Saturday, 3 January 2015

Lemon and Pistachio Cannoli

Homemade Cannoli

Cannoli should be the next food trend, but for some reason it's largely left off our radar. I derive little pleasure from most of pretty, sugary things like cupcakes and macarons, compared with the satisfaction of that first bite of a crisp, cinnamon sugar-dusted cannoli shell, filled with sweet, thick ricotta cream.

Cannoli are traditional Sicilian pastries of real substance, and the key here is to stay authentic. Wine should be used in the pastry; no baking soda or powder. Ricotta as the filling, and don't even think of using whipped cream to aerate it.

The name 'cannoli' comes from the Italian meaning 'little tubes'. You won't have failed to notice that 'cannelloni' pasta shells and cannoli share the same etymological origin. The trademark tube shape is formed using metal tubes. After wrapping the pastry around the tube, it is then deep fried for a couple of minutes until golden. The pastry shells can last in a sealed container or tin for up to 2 months, but it's important to only fill them just before serving, or the cream will soften the shell.

Cannoli Recipe

Although metal tubes are important for shaping the pastry, word has it that dried cannelloni pasta tubes work, or if you are particularly audacious, try cutting steel curtain rods or wooden broom sticks (the original cannoli form). Alternatively, cut flat circles or other shapes, fry  and sandwich them with filling.

Common cannoli flavours are 'Siciliani' (pistachio and candied fruits), lemon, pistachio and chocolate. But flavour combos I'd like to try out include rose water and pistachio, orange flower water, almond and tangerine/marmalade, chocolate amaretto, ginger and candied orange. And how about the endless savoury possibilities? I've only savoury cannoli done by only one blogger. Maybe there are good reasons savoury cannoli isn't more popular...

Lemon Pistachio Cannoli

Unique to cannoli pastry is the addition of wine. This isn't for flavour but to help relax the gluten in the flour, making it easy to roll the dough very thin. This pastry recipe takes a couple of minutes to make, and contrary to other recipes, there's no need for kneading. A blistered surface is the mark of good cannoli. It also appears that you can bake cannoli. It doesn't achieve the same appearance, but saves you the guilt of throwing away leftover vegetable oil from deep-frying.

Homemade Cannoli Recipe

Lemon and Pistachio Cannoli

Makes 20 large pastries


2 cups flour
3 Tbsp (45ml) shortening
2 Tbsp (30ml) granulated sugar
1/3 cup cooking wine (red or white)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
Milk or beaten egg
Vegetable Oil, for deep-frying

Cut the shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Stir in white wine, a few drops at a time; add egg and mix until the pastry holds together.
3. Form into a ball, cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
4. Cut the pastry into four parts. Roll each part on a lightly floured surface. Cut into oval shapes 4-5 inches (10-12 cms) long - you can do this by cutting around a cardboard template with a knife. Put aside scrap bits of pastry to roll out into more shells. Wrap each oval around the metal tube and seal the edges with a little milk or beaten egg.
5. Deep fry in 2 inches of vegetable oil at 180°c (350°F) for around 2 minutes, until golden. Drain on paper towel, and allow to cool briefly before removing the metal tube. Repeat with remaining pastry.

Cannoli shells should be completely cool before filling. Shells are best filled right before serving.

2 cups ricotta
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios

Beat all the ingredients together until mixed.


2 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon ground
1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios

Dip the sides of the filled cannoli in chopped pistachios. Mix together the icing sugar and cinnamon, dust liberally over the cannoli. Refrigerate until it is time to fill the shells.


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