Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Family Cannoli Shell Recipe and Cannoli Filling Recipe

family cannoli shell recipe and cannoli filling recipe
The results of my family cannoli shell recipe.
Cannoli are an Italian treat that my family traditionally makes during the winter holidays. My mom and I usually make a few batches to share with family and friends. In recent years, though, I've also made several hundred cannoli for my own holiday parties. Yum! They fly off the table.

Our beloved family cannoli shell recipe, however, is old and cryptic. It's written on a decades-old index card that's set to crumble any day now, and it's not in English . . . it's in Mom-code: written by Mom not as a recipe, but as a memory aid. It omits crucial steps, presents them out of order, and cryptically lists ingredients. Figuring it out each year results in a few good laughs . . . and a few mishaps. Lucky for me, I've ironed out the questionable index card involved and present clear instructions for my (and your) future reference in this post!

image of family cannoli shell recipe and cannoli filling recipe
I dipped the end of the cannoli shell into walnuts and chocolate chips.
That's why I'm doing myself the favor of getting the whole cannoli shell recipe down on paper and putting it up here. I hope that my lovely readers will be able to enjoy both the photos I took this season and the recipe, straight from my family kitchen! The shells are crispy and slightly sweet with a hint of cinnamon. The sweetened ricotta filling tastes like fresh cream and is accented with cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest.

If you want to make your own, just follow the cannoli shell recipe below. I'd suggest recruiting some dessert-loving friends to help you! It makes the process much easier. Complete the filling before your helpers arrive. Let it chill in the fridge so that you can all enjoy a cannoli right after you're done making shells.

If you'd like to make a mini cannoli shell recipe, there's no big secret. Just use the recipe below and roll out less dough so that it covers less of the cannoli form when you wrap it around. This creates a perfect mini cannolli. I've made several hundred mini cannoli shells, each about 2 inches long, using this technique.
picture of cannoli shell recipe and cannoli filling recipe
Cannoli cut in half to show the filling, which includes chocolate chips.

Cannoli Shell Recipe

Makes 30 to 40 cannoli shells

Frying Equipment and Ingredients:
1.  Stainless steel cannoli forms. I'd recommend having about 8 forms on hand.   
2.  Deep fryer or closest equivalent. I'm afraid of hot oil, so after discovering mini deep-fryers, I've never gone back to the stovetop version. I use a mini countertop deep fryer. My mom is brave, so she uses a pot that will hold a few cannoli shells at a time and about 5 inches of vegetable oil for deep frying, a candy thermometer to measure the oil temperature, a large spoon or tongs to remove cannoli from oil, paper towel and a wire cooling rack.
3.  A quart of oil should be sufficient. Canola or peanut oil will work well. Do not use corn oil or sunflower seed oil.

Cannoli Shell Ingredients:
4 c. flour (17 oz, if you have a scale)
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. shortening
1 whole egg and 2 yolks for batter (reserve the two left-over egg whites for later use in sealing cannoli shells)
  1. Measure ingredients, lightly oil the cannoli forms, and then set up the frying station. Start heating the oil, and keep an eye on the temperature as you mix the dough. Bring the oil to 350F.
  2. Cut shortening into flour until it is pea-sized or smaller using a pastry blenderpicture of cannoli shell recipe and cannoli filling recipe, then add sugar and cinnamon. Mix.
  3. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add vinegar, 1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks. Mix until fully incorporated - it should be a little dry - and then knead briefly.
  4. Tear off a section (maybe about a quarter of the total dough) and roll into rope. Tear a few walnut-sized pieces off the rope and, using a rolling pin, roll them out into thin ovals slightly less than the length of the cannoli form and just large enough to wrap around the cannoli form and slightly overlap. Don't make the ovals paper thin or else the finished shells will be weak, and will collapse when bitten into. As mentioned earlier, if you'd like to make mini cannoli, just make a smaller oval that only covers about half of the length of the cannoli form.
  5. Wrap each oval around a cannoli form. Lightly beat the egg whites you've set aside, and where the edges of the oval overlap, glue the dough to itself using a dab of egg white.
  6. Once all of your cannoli forms are wrapped in raw dough and the oil has reached 350F, lay paper towels out on a tray or counter top near the pot, and carefully lower two or three dough-wrapped cannoli forms into the pot of oil (or place them in the deep fryer). When the shells are golden brown (this only takes a few minutes, so watch closely), remove them from the oil and place them on paper towels. Continue with remaining cannoli forms.
  7. Once cool to the touch, gently slide the cannoli shells off of the forms. Twist the form to loosen it, if needed. If the shells look white inside, it means that the outside cooked too quickly, and you should lower the temperature of the oil so that they cook more evenly.
  8. Continue rolling out and wrapping the rest of dough until all shells have been made.
  9. Once all shells are completely cooled, you can store them in Ziploc bags in the freezer until ready to use. If you store them in open air or at room temperature, the humid air might make the shells soggy or stale.
picture of family cannoli shell recipe
cannoli shell recipe
picture of family cannoli shell recipe
Cannoli shells on the cooling rack.

Cannoli Filling Recipe

(Makes about 2 quarts. Fills about about 40 cannoli.)

8 cups whole milk ricotta (64 oz.) DO NOT USE LOW FAT RICOTTA!
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar (my mom would suggest using 2 cups...)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated orange peel
1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips (optional, for adding to filling)
1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips or chocolate shavings (optional, for ends of cannoli)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, for ends of cannoli)
1/2 cup powdered sugar for dusting

  1. If ricotta is watery, drain it first.
  2. Mix ricotta, vanilla, 3 cups powdered sugar, ground cinnamon, and freshly grated orange peel. The cannoli filling will be easier to work with if you let it cool in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. You can also store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Assembling the cannoli:
  1. You can refrigerate the filling until you need it, but no more than 3 or 4 days. You can also keep the shells in an airtight ziplock bag at room temperature until needed!
  2. If desired, mix mini chocolate chips to the filling right before filling the cannoli shells. It's best to add them right before filling the shells, because if you let them sit in the filling overnight, they'll get soggy.
  3. Use a pastry bag or a large plastic Ziploc bag with a corner cut off to pipe the filling into the cannoli shells. Fill shells shortly before serving to avoid soggy cannoli.
  4. If desired, dip the ends of each cannoli in walnuts and/or chocolate chips.
  5. Dust with powdered sugar, and serve.

picture of family cannoli shell recipe
I dipped the end of each cannoli shell in melted chocolate.
This year, I dipped the end of each cannoli shell in melted chocolate and let it harden before filling them. One lucky cannoli recipient's shell, however, was entirely coated in chocolate. Joy!

Hope you like this one,