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.