Chocolate Chip and Pistachio Cannolis

During my time studying abroad in Italy, in between our visits to world famous museums and breathtaking cathedrals, we took several cooking classes. (I may be bragging a little bit... but talk about checking off bucket list items!) In those classes, we learned to make many traditional Italian dishes like basil pesto, potato gnocchi, and hazelnut biscotti. But probably my favorite class featured cannoli where we learned to make everything from the shells to the filling from scratch. It was so much fun and they were absolutely delicious. After that lesson, I promptly added a set of cannoli forms to my "must-have" souvenirs list. Of course, I could probably easily find them in the states, but isn't it way cooler that I brought them home from Florence? :)

Anyway, I studied abroad in the summer of 2008.  It is now the summer of 2015 and I finally got around to making cannolis for the first time since that lesson. My poor little cannoli forms had been neglected for 7 whole years, but we finally got around to it when they were requested for my father-in-law's birthday. It was a huge undertaking, but we had a lot of fun in the process. 

Our shells were very thin and delicate, and our filling was lighter than traditional cannoli filling. They were a huge hit at the party with many people wanting seconds.  Even though it was well loved, I'd be willing to try again to get a more traditional cannoli. I didn't use the recipe I had from my cooking class out of pure laziness since that involved digging through my memories box from that trip but next time I may go through the extra effort to try to find it. 

The recipe I used is below, but I've also included some pictures of our process that you may find helpful if you are embarking on a cannoli making adventure any time soon. As a side note, did you know that in Italian, the plural of cannoli is cannoli? Technically, one cannoli is a "cannolo" and two cannolis is "two cannoli," even though I still usually wind up saying "one cannoli, two cannolis".

First, make the dough for the shells, which will need to be rolled out very thin. To get the dough as thin as possible, we used our pasta attachment for the kitchenmaid mixer. 

When you have nice thin sheets of dough, you can use a large circle cookie cutter to cut it into flat disks.

The disk are then wrapped around the cannoli forms for frying, sealing the edges with egg whites. 

After a brief bath in the fryer, they come out golden and crispy.

And finally, after filling and garnishing:

Cannoli, adapted from allrecipes

Ingredients for shells:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

3 Tablespoons shortening

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine

1 Tablespoon distilled white vinegar

2 Tablespoons water

1 quart oil for frying

Ingredients for filling:

2.7 lb (approx. 43 ounces) ricotta (preferably impastata ricotta)

3/4 tsp vanilla bean paste

heaping 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons confectioner's sugar (plus more for dusting)

1/2 cup heavy cream*

For garnishing and decorating:

Mini chocolate chips and/or chopped pistachios for the ends

Chocolate chips and vegetable or canola oil for dipping the ends of the shells

Directions for shells:

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon together. Cut in the shortening until it is in pieces no larger than peas. 

Make a well in the center, and pour in the 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk (Lightly beat the egg + yolk before adding. Save the unused egg white for later), Marsala wine, vinegar and water. Mix with a fork until the dough becomes stiff, then finish it by hand, kneading on a clean surface. Add a bit more water if needed to incorporate all of the dry ingredients. Knead for about 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Break off a piece of the cannoli shell dough. I found it easiest to work in small pieces, in chunks a little larger than a golf ball. Flatten just enough to get through the pasta machine on the largest setting. Continue to roll out the dough through the past machine on successively thinner settings until you have reached the desired thickness, dusting with flour when necessary. I went to setting #5, but our shells were thin and delicate. You may want to stay at #4 if you prefer a heartier shell. Place the thin sheet of dough on a lightly floured surface. 

Using a large cookie cutter (or a large glass or small bowl will do) cut into approximately 4 to 5 inches circles. Dust the circles with a light coating of flour to help ensure they can be removed from the tube forms easily later.

Wrap dough circle around a cannoli tube and seal the edges together with a little bit of egg white.

Heat oil to 375°F in a deep heavy skillet. While cooking, keep a thermometer in the oil to try to keep the temperature as consistent as possible. Fry 2 shells at a time until lightly golden, using tongs to turn and ensure even cooking. For our thin shells, this took only about 15-30 seconds. For thicker shells, it may take up to 2 to 3 minutes. You may find the temperature of the oil drops after cooking a few shells. Keep an eye on it as you may need to give the oil time to rise to 375°F every once in a while. Carefully remove shells using the tongs and place on a cooling rack set over paper towels.  Cool just long enough that you can handle the metal tubes enough to remove them. Rinse or wipe off tubes and allow to cool before using for more shells. It helps to have several tubes (about 5 or 6) so you can be cooking with some while others are cooling. 

Cooled shells can be placed in an airtight container for up to 2 months. 

Directions for filling:

I made both chocolate chip cannolis with chocolate dipped edges and pistachio cannolis. For the chocolate dipped cannoli shells, melt some chocolate chips on a double boiler, and slowly add oil to create a smooth consistency. Dip edges of unfilled cannolis into the chocolate. Place on parchment paper and allow to set completely before filling.

In a medium bowl, beat together 1/2 cup heavy cream and 2 Tablespoons of confectioner's sugar to stiff peaks. Set aside.*

In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta, vanilla bean paste, and remaining confectioner's sugar. Then, fold in the whipped cream.*

If you want some cannoli edges dipped in chocolate as seen in the photo above, do this step prior to filling. See my instructions below. 

Put cannoli filling in a piping bag. Cut a hole at the tip of the bag. Put the tip of the piping bag in the center of the cannoli shell, squeeze and fill one half of the cannoli. When you get to the edge of the shell, go straight down as you squeeze to create a nice look - I found this video from the guys at Carlo's Bakery very helpful. He begins piping and shows this technique at about the 2:30 mark. 

Fill the shells shortly before serving - Do not do this step well in advance as it will make the shells mushy. 

After filling, garnish with mini chocolate chips or chopped pistachios. Lightly dip your filled cannoli to coat the edges. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

*Note: The addition of whipped cream makes the filling lighter and airier. If you want a denser, more traditional filling, feel free to omit this.