Pin It Crippen Creek Chronicles: Leave the gun, take the cannoli

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Leave the gun, take the cannoli

Cannoli has to be one of the greatest treasures of Sicilian cuisine. It was certainly one of my favorite desserts growing up and is always a hit with our family during the holidays. Growing up in an Italian-American community like Rochester, NY, cannoli was readily available at the numerous Italian bakeries and delis and even at Wegman's grocery store. But alas, here in the Pacific Northwest, if you want cannoli you have to make it yourself. Although making the shells is a lot of work, you really end up with a superior product. Homemade shells should be light, crisp and shatter when you bite into them. The ricotta cream filling should be smooth and not grainy. It is important to strain the ricotta overnight in cheesecloth to drain off some of the water. I sweeten mine with powdered sugar and flavor it with a little vanilla extract, mini chocolate chip morsels and just a hint of fresh orange zest. I am not a fan of the candied fruit that appears in some recipes but sometimes I add a little goat cheese to the ricotta in an effort to approximate the tanginess of sheepsmilk ricotta that would be available in Sicily.
Never fill your cannoli shells before serving time nor should you purchase cannoli that are already filled because the shells will become soggy if they sit for too long.

If you are not familiar with cannoli you should know that cannoli is actually the plural form of cannolo. But who ever orders just one cannolo? And if you did, the clerk would probably look at you like you had a third eye. Common usage prevails here in America so feel free to call one of these pastry tubes a cannoli and use an "s" to pluralize it if you wish. The next time someone asks you to bring the dessert to a party, remember the advice of Peter Clemenza in The Godfather, "leave the gun, take the cannoli."

We would love to hear from all you cannoli lovers so please post your comments about the best cannoli you have had and where to get them.

cannoli tubes wrapped with pastry dough and ready to fry

Shea Mielke enjoys the first of many cannoli


Marie said...

Hi! I loved your post about cannoli history and prep! I recently purchased 4 cannoli tubes in an attempt to begin serving them with tea. But, I'm very inexperienced with frying (try never). So I was wondering if there was any advice concerning when i should begin frying ect. I don't own a deep fryer, so this will all be on the stove. Thanks for your help!

The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm said...


You are going to love making your own cannoli shells. Once you get the knack of it you will probably invest in more tubes so that you can make a bunch of them and freeze them.

If you don't have a deep fat fryer, use a small heavy dutch oven and heat the oil to 375 degrees. You will need to get a candy-deep fry thermometer. You will have to watch your temperature and adjust your heat accordingly. I have used a Waring Pro Deep Fryer for several years and it just gave out on me, but I will definitely invest in a new one.

Don't fry more than two at a time until you get the hang of it.

I use a thick absorbent towel to hold the cannoli, when it comes out of the hot oil and I use a pair of pliers to grasp the exposed metal part of the tube, give a slight twist and pull the tube out of the shell. Let the shells drain and cool on a wire rack.

Good luck! Let me know how they turn out.


Nan said...

How do you get the filling to not be grainy? Is the key straining the ricotta for a really long time? I strained it for a couple of hours today, and it is still grainy. If you have any advice on this, I'd appreciate it! Thanks!

The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm said...

I put the ricotta in cheesecloth, set it in a strainer over a bowl. Then I place a heavy weight on the cheesecloth and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Finally I put it in the food processor and pulse it until I get the desired consistency. Don't go crazy with the processor though because I have had cases where the ricotta becomes overly processed and loses its body.

I also try to use the best whole milk ricotta that I can find. In my area that seems to be Gardenia brand. I don't like Frigo. If you live near a large metropolitan area you should be able to find good ricotta at an Italian deli. Good luck and let me know how it turns out.