachios. Serve the cannolis relatively soon after they’ve been filled, so they don’t get soggy.
Makes about 2 dozen cannolis.