November 2009 Archives

 

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.

The first step is to make the ricotta for the filling. I've made traditional ricotta before, from the whey produced by hard cheese making, but, unfortunately, I didn't have time to make hard cheese this week — so instead, I made it the quick and dirty way. With just whole milk, cream, salt, and lemon juice, it is incredibly easy, and it makes a tender, rich cheese.

After simmering the salted milk and cream with lemon juice until it curdles, it is drained through cheesecloth for a couple hours, and then refrigerated overnight.

On Thanksgiving morning I made the cannolo dough, a rubbery mass made aromatic by the addition of dessert wine and cinnamon. It also needs to chill for a few hours, so it can relax enough to be rolled paper-thin.

The cannoli assembly was the Thanksgiving post-dinner entertainment, and it became a family project. My nephew and my husband helped me roll out the dough as thin as possible, and cut 3" circles using a coffee mug. I rolled the circles even thinner, and then wrapped them around these metal cannoli forms while my mom sealed them with egg whites. Finally I slid the dough-wrapped forms into the hot oil and turned them until they were bubbly and brown. The thinner the dough was rolled, the bubblier and crisper the resulting cannoli shells were. Thicker dough tended to warp and pull away from the form, and produce a soft, chewy shell.

You can see that some shells turned out a little prettier than others. This recipe made about twice as many cannoli as I expected &mdash these piles were still growing.

Meanwhile, my sister-in-law was beating the ricotta with powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon and grapefruit zest. She folded in some whipped cream to lighten the filling, and then we piped it into the cannoli with a plastic bag.

I'm kind of a purist when it comes to cannoli: I don't like them dipped in chocolate, I don't like them studded with nuts or chocolate chips, and I don't like them flavored. This seemed to be especially relevant for these homemade cannoli, which had so much more character than bakery versions. These shells were so crispy and flavorful, with notes of spiced grapes and olive oil, and the fresh ricotta and citrus zest was so rich and tangy, it would be a shame to distract from them.

 

Over the weekend I made one of my favorite pies, Dick Taeuber's Cordial Pie, in Brandy Alexander. I've made it a few times now, and (while I always over-chill the filling, resulting in a slightly lumpy interior) it has never failed to be a hit. It's particularly popular with the kind of friends who throw an annual thanksgiving party that requires a half-dozen boxes of wine, an entire refrigerator reserved for Jello shots, and a minimum of four turkeys.

That's because this pie is packing a pretty decent punch: half a cup of alcohol that never sees the heat of a stove. It's essentially a boozy Jello, with meringue and whipped cream folded in to make it almost unbearably rich, creamy, and fluffy. In the '70s, Dick Taeuber compiled formulas for something like 50 different flavors of cocktail pie, and while I've never ventured past the Brandy Alexander (cognac and creme de cacao), 20 delicious-sounding versions are still to be found on the New York Times site. It's even more perfect for a party because it takes about as much time and effort to make as a batch of Jello.

And by the way, that party? Here's what my plate looked like before I made it to the dessert table. I politely decline to post any photos of what anything looked liked after I made it to the bar.

 

New city, new digs, new jobs, new schedules... and a new kitchen. We've made a lot of changes, but things are settling down into something resembling a routine, and I am ready to start cooking (and blogging) again!

Last weekend I did a few things in the kitchen, just warm up exercises, really. I oiled my cutting boards and wooden spoons. I planted some paperwhites and roasted a couple chickens. I made my favorite beer-deglazed chicken stock. (is it possible I haven't posted about my favorite chicken stock yet?! Soon.)

I am still getting used to my new kitchen, figuring out the best layout, storage arrangements, and workflows. It's quite small, although it may actually have more usable storage space than our last kitchen due to its compact layout. The fridge is tiny, the counter space is nonexistent, and the cold water pressure is strangely low while the range's gas flow is unreasonably high. It desperately needs a spice rack. But it is MINE, damn it.

And I can't wait to start testing its limits!

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