Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Baker Challenge: Cannoli!!!

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.


I was so excited about this challenge!  I even did it the weekend before it was due and anyone that knows me knows that this is unheard of.  I absolutely loved these.  I made a few mistakes and changes along the way…I thought the recipe said 1 cup of cocoa???!!! and it only called for 1 tsp, (I ended up adding about 2 Tbsp) hence the darkness of my dough and then I made up the filling as I went along and it turned out perfect!

Below is the recipe as written but for my filling I used 1 lb of mascarpone cheese, 1 cup sifted confectioners sugar (to taste), 1 tsp vanilla extract and lots of grated Dark semi-sweet Callebaut chocolate!

Don’t be afraid of these!  This was an incredible recipe and experience.  Oh I also used a one inch dowel cut into 8 inch pieces for my forms…easy as can be!

Cannoli forms/tubes - optional, but recommended if making traditional shaped cannoli. Dried cannelloni pasta tubes work just as well!
Deep, heavy saucepan, enough to hold at least 2-3-inches of oil or deep fryer
Deep fat frying thermometer. although the bread cube or bit of dough test will work fine.
Metal tongs
Brass or wire skimmer OR large slotted spoon
Pastry bag with large star or plain tip, but a snipped ziplock bag, butter knife or teaspoon will work fine.
Cooling rack
Paper bags or paper towels
Pastry Brush
Sieve or fine wire mesh strainer
Electric Mixer, stand or hand, optional, as mixing the filling with a spoon is fine.
Food Processor or Stand Mixer – also optional, since you can make the dough by hand, although it takes more time.
Rolling pin and/or Pasta roller/machine
Pastry or cutting board
Round cutters - The dough can also be cut into squares and rolled around the cannoli tube prior to frying. If making a stacked cannoli, any shaped cutter is fine, as well as a sharp knife.
Mixing bowl and wooden spoon if mixing filling by hand
Plastic Wrap/Clingfilm
Tea towels or just cloth towels

Required: Must make cannoli dough and shells. If you don’t have or do not want to purchase cannoli forms, which I would never ask of any of you, you could simply cut out circles, squares, or any shapes you want and stack them with the filling of your choice to make stacked cannoli's aka Cannolipoleons (directions below). If desired, you can channel MacGuyver and fashion something heat proof to get traditional shaped cannoli (6-8 inch sawed off lengths of a wooden broom stick or cane, sanded down and oiled, is THE authentic cannoli form!), or non-traditional shapes such as creating a form to make bowls, or even using cream horns if you happen to have them. Mini cannoli would be great too, and I've provided links to retailers of cannoli forms of all sizes.

Also, for those who don't like to cook or bake with alcohol - grape juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, apple juice..any sweet juice of a fruit, especially ones used in or to make wine, can be substituted. Just add a little more vinegar to insure you get enough acid to relax the dough

Variations: The filling is YOUR choice! Anything you want to fill them with is perfectly fine, sweet or savory, or you can use the filling recipe provided – making whatever changes you want to it. Cannoli would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving dessert table/spread. In many Italian households, during the holidays, cannoli is always part of the dessert offerings. You could also make a Thanksgiving themed cannoli, like pumpkin cannoli (I came up with a great pumpkin filling recipe below) or apples, pecans, walnuts, any dried fruits etc. An idea to gussy up your cannoli is; dipping the rims of the shell in melted chocolate and rolling in chopped nuts or sprinkles, then letting them set prior to filling. Dipping or pressing mini chocolate chips into the filled ends OR just stirring mini chocolate chips into the filling prior to stacking or filling whatever shaped shells you come up with, is another great idea and makes a nice presentation The sky is the limit here, be creative! Naturally, if you have any dietary restrictions, by all means, go with it. I’ve provided a link to a gluten-free cannoli recipe and a slightly savory vegan cannoli recipe to help get you started.

Bonus option: Make your own ricotta and/or mascarpone cheese!

Technically, I know, this is not baking, and if you prefer to steer clear of the deep fry, you can bake the shell. You won’t get the snappy, blistery texture and appearance that make cannoli so special, but I’m sure it’ll taste good nonetheless. Here’s a link where the cook bakes some of his cannoli shells:

Lidisano’s Cannoli
Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
Prep time:
Dough – 2 hours and 10-20 minutes, including resting time, and depending on whether you do it by hand or machine.
Filling – 5-10 minutes plus chilling time (about 2 hours or more)
Frying – 1-2 minutes per cannoli
Assemble – 20–30 minutes


2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

- Dough must be stiff and well kneaded

- Rolling the dough to paper thinness, using either a rolling pin or pasta machine, is very important. If the dough is not rolled thin enough, it will not blister, and good cannoli should have a blistered surface.

- Initially, this dough is VERY stubborn, but keep rolling, it eventually gives in. Before cutting the shapes, let the dough rest a bit, covered, as it tends to spring back into a smaller shapes once cut. Then again, you can also roll circles larger after they’re cut, and/or into ovals, which gives you more space for filling.

- Your basic set of round cutters usually doesn’t contain a 5-inch cutter. Try a plastic container top, bowl etc, or just roll each circle to 5 inches. There will always be something in your kitchen that’s round and 5-inches if you want large cannoli.

- Oil should be at least 3 inches deep and hot – 360°F-375°F, or you’ll end up with greasy shells. I prefer 350°F - 360°F because I felt the shells darkened too quickly at 375°F.

- If using the cannoli forms, when you drop the dough on the form into the oil, they tend to sink to the bottom, resulting in one side darkening more. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to gently lift and roll them while frying.

- DO NOT crowd the pan. Cannoli should be fried 2-4 at a time, depending on the width of your saucepan or deep fryer. Turn them once, and lift them out gently with a slotted spoon/wire skimmer and tongs. Just use a wire strainer or slotted spoon for flat cannoli shapes.

- When the cannoli turns light brown - uniform in color, watch it closely or remove it. If it’s already a deep brown when you remove it, you might end up with a really dark or slightly burnt shell.

- Depending on how much scrap you have left after cutting out all of your cannoli shapes, you can either fry them up and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar for a crispy treat, or let the scraps rest under plastic wrap and a towel, then re-roll and cut more cannoli shapes.

- Push forms out of cannoli very gently, being careful not to break the shells as they are very delicate. DO NOT let the cannoli cool on the form, or you may never get it off without it breaking. Try to take it off while still hot. Hold it with a cloth in the center, and push the form out with a butter knife or the back of a spoon.

- When adding the confectioner’s sugar to the filling..TASTE. You may like it sweeter than what the recipe calls for, or less sweet, so add in increments.

- Fill cannoli right before serving! If you fill them an hour or so prior, you’ll end up with soggy cannoli shells.

- If you want to prepare the shells ahead of time, store them in an airtight container, then re-crisp in a 350°F (176 °C) oven for a few minutes, before filling.

- Practice makes perfect. My first batch of shells came out less than spectacular, and that’s an understatement. As you go along, you’ll see what will make them more aesthetically pleasing, and adjust accordingly when rolling. My next several batches turned out great. Don’t give up!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Drop In & Decorate


Back in 2002 one of my good food blogger friends, Lydia started a wonderful program called Drop in & Decorate. It’s a simple concept: bake some cookies, invite friends or family (or co-workers or neighbors) to drop by and help decorate, and donate your cookies to a local food pantry, emergency shelter, senior center, lunch program, or other nonprofit agencies meeting the basic human needs of people in your own communities.


This year if you’d like to host your own Drop In & Decorate® event, Pillsbury and Wilton would like to help.

Pillsbury has donated 50 VIP coupons, worth $3.00 each, off any Pillsbury product -- including sugar cookie mix and icing -- to be distributed, first come, first served, while supply lasts, to anyone who plans to host a Drop In & Decorate event (max. 5 coupons per person). And she iwll also include a Comfort Grip cookie cutter, donated by Wilton, to people who plan to host cookies-for-donation events.

There’s also a free downloadable guide with everything you need to know to host your own party, available on the Drop In & Decorate web site.

It’s a simple idea in a complicated world, and something anyone can do!  If you’d like more information, you can visit the web site or contact Lydia directly at lydiaATdropinanddecorateDOTorg.

Check out Lydia’s site for more details .

Photos courtesy of Drop In & Decorate and Lydia Walshin

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Apple Pancakes for dinner…

We are still in our crazy, running all the time, trying to find some sense of balance in our lives mode.  So I am making dinners in the crockpot or else finding things that I can make ahead of time and just reheat for a quick meal between activities (BMX racing, ice skating, and karate).  I made a really good white chicken chili but ate it all without a single photo.  So will post when I make it again and you can bet I will be making it again, it was just that good.

Anyway, these pancakes came about because I had some fruit that badly needed to be used up or tossed out tomorrow.  There were 6 apples, 4 bananas and 2 pears.  3 of the bananas went into banana chocolate chip muffins (1 had to be tossed), and 3 apples went into the pancakes.  I am going to make apple/pear sauce with the remaining fruit to use as topping for the pancakes!  These pancakes are delicious and a perfect way to use up some of that fruit.  They can be made ahead and just warmed up (for dinner) but of course they are way better hot off the griddle!

P1020133 edit

Apple Pancakes (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)


2 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups of milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
14 tsp nutmeg
3 medium apples, peeled and coarsely grated (I used macintosh and a honey crisp apple.  You could use any)


1. Mix the eggs with the milk and vanilla extract in a large bowl.
2. In a smaller bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together.
3. Combine the wet and the dry ingredients and stir in the apples.
4. Heat a thin layer of oil in an electric skillet on medium heat. Drop large spoonful of batter into the pan and flatten it out a little (otherwise, you might have trouble getting them to cook in the center) and cook until golden brown underneath. Flip the pancakes and cook them for an additional two or three minutes.

I sprinkled these with cinnamon sugar and topped them with maple syrup but apple sauce will be great on them too!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Royal Foodie Joust Winners: Orange, Black and Sugar

Jenn, The Leftover Queen, is busy taking care of Royal duties in San Francisco this weekend and has asked me to step up and help her out with the Royal Foodie Joust winner post.  As always I am so happy to help out a friend!

I love the fall, it is one of  my favorite season. Unfortunately living here we really don’t have too much of a fall to speak of.  But I still love the fall ingredients and these ones were awesome.So when Kat, from A Good Appetite, winner of last month’s Joust, sent me her choice of ingredients for this month I was thrilled!

Orange - Pumpkin (or anything other orange flesh squash, i.e. butternut, acorn, kabocha)
Black - Stout, Porter or other dark colored Beer (if you don't want to use alcohol, you can substitute in cola)

The Jousters loved the colors, er ingredients this month. We had 20 entries this month! Ranging in everything from appetizers to dessert! Be sure to check out all the recipes and tantalizing photos here on the Foodie Blogroll forum!

We welcomed several new Jousters this month, who will hopefully become regulars, and welcomed many of our seasoned Jousters back, after a much deserved summer break! I hope this will encourage some of you to join us this month too! Things are always exciting, and changing in the Jousting fields! We have a fantastic group of ingredients this month too. I will announce them at the end of the post!

About the Joust:

The Royal Foodie Joust is an awesome and fun monthly peer voted competition that is hosted on The LeftoverQueen/FoodieBlogroll Forum! It gets better each and every month as the competition gets stiffer and more creative, as Jousters try to outdo each other! It is also one of the friendliest competitions I have ever seen. So please don’t be intimidated to come and join us this month in another round!

We don’t bite, unless of course there is real food in our faces ;)

The only rules for the competition is that each Jouster create only one dish and each entry must feature three ingredients in common.

This competition has been referred to many times as the “Iron Chef” of the Food Blogosphere. Each month’s ingredients are chosen by the previous month’s Best Overall Entry winner. The Best Overall winner of each Joust not only wins the Queen’s favor, bragging rights and a cool icon to put on their blog, but is also awarded with a super awesome Royal Foodie Joust Apron! There are also prizes for the winners of the other two categories: Best Photo and Most Unique Interpretation

So what are you waiting for? Come over and join us this month!

If you would like to participate in this month’s Joust, be sure to submit your entry by 12 NOON, Eastern Standard USA time on the First of the following Month (Dec. 1, 2009)!

If you have an idea you would like to share about how to make the Joust a better community event, please join us in discussing it here.

Although there were so many awesome entries this time around, there can only be one winner in each category, and each month making that call gets harder! Onto those winning entries now!

This month’s Best Overall winner is Inspired Taste (Joanne and Adam) with their Guiness Burger with Butternut Squash Fries


As food bloggers (and food appreciators) we all know that pictures speak a thousand words and this month’s Best photo winner goes to Nuria from Spanish Recipes with her beautiful Pumpkin Puree with Sugar and Beer Spider Web Reduction


And last but not least is the entry that won the Most Unique Interpretation which this month goes to 5starfoodie with Stout Pumpkin Sous Vide with Goat Cheese and Maple Syrup


Thank you so much to our winners, all the participants and everyone who voted! Remember, even if you don’t enter the Joust you can still vote for your favorite entry on The Foodie Blogroll Forum!


So without further ado, Joanne and Adam of Inspired Taste have decided to use seasonal ingredients to inspire you for this month’s Joust!

Here are your ingredients:


Please post your entries here!

Let the games begin!!! :)